On the Making of Gardens

Softcover sale price: $12.00 (Regularly $16.95)

It was a nervous breakdown that drew Sir George Sitwell to Italy in the early years of the twentieth century. And it was the incomparable gardens of Tuscany, Rome, and the Italian lake district that inspired him to write his classic analysis of what he considered the timeless principles of garden design.

This is not a book about flowers, plants, and practical horticulture. Sitwell’s stance is an intellectual one, invoking music and magic in his description of those mystical places where landscape and atmosphere are brought together in artful conjunction. Subjective and controversial as Sitwell’s comments on the history and fashions may have been, they are also impressively researched, empathetic and deeply felt. This was a book that elicited a passion in England for all things Italian, especially for the magic of its landscape.

This is an ingenious, elegant, and erudite book about wild and tended places that, despite its distant voice, maintains a modern relevance. Sitwell believed in the therapeutic value of gardens, in the intrinsic beauty of both planned and unplanned ecological integrity. His stylish, knowledgeable, and poetically fervent book, long overdue for reprint and here illustrated with lovely period photographs of the gardens described, will delight gardeners of every taste, age or nationality.

Sir George Sitwell, 4th Baronet spent much of his youth in the House of Commons, where he sat as a Conservative politician. His passion, however, was garden design, which he studied in Italy. In 1909, he purchased a decrepit castle near Florence and spent the next three decades restoring it to its former glory according to his own theories of design. He took the castle as his permanent home in 1925. Three of Sitwell’s children became prominent authors.

Sir Francis Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell was born in London and attended Ludgrove School and Eton College. He wrote his first poetry in the trenches during World War I and published a collection soon after the war ended. This collection would be followed by over a dozen books, including novels, essays, and a four-volume autobiography, which George Orwell called “among the best autobiographies of our time.” In addition to writing his own work, Sitwell donated generously to causes that supported writers. He died in 1969 of Parkinsons in his Italian castle near Florence.

John Dixon Hunt is a foremost expert on landscape history of eighteenth-century England and France. In 2000, he was named Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture for accomplishments in this field. He is also an accomplished scholar of English literature, especially its intersection with the visual, which he has taught at schools including the University of Michigan, Vassar College, and Bedford College. Hunt has founded two academic journals, one on each of these specialties: Studies in the History of Gardens and Other Designed Landscapes and Word & Image. He is now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he served as the department chair of landscape architecture and regional planning until 2000.