Oxfordshire has historic gardens and landscapes which range from the medieval remains of the Bower of Henry II’s mistress at Woodstock, in what is now Blenheim Park, to the celebrated chef, Raymond Blanc’s inspired series of garden rooms which surround his restaurant, the Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons at Great Milton. William Kent’s most poetic and sexually psychological Arcadian landscape survives at Rousham, and at Wroxton Abbey, near Banbury, there is the ghost of a Willow Pattern garden originally designed with a cascade, serpentine river for boating and Chinese and Gothick retreats.

At the heart of the county is Oxford city with at least ten significant college gardens dating from the Commonwealth to the twentieth century, and at Nuneham Park, just south of Oxford, is William Mason’s important early flower garden. But Oxfordshire’s most unpredictable designed landscapes are those of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Sir Frank Crisp’s wittily cynical layout at Friar Park, Henley-on-Thames with its underground caves and fake Matterhorn, Lady Ottoline’s Morrell’s kitsch blaze of colour at Garsington, Arne Jacobsen’s insistent geometries at St Catherine’s College and Milton Grundy’s green shade of a Japanese Garden at New House, Shipton-under-Wychwood, perhaps the greatest garden in the county.

This 192pp book is copiously illustrated with 85 black-and-white photographs and 24 colour plates

Tempus Publishing, 2007, £17.99  

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