Restoring Established Ornamental Gardens

Bring Historical Gardens Back to Life

Restoring old and historic gardens can be more involved than what most people would realise. If a restoration is to be credible, the landscaper needs to understand the history and determine what is authentic and appropriate for a restoration before they even start to plan the work that needs to be undertaken.

Become skilled in garden restoration

Take this course to learn about how to restore old gardens to closely resemble the original. Find out how an understanding of garden history and styles can be significant and different ways to access records. Learn how to measure up a site, assess its current plants and hard landscape features, and decide what should be retained. Find out how to plan a restoration project and conduct risk assessments.

Study Garden Restoration Online

  • Learn to Restore Historic Gardens
  • Learn to Renovate Degraded Landscapes
  • Study Gardening Skills that set you apart from the "average" gardener


Course Duration: 100 hours 

The Lessons

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Landscape History & Design Styles
  2. Surveying the Site
  3. Assessment of Plantings and Features
  4. Selecting Components for Retention
  5. Work Programming and Risk Management
  6. Drainage
  7. Hard Landscape Feature Restoration
  8. Planting Restoration and Maintenance

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

  • Review history of  garden design and the influence of plant introductions.
  • Evaluate an established ornamental garden in order to determine any particular design style period, or plants of interest.
  • Describe basic methods for surveying and recording of layout and content of an established garden, and explain the importance of detailed information including assessment of site factors.
  • Explain processes and needs for assessment and recording of type, condition and future potential of a range of plantings and features in an ornamental garden.
  • Explain main criteria used to select plantings and features for retention in a restored garden.
  • Explain need and processes of analysis of collected information.
  • Prepare a summarised programme for organisation of garden restoration work
  • Assess risk and identify safe work practices
  • Recognise and explain visible signs of failure of old land drainage systems and describe remedial measures
  • Describe and explain the practical procedures necessary for the restoration of a range of hard landscape features.
  • * Explain problems which may be encountered in the improvement of retained hedges, plantings and lawns.
  • * Describe practical solutions for improving retained hedges, plantings and lawns
  • * Evaluate the use of modern maintenance techniques in established gardens



 When you restore a garden, it is important to understand what came before; and then make appropriate decisions about how much of what you do should be an authentic re-creation of the old garden.

Sometimes it may be impossible or impractical to bring a garden back to its original condition, but one must always try to understand the original if the restoration is to have any measure of historic integrity.


Where then Do Gardens Come From?

Though beginnings of horticulture are lost in the mists of time, it is a certainty that plants were being selected and cultivated at the very beginning of human civilisation.

Evidence has been found of gardens in ancient civilisations in all parts of the world: Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

As certain plants proved themselves to be valuable their use expanded, and they were spread beyond regions where they occurred naturally.


Ancient Mid-Eastern Gardens

There are records of man‑created gardens as early as Egyptian, Persian and the first Asian civilisations. These gardens usually reflected strongly the culture and civilisation to which they belonged. Egyptian gardens were formal, symmetrical and strictly functional providing food (date palms, vegetables etc) and herbs. A papyrus dating 2000BC lists 85 different herbs used by the Egyptians. Stone columns or palms were frequently used to create avenues. These early Egyptian gardens were found only amongst the wealthy classes.

Around 650 BC King Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for one of his wives. These gardens were simply plantings on each level of a tiered (stepped) temple. This was the standard form of construction for temples ‑ the garden was simply an addition. In this garden, water drawn from a nearby river was used to create waterfalls and cascades.

The Persians were hunters, and as such preferred a lot of trees in their gardens to attract game. This idea rubbed off on the Assyrians who encouraged extensive plantings after contact with Persia. When the Persians conquered Egypt around 500 BC, they adopted the idea of enclosing the gardens with a high wall. All of these ideas combined together to give us the eastern style of landscaping (ie. a symmetrical garden, with tall trees and enclosed by a high wall). Over time middle eastern gardens evolved, but the one feature that remained was enclosure (being walled)


Chinese Gardens

Chinese gardening began long before the time of Christ. There is a strong underlying pre‑occupation with ethics and philosophy influenced by Taoism in Chinese gardening. This involves concentration on the unity of creation, harmony and order being developed to highlight nature through symbolic representation in a way that is not very common in western gardening.

The principles of Feng Shui are often applied in Chinese garden design. Elements of the garden are positioned to bring good luck and provide the balance represented by the principles of yin and yang.

