What makes a garden historic?

Before we can explore and discuss historic gardens, we should take some time to think about what makes a garden historic. I posed this question to some fellow garden enthusiasts. While we have not arrived at a conclusive answer, we did come to a general consensus. And, in the process, we raised even more questions, questions we are still discussing. I have my ideas of what would constitute an historic garden, but I do not want to influence you.

Ask yourself this:
Is a garden historic once it reaches a certain age, let's say 50 years of age? Does the garden have to have been designed by a famous, or well respected garden or landscape designer? If a garden was designed by someone who influenced garden design, but the garden has been altered, is it still historic? Can a garden be historic if it is 50 years old, maintained as the designer intended but that designer is ‘unknown?’


  1. Hard to answer, but actual age seems to play a big factor. Trees especially can date the garden. Design, not so much, because good design is essentially timeless.

  2. I'm on board with the age as it's near impossible to keep a garden static. And when you consider the garden as historic, are you talking about its plantings or its hardscapes? When they talk about "restoring" a garden, it usually means a restoration of the garden hardscapes, meaning paving areas, border layouts, statuary, etc.

  3. This conversation was also taking place on another site:
    Anonymous “I think gardens and landscapes are deemed historic due to significance. Therefore, it's a combination of age with an appealing aesthetic value, important event, or an association with a notable person.”

    ME: I agree wholeheartedly with you. Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it is historic. Just look at some old house around town. They were not too great when they were new and they have not aged into something better with time.

    I will post some pictures soon from the Smith Garden in Dayton, Ohio.(LINK: http://jennifersthegardenlife.blogspot.com/2010/07/visiting-smith-garden.html ) It is old and it is very well designed, but I do not think we would deem it historic. It is a beautiful garden that shows why we have basic garden design principals we should follow. But historic? I am not sure. I think it may be more sentimental, an important part of the neighborhood.

    Has anyone visited this garden? What are your thoughts?