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Garden Design and Horticulture

Garden plans, details, ornaments, and views in drawings and prints; villa architecture; horticultural manuals and treatises on garden design and theory​

Rare Books Archival Collections Online Exhibits Publications External Resources Related Content

Garden-making is a fundamental expression of the human relationship with nature and an important art form with a unique artistic palette, whose origins across different cultures go back to antiquity. Historically, gardens ranged from places of food production and private or public recreational amenities to sites of self-fashioning, collecting, and display, reflecting a variety of cultural meanings and aesthetic choices associated with these diverse functions. Such variations in scale and purpose are illustrated by contrasting the 1495 edition of the influential horticultural manual by Pietro de’ Crescenzi—one of the oldest books in the collection—and the magnificent two-volume Les promenades de Paris, which showcased the newly created park system of nineteenth-century Paris. ​​

Differences in landscaping style often represented fundamental cultural attitudes, as in the case of the perspectival geometry of the gardens of Versailles celebrating the absolute power of the Sun King and the “picturesque” naturalism of Humphrey Repton’s Red Books, a subtle call for economic and aesthetic improvement. Dumbarton Oaks holdings are particularly rich in documenting the history of landscape design in early modern Europe, where the proliferation of garden views offered a vivid proof of the increasing importance of these sites as tourist and artistic attractions. Non-Western design traditions are represented by East Asian examples, ranging from Matteo Ripa’s engravings of thirty-six views of the estate of the Kanxi Emperor north of Beijing to the Japanese art of dry miniature gardens (bonseki). Testimonies by garden creators include the album of virtuoso parterre drawings produced for Emperor Rudolf II by Hans Puechfeldner; the original manuscript by the French royal gardener Claude Mollet; and the scrapbook of the early twentieth-century British landscaper Harold Peto.​

Searching for Materials in HOLLIS​

In addition to select digitized titles, the Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Collection holds numerous materials related to horticulture and garden design. To quickly locate items in HOLLIS, use the “Advanced Search” feature to specify material subject, language, date range, or other criteria. Relevant subjects include the following:

Formal gardens -- Design​


Gardens -- Design​

Garden Structures


Landscape architecture​

Landscape gardening​



Digitized Rare Books

Archival Collections

The Dumbarton Oaks Garden Archives makes publicly available over six thousand individual pieces of correspondence, drawings, and photographs related to the development of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden. 

The Contemporary Landscape Design Collection focuses on a select group of contemporary landscape designers from around the world and a selection of their most significant projects. Materials were selected with the goal of illuminating each designer's design process, including preliminary studies, documentation of the design period, documentation of the finished product, and finally, the project’s evolution.

The British Gardens Aerial Photographs Study Collection contains aerial photographs of historic estates and gardens in the United Kingdom. The vast majority of the material relates to English sites with some coverage of Scotland, but minimal representation for Ireland and Wales.

Online Exhibits

Explore highlights from the collection related to horticulture and garden design below, or view all online exhibits.


Discover featured titles related to garden design and horticulture below, and search all titles from Dumbarton Oaks Publications.

External Resources

Catena, the Digital Archive of Historic Gardens and Landscapes, is a collection of historic and contemporary images, including plans, engravings, and photographs, intended to support research and teaching in the fields of garden history and landscape studies. Created through the collaborative efforts of landscape historians and institutions, the initial offering of images is focused on the Villas as a Landscape Type. This project is sponsored by the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture.

The Archive of American Gardens, housed in the Smithsonian Institution's Horticulture Services Division, offers landscape designers, historians, researchers, and garden enthusiasts access to a collection of approximately 60,000 photographic images and records documenting historic and contemporary American gardens.​

In addition to providing access to their own digitized monographs, plant catalogs, and periodicals, the German Horticultural Library has compiled extensive bibliographies of digitized garden literature from other institutions. ​​

The Frances Loeb Library, the library for Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, has produced a thorough guide to their special collections, which includes GSD student theses, faculty publications, and rare books related to architecture, landscape architecture, urbanism, and allied design disciplines. The guide includes instructions for searching and accessing the collection, as well as digital facsimiles of select materials.


Related Collection Strengths

Learn more about other collection strengths that may contain materials of interest to this research topic, or view all collection strengths.

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