humphry repton

During Capability Brown's period (1715-1783) we were introduced to the English Landscape period, great swathes of parkland, huge trees and fantastic vistas.

Humphry Repton (1752 - 1818) followed on from Brown. He had a different style and he brought back the garden - flowers, terraces and paths around the houses.

He was an excellent watercolourist and had a good knowledge of horticulture, architecture and construction work. He had an affable personality and he was a good salesman.

To help clients visualise his designs, he drew up a 'Red Book', a report, illustrated with paintings of the garden before and after the proposed design changes. The proposals covered such topics as the situation, the approach, the house, the walks and drives, the kitchen garden and the flower garden. The book was about A4 size and bound in red Moroccan leather with gold tooling. It had a folded flap as an overlay which when lifted showed the scene as it should be. To Repton, gardening was an art form, and the landscape was his canvas, He was innovative and prolific, undertaking more than 400 commissions during his career. He was ahead of his time, he was also a talented author and his books on landscape design are still highly influential today.

He worked on many gardens including West Wycombe House, Harewood House, Longleat, Woburn Abbey and Ashridge. Success at Woburn earned him a further commission from the Duke of Bedford. He designed the central gardens in Russell Square, the centre piece of the Bloomsbury development. The gardens have been restored with the additional help of archaeological investigation and archive photographs, to the original plans and are now listed as Grade II by English Heritage. There are still a few of his Red Books in existence - one of which can be seen at Windsor Castle.

Although the designs of Repton are perhaps seen as being on too grand for today's gardens, his red book, the way he provided before and after pictures to his clients and the planting advice he gave made him the forerunner of the modern garden designer.

I think that it is good to have a link with the past; wherever possible, I present my clients with before and after pictures of their gardens, along with my recommendations and visions in a red folder. This is something to keep, a piece of history for your own garden and something that in years to come will be very interesting to look upon.

my redbook

'A quote from you about your redbooks?' Ana Coggon

Humphry Repton's Red Book My Gardens