Pure Chinese gardens lack lawns, symmetrical design, and artificial manipulation of water. These things however are common in Western gardens. European gardeners tend to appreciate and select plants for their function or beauty; but Chinese gardeners will often choose to use a plant for the same reason that they choose to use any other component – for its symbolism.

For example, the Chinese see bamboo as representing an honourable man, because it bends in the wind, and does not break. The peony represents wealth and elegance. The peach represents immortality.

The chrysanthemum, a symbol of autumn, was amongst the earliest commonly grown plants in China. Because it flowers in autumn and winter, it came to symbolise longevity. Records from the 12th century AD list 35 varieties of chrysanthemum being cultivated.

In China, water rather than lawn is used to provide the peaceful surface for a large open area in the garden. A European garden might be built to surround a lawn; but a Chinese garden is more likely to be built to surround a lake or large pond. The shape of the water feature is determined by how it interacts with the other components of the design.

The symbolism of the various elements in the Chinese garden is an important part of the design. Rocks are an important component because they symbolise permanency. Aged trees reveal qualities of strength, lengthy contemplation and grandeur. As Confucius said, “the wise find pleasure in water; the virtuous find pleasure in hills”.


Western Garden History

We have evidence of garden design in England back to the Roman times; however between 400 and 800 AD evidence of any significant garden design is rare if not totally void.

Roman Period

A great deal of evidence exists from Roman times to show that ornamental horticulture was highly developed there. Roman writers (eg. Pliny the Younger) mention a wide variety of flowering plants as being grown by Romans (including Buxus, Hedera, Rosmarinus, Chrysanthemum, Rosa, Lilum, Iris, Laurus, etc). Roman gardens incorporated elements from other civilizations (Egyptian, Persian, Greek, etc), and may be seen as a natural synthesis of these various contributors.

Roman gardens often utilised walls heavily and were commonly courtyards in the centre of a house. Murals, mosaics and paving were common. There are records of fish ponds, small trees and stone columns also being used in Roman courtyards.

We know about the likely nature of Roman gardens in the England not only from evidence in the UK, but also evidence from all over the Roman World. While there may have needed to be some differences due to climatic variance and available materials, generally speaking, Roman architecture and garden design shared common features throughout the Roman World.

There were different types of gardens in Roman time:

  • The Courtyard or Enclosed Home Garden. Beyond the atrium there was an open courtyard which was used as an outdoor living area
  • Religious (Sacred) Gardens
  • Open Garden
  • Parks –a large number of private parks were established in Rome

Middle Ages

English gardening from 800AD was similar to medieval gardening throughout other parts of Europe..

Records from the time of King Alfred (died 899) show a diverse range of plants were being cultivated, including grapes for wine and fresh fruit. A record in 1020 AD lists over 200 different herbs and trees, many grown in monastic gardens. We also have English records to show plants being grown both for medicinal and aesthetic purposes around this time.

There are increasing records over the next few centuries to evidence deliberate development of gardens in various parts of England; though most of the gardens that we know of from the English middle ages have long since disappeared or been redeveloped.

Example: We know that Henry I was creating a large walled park at Woodstock, north of Oxford, by 1110 AD; but that this property was redeveloped in the 1700’s as Blenheim Palace.

There is insufficient evidence to show any significant pattern in the evolution of garden design from 1100 through to 1500, however the centuries after that are well documented and may be studied in detail.

We do however know that during this period:

  • In the 13th century there was an emphasis on planting trees for aesthetic purposes
  • Lawns were grown both as bowling greens and for aesthetics
  • Tunnel arbours were created surrounding lawns or borders (covered with climbers) from the 13th century onwards
  • Double moated gardens were created with trees on the mounded land between the two moats.
  • There are indications of the beginnings of the English herbaceous border
  • Juniper, Buxus and possibly Ilex were becoming popular around 1400AD
  • In the 1400’s shaped plants (clipped hedges, knot gardens, etc) were becoming popular
  • Rosemary was introduced to England around 1340.

Throughout the 1500's gardens began to change. Crop plants were gradually replaced by ornamental plants. Coloured gravels began to be used for pathways. In Elizabethan England such features as mounts, mazes and labyrinths were used.

