University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Some of the key figures that shaped our gardening plants and practices, whose names begin with the letter "R", include landscapers, writers, and a botanical illustrator.   Previous ones in garden history can be found in articles on the web (

John Rea (died 1677) is a little known English nursery gardener today, but in his time was well known for his book (Flora) on flowers, garden design and construction.  It has been considered the most important such reference in the last half of the 17th century.

Pierre-Joseph Redoute (1759-1841) was the most well-known botanical illustrator of his time and one of the top names you see today, with reprints often found in bookstores.  A Belgian, who worked in France, he is best known for his illustrations of roses, lilies, and succulent plants.

Humphrey Repton (1752-1818) was the leading English landscape gardener of his period, following in the footsteps of Capability Brown (covered in a previous article).  Although interested in landscape gardening, he held many other occupations first, and only turned to this profession when destitute for money.  He quickly filled the gap left by the death of Brown with similar landscapes, different though in a few respects.

The landscapes of Repton were less extensive and elaborate than those of Brown, requiring less resources to construct.  He used rustic buildings in the landscape, instead of Brown's classical ones.  Near his buildings he used more formal plantings and terraces.  His plantings, although less extensive, tended to be denser.  He was quite successful with clients due to his "red books" he prepared.  These were bound in red leather, had extensive descriptions of his ideas, and drawings of before and after.

William Robinson (1838-1935) was a prolific Victorian garden writer, with his ideas still in use today.  In addition to writing for, and even creating, garden magazines, he wrote many books.  Two of his important books, published in1870, show his passion for alpines (Alpine Flowers for Gardens) and using hardy exotic plants (The Wild Garden).  The former dispels the prevalent view of the time that alpine plants can't be grown in ordinary gardens.  In the latter book, reprinted even recently this past century, he encourages the use of exotic hardy plants in conditions where they will thrive and require little further care.

Robinson's most famous book was reprinted in many editions, and serves as an extensive catalog of the many new plants introduced in the 19th century (The English Flower Garden).  Current gardens in an informal style, with bulbs massed and naturalized among grass, having mixed borders of native and exotic plants, or with subtle use of color, can be traced to his influence over one hundred years ago.

The most famous and extensive formal gardens in Holland to this day are those of Het Loo palace.  Originally designed for William and Mary by the Dutch architect Jacob Roman (1640-1716), they combine baroque and Renaissance styles, a Dutch layout with French ornamentation.  The later includes extensive sculptures, fountains, and other water features.

As we began with a little-known English gardener, we'll end with one, John Rose (1629-1677).  He was perhaps the main influence in the introduction of the formal French landscape style of LeNotre to England as English landscapes began to evolve.

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