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Gardens, aesthetics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M050-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2002
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Because they blend both art and nature, gardens pose special aesthetic problems. These problems arise most forcefully for gardens deemed works of art. Gardens exhibit a great variety of forms and garden content varies also. We use style terms to organize this range, but rather than borrowing from the nomenclature of art history, such terms generally refer to the gardens’ country of origin. This indicates the importance of constraints imposed on garden design by such factors as climate and geography.

Since gardens contain natural materials and alter natural places, they are subject to many natural forces and processes. They are always changing and the gardener fights a constant battle for control. This marks an important disanalogy between gardens and all the other arts: there is no final form to a garden. As a result, there are problems in determining a garden’s identity, its aesthetic qualities and its aesthetic value.

Appreciation of gardens involves all our senses, not just that of sight; it also involves the faculties of imagination and understanding. Viewing a garden can prompt various trains of thought – personal as well as cultural associations come into play here. In addition, gardens have representational powers and refer beyond themselves in various ways. Thus gardens can represent other places. Some gardens are designed to convey complex messages to those who view or walk through them. Such gardens function much like poems. Gardens can also allude to or copy paintings – the eighteenth-century cult of the picturesque fostered additional lines of connection and influence between these arts.

Citing this article:
Ross, Stephanie. Gardens, aesthetics of, 2002, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M050-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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