In the late 16th century, France continued to affect English garden development. The wider aristocracy in France were developing gardens as an essential part of any country house; and the English largely followed suit. The interest in gardening boomed alongside a building boom from the later part of the 16th century through to around 1620

With James 1st (Jacobean period) there was peace throughout Europe, and a surge in patronage for the arts. In this climate, gardening received more attention than ever before and a revolution in garden design began.

One of the first renowned garden designers in England was Solomon de Caus who had studied in Italy in the 1590’s.

He was commissioned to redesign gardens at Somerset House, Richmond Palace and Grenwich Palace; and in his designs he introduced ideas of aligning the garden with the house, using perspective in the design and incorporating water features (eg. grottos, fountains). His ideas stimulated great interest throughout England. His work was carried on by his nephew (Isaac) through the 1620’s and 30’s creating more gardens in a similar style.

Indigo Jones (1570-1652) was another significant Renaissance architect, painter and Garden designer in England. Influenced by travels in Italy, he favoured a Palladian style where a sense of unity between the garden and house was seen to be very important. Amongst other things, he designed formal features, and incorporated gateways placed with intended precision into his designs.


During the second half of the 17th century, the Formal Garden grew in popularity throughout England.

Important English Landscapers

Rose (John) 1629-1677)

Rose was perhaps the first important English landscape designer. After studying under Le Notre at Versailles he went to England were he worked for Charles 1st as Keeper” at St James Park. Records of his work are limited.

Kent (William) 1685-1748

Originally a coach painter, later an interior decorator and primarily an architect turned to landscaping, Kent was responsible for eliminating much of the formality which had dominated gardens up till his time. Living from 1685 ‑ 1745, Kent introduced long winding walks and utilised such things as urns and decorated bridges, developing something closer to what we in Australia know as traditional gardens.

Brown (Lancelot) 1716 ‑ 1783

Known as Capability Brown, regarded as a student of Kent's, he had no formal training. He worked for some time as head gardener at Hampton Court. Adopting the idea that straight lines were not natural he uprooted many old formal gardens and replaced them with his own natural style. He didn't like small places (he had no cosy corners) and this tended to make his gardens a little impersonal. Brown's emphasis on the natural things in garden design made him perhaps one of the greatest influences on modern gardens.

Many of Brown’s gardens survive in England today, where he is regarded as a significant historical figure, beyond gardening, and perhaps beyond any other individual in landscape history.

Loudon (John Claudius) 1783 ‑ 1843

Loudon developed the Gardenesque style, which was a fusion of the natural and formal styles which preceded him. Gardenesque style advocates design that displays each plant at it’s best. This style shows off the decorative nature of the plants through the use of lawns and footpaths. He believed gardens should be different to nature.

Repton (Humphrey) 1752 ‑ 1818

Repton was primarily an agriculturalist with a leaning towards horticulture. He was the first to separate the ornamental garden from the kitchen garden. He believed in contrast rather than harmony. In general he followed Brown's ideas such as sloping lawns, flower beds cut in the centre of lawns, and curved paths.

Robinson (William) 1838-1935)

During the latter part of the nineteenth century Robinson, an Irishman, was one of the greatest landscapers both in England and abroad. He was influenced by both Repton and Loudon. He favoured a return to a more natural style, condemned bedding styles, botanic gardens and conservatories and promoted the woodland garden with masses of bulbs and creepers under a canopy of trees.

Jeckyll (Gertrude) 1843-1932

Jeckyll studied art and became skilled in the use of colour before moving to garden design. She wrote a great many books and popularized the “cottage garden” concept. Her influence extended well beyond the UK, and continues today, encouraging gardeners to think of and use colour as an artist would, as they conceive their garden designs.



Spanish Gardens

There were many Roman villas and attached gardens throughout Spain, but the influence of that gardening style waned when Spain was largely conquered by the Moors in AD 711-14. This Muslims were actually more scientifically advanced than the previous regime; and brought with them horticultural and artistic knowledge (and expertise). There was diversity in the way the “Islamic” garden was interpreted over that period. Some were large and used water as a dominant feature. Others were small and might not have used water features at all.

Monastery Gardens

From 500 ‑ 1500 AD there was little progress in the development of gardening in Europe. The only real gardening in these times took place in monasteries. A framework was commonly built over at least part of the garden on which grapes would be grown both for the fruit and for the shade and atmosphere they created. This area would be called an arbour and was often used as a place of meditation. Often cloisters (similar to a veranda) would be built as places for meditation. The remainder of these monastery gardens would be developed on a symmetrical grid system with fruit trees, vegetables and herbs providing produce for the monks.

