John Brookes-Denmans Foundation

The John Brookes-Denmans Foundation is dedicated to perpetuating John Brookes’ landscape and garden design legacy.

Its charitable mission statement is:

The John Brookes-Denmans Foundation promotes and disseminates the John Brookes design legacy in order to enhance the experience of landscape and garden design students and professionals as well as landscape contractors, homeowners, and gardeners.  Central to this mission is the maintenance and development of Denmans as a centre for landscape and garden design excellence and to ensure its place in the history of gardens and garden design.
Charity no. 1171609

John Brookes at Denmans Garden

‘I am not a gardener.  I am a landscape designer.’ 

John Brookes MBE lived in the Clock House at Denmans from 1980 until March 2018. Considered “the man who invented the modern garden”, he developed an approach to garden design that he explained and demonstrated in the over 25 books he authored and in lectures and classes he taught.  He took his methodology and his design philosophy around the world and encouraged his students to embrace the ‘tradition that reflects the land, culture, and vernacular’ in which they work. He taught students everywhere to ‘look’, and that a successful garden has a strong, bold, clean layout at its core to which plants are subordinate and that acknowledges the needs and preferences of its owners. For these reasons, his garden and landscape designs and those of his students are never dated nor are they stereotypical.  Denmans, likewise, is neither dated nor stereotypical.

In 1962 John Brookes was the first independent designer to create an exhibition garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.  He upended tradition and the prevailing view that a garden was defined by its plants by demonstrating that an outdoor space could be about so much more -- eating, entertaining, playing, living. In the 1962 garden, he audaciously created a designed exterior space that had seating, sculpture, even a place for an incinerator, and was linked to an imaginary townhouse. This approach to garden design, which seems normal now, was unprecedented at the time -- even controversial -- as was the notion that people of all income levels could have designed, fashionable gardens tailored to their preferences. Plants were part of the design but subordinate to the garden’s purpose which was to create a ‘Room Outside’.

Influenced by Modernist architects and artists, John Brookes revolutionized garden and landscape design over his 60 year career.  He created over 1,400 gardens, both public and private, from the Chicago Botanic Garden to the Barakura English Garden in Japan to private estates in Patagonia, Russia, Chile, and America.  He was most influential landscape and garden designer of his generation and his legacy remains manifest in the his books, the work of his students, and in the gardens he designed around the world.