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A Look at John Brookes’ Denmans Garden

March 21, 2018

the clock house at denmans garden by Lenora ellie Enking by cc_I thought I would share some images of a garden called Denmans which was the home of famed British garden designer John Brookes.  Brookes passed away a few days ago and it has me thinking not only about the way we live our lives – thoughts that always come to me when I hear about someone dying – but also about the special places that we leave behind.

Any garden, left uncared for, will do exactly as it would if it were cared for.  It will evolve and change.  Of course the tended garden will yield to the will of the gardener (at least to some extent) where as the untended will grow and creep and generally become wild again.

John Brookes planting at denmans garden by Lenora ellie Enking by cc_

I’d adamantly argue anyone who didn’t agree that gardens are a from of art. Lots of types of art decline with age and need to be cared for if it is to be shared with future generations – but gardens are a unique case.  A garden’s changes happen much faster and its maintenance is comparatively quite expensive.  So it is no surprise that when a gardener dies, so too does the art.  Or, more accurately, it sort of gradually fades away…

By many accounts Brookes’ garden had started to fade some time ago. Maintenance is hard to keep up with as our bodies age. But nonetheless, I found some inspiring and beautiful images taken by Lenora Enking and David Edwards that I thought were worth sharing in honor of the gardener.

There are certainly many memories wrapped up in this garden.  John Brookes was the teacher of many widely known designers – including one of my own mentors, Rosemary Alexander. The clock tower was home to his classroom.  I’d have quite liked to have visited this school in its prime – it was a place where class in the morning was expected to be intense and hard working so that “compulsory” wine could be served at lunchtime.  My kind of place…
John Brookes wrote many books related to garden design and compulsory wine isn’t the philosophy I’ve adopted from him…  there is also this one:

“Gardening is the last outpost of being able to do exactly what you want to do. So why conform to ideas from 50 years ago or 500 miles away?”

-John Brookes (1933 – 2018)

(My thoughts exactly)


taxus at denmans garden by Lenora ellie Enking by cc_

rose at john brookes denmans garden by Lenora ellie Enking by cc_

 Inside the conservatory at John Brookes denmans garden by Lenora ellie Enking by cc_

Nectaroscordum siculum by Lenora Ellie Enking by cc

hellebores at John Brookes denmans garden by David Edwards by cc_

Gleditsia at John Brookes denmans garden by Lenora ellie Enking by cc_

Crocus and daffodils at John Brookes denmans garden by David Edwards by cc_

Birds flying at John Brookes Denmans garden by Lenora ellie Enking by cc_



images Lenora Enking and David Edwards by CC

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  1. Jennifer K. says:

    If you haven’t ever had the chance to listen to the Gardens Illustrated podcast interview with John Brooks from 2013, I highly recommend it. No doubt, John Brooks was a garden design GENIUS, but it was his strong sense of individualism, his sense of humor, his insistence on independent thinking, and his ability to not take himself too seriously that really shine in that interview. He was, and still is, a revolutionary force in the garden design world. He made garden design accessible for everyone. His books, though published many years ago, are still used in garden and landscape design courses. Personally, I will always see him as the “bad-ass” of garden design – which I mean with love, fondness, and admiration of course and may not be an entirely accurate perception of John Brooks – but that is the impression I am left with. He rocked the status quo and blazed new trials. I will forever be a student of his design instruction and honor the principles of design as he teaches them, and yet, probably more importantly, I will always be reminded to do so with my own voice. A truly inspirational teacher and person! Thank you for writing about him.

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