Le Notre (Andre) 1613-1700

Le Notre was a French landscaper from a family of well known gardeners; perhaps the first notable landscape architect. Le Notre's style was on a huge scale and extremely expensive, catering to the nobility and wealthy classes. Much of his work was for King Louis X1V ‑ perhaps the most notable Le Notre landscape was for King Louis at his palace at Versailles, just outside of Paris. The gardens there are still preserved basically as originally laid out by Le Notre. Close to the palace more complex ornamental gardens were created on a smaller scale while further away from the palace the gardens were on a much larger scale, with large areas of trees over a ground cover of ivy. Everything in this garden, as with most of Le Notre's work, was both grand and symmetrical. He used tricks of perspective to give a feeling of grandness. The idea of a long vista (long stretch or axis through the centre of the garden) was common in his work, as were labyrinths.



Olmstead (Frederick Law) 1822-1902

Olmstead was a farmer and journalist who became a landscape architect, and he designed Central Park in New York. His dominant influence was to create a park that was part of large scale town planning, and to achieve this, incorporating a system of traversing roads. In this respect he was a landscape architect rather than a garden designer

Burle Marx (Roberto (1909-1994)

A Brazilian Landscape Architect who was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. Before Burle Marx, Brazil’s gardens had more of a Portuguese and French influence, but Marx developed a style identified by the use of Brazilian native plants with informal sculptural forms. Characteristics of Burle Marx gardens are typically free flowing patterns, water, ground covers.

Australian Bush Garden

The major part of Australia's gardening history has simply been a reflection of developments and trends in Europe, in particular England. Most of the well established older Australian gardens follow the styles of Brown, Repton and Robinson.

There are some magnificent examples of these gardens on some of the older Australian estates in the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney the Dandenong Ranges and Macedon area near Melbourne. Throughout the last 20th century, through the efforts of people such as Walter Burley Griffin, Edna Walling and Ellis Stones, Australia has developed its own unique style of gardening: the Australian Bush Garden. Not all gardens (by any means) are built in this style, but those which are, are uniquely Australian. This natural bush style is a very informal type of garden which attempts to recreate as much as possible the naturally occurring effects of the Australian bush.


The concept of permaculture was first described by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978 in their book, Permaculture I. They defined Permaculture as "an evolving system of self‑perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man", and described in detail how such a "self perpetuating garden" might be created. Since 1978, the concept of permaculture has spread like a minor religion throughout the world, and permaculture has become a major technique used by organic gardeners.

Permaculture is characterised by the following:

  • Planning the garden layout to maximise production.
  • Recognising that gardens evolve or change over time.
  • Adapts to any scale of land use ‑ both large and small areas.
  • Intensive land use.
  • Diversity ‑ different types of plants using different type of microclimates.
  • Integration of productions systems, including agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, forest management etc.
  • Adaptability ‑ able to adapt to any type of environment: for example: steep, rocky, seaside, dry inland.

A typical permaculture garden might include the following:

  • A fenced home garden (to keep domestic animals in and pests out).
  • Poultry foraging freely on the ground. The poultry control some plant pests, eat weed and other seeds which fall; and produce manure which fertilises the plants. The poultry also produce eggs and some meat. By killing a fowl occasionally, their numbers are kept in balance with the backyard environment, and they don't become too destructive.
  • Established fruit and nut trees which produce food for the household and provide shade in the garden.
  • Hedges and trellised fences which provide nuts or fruit (e.g. hazelnuts, medlars, loquats and climbing plants such as kiwi fruit and grapes).
  • Fish in a large pond (perhaps trout) which can be taken for food occasionally. The fish also help control some insects.
  • Climbing or trailing vegetables growing off the ground in no‑dig garden beds on trellis where they are raised out of the reach of poultry.
  • Various types of herbs growing as companion plants to other plants (mentioned above).


Where To From Here?

This course is likely to be of value to people who have an interest in garden restoration or conservation. It will also appeal to anyone with a general interest in garden history and design.

People who take this course are most likely those working in or aspiring to work in:

Garden restoration
Garden conservation
Garden design
Parks & gardens
Botanical gardens
Garden maintenance

The course will also be of value to people wishing to include garden restoration as a service within an existing gardening or landscaping business.


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PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $834.96  1 x $759.05
B 2 x $451.44  2 x $410.40

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