Society of Garden Designers pays tribute to "icon" John Brookes

The Society of Garden Designers has paid tribute to "icon of garden design" John Brookes, who died last week aged 84.

John Brookes pictured in Denmans. Image: SGD
John Brookes pictured in Denmans. Image: SGD

Brookes (1933-2018), a fellow of the society influenced all its members, and led the way in garden design according to Andrew Duff, speaking on behalf of the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) Council, who said the designer "enjoyed a breathtakingly diverse and broad career" from the late 1950s to recently.

He started in horticulture as a parks apprentice for Nottingham City Council having become interested in growing during the Dig for Victory drive during the Second World War.

According to Duff, the connections he made with other designers had a huge impact on his career. The last six months of this apprenticeship was with a Dutch landscape architect from whom Brookes learned the practicalities of design, including drawing, and who encouraged him to approach Brenda Colvin for a position.

He was successful and they shared an office with Dame Sylvia Crowe who he worked with after Colvin retired. It was in their Baker Street offices that he was exposed to the art and people that continued to inspire him for the rest of his life. 

It was through Crowe and Colvin that Brookes great garden designers such as Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe who introduced him to Roberto Burle Marx and Californian designer, Thomas Church, who encouraged Brookes’  desire to create gardens which were extensions of the home, the local vernacular and the lifestyle of the client.

Duff said: "Brookes' sensitivity to clients’ needs meant that the gardens he created were not merely meeting the brief but also creating spaces which could enrich all those who used them.

Duff described Denmans in West Sussex as Brookes' playground.

"Denmans allowed Brookes a place to explore and experiment giving himself a freedom he gave to so many of his clients. Awaking at sunrise Brookes would often be seen, as he called it, ‘editing’ his planting leaving large piles of plant matter in his wake.  

"John Brookes FSGD MBE will be remembered for his extensive writings, lectures and his ability to communicate garden design to the masses. Above all he showed us that ‘a line is not simply a line but a conversation’."  

Click here for more about Brookes' life and work.


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