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Gardens throughout Europe: the garden history timeline

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Follow the course of garden making from its origins in Persia and China. From North Africa into Spain, and separately from Turkey and Greece into Italy, through to the royal gardens of France, Northern Europe and England.

We focus on the development of gardens throughout Europe right up to present day, and more contemporary, interpretations.

The notion of ‘paradise’ has fed into our garden making throughout time, but where did these paradise gardens begin, indeed garden making itself? How are these early notions of ‘a garden paradise’ still so influential on our gardens of today?

The very earliest of landscapes from Iran, Greece and China are discussed right through to contemporary interpretations. Gardens are meant to be paradise on earth. The idea of paradise as a garden has a long history, even before the Garden of Eden was presented in the Bible.

What the paradise looks like, however varies throughout culture, history, religion and societies, there is no one specific description. The description of the Garden of Eden was not very specific either, yet it gave the garden designer some ideas.

In every culture, garden designers seek paradise through their own creative ways. The course begins with a tour of paradise on earth in Asia, where we find the oases of the Middle East: the serene naturalistic gardens and symbolism in China, and the Zen gardens and tea gardens in Japan.

We then venture to continental Europe: the hilly regions of Italy where lavish gardens are balanced with the use of axes and symmetry, and gardens in Germany, Netherlands and Russia, as well as the climax of formal gardens in French gardens.

We then bring our discussion to England. We discuss in detail naturalistic landscape gardens, cottage-style gardens, and eclectic gardens. Furthermore, we also explore Mediterranean gardens and gardens in America: European influences and naturalistic gardens.

Learning and teaching

There will be lectures, case studies and group discussions.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved.

Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning.

Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

Reading suggestions

  • John Brookes; Gardens of Paradise: History and Design of the Great Islamic Gardens (  Weidenfeld & Nicolson (25 Sept. 1987)
  • Maggie Campbell-Culver; The Origin of Plants: The People and Plants That Have Shaped Britain's Garden History Since the Year 1000 ( Headline Book Publishing; First Edition edition (6 Sept. 2001)
  • Emma Clark; The Art of the Islamic Garden ( The Crowood Press Ltd; Reprint edition (20 July 2010)
  • Guy Cooper; Paradise Transformed: The Private Garden for the Twenty-first Century ( Monacelli Press; First Edition edition (1 Nov. 1996)
  • Monty Don; Paradise Gardens: the world's most beautiful Islamic gardens ( Two Roads; Illustrated edition (22 Mar. 2018)
  • Stephen Harris; Planting Paradise: Cultivating the Garden 1501-1900 ( The Bodleian Library (15 Feb. 2011)
  • Penelope Hobhouse; Gardens of Persia ( W. W. Norton & Company (3 Feb. 2009)
  • Penelope Hobhouse; In Search of Paradise: Great Gardens of the World ( Frances Lincoln; (21 Sept. 2006)
  • Mary Keen; Paradise and Plenty: A Rothschild Family Garden ( Pimpernel Press Ltd; (24 Sept. 2015)
  • Mark Laird; A Natural History of English Gardening: 1650--1800 (  Yale University Press (1 May 2015)
  • Toby Musgrave; Paradise Gardens: Spiritual Inspiration and Earthly Expression ( Frances Lincoln; 01 edition (3 Sept. 2015)
  • Vanessa Remington; Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden ( Royal Collection Trust; 01 edition (23 Mar. 2015)
  • Tom Turner ; Asian Gardens: History, Beliefs and Design ( Routledge; (11 Aug. 2010)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.