Russell Page was an authority on garden design and one of the greatest landscape designers of the modern period. He created a pioneering range of gardens across the world with exquisite examples in England, including Longleat and the Royal Estate, Windsor. Many of these gardens are considered nationally significant and are protected for future generations by their inclusion on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens.
1. He was the first modern garden designer
Although a pioneer in his field, today Page is relatively unknown and deserves wider recognition for his visionary work. After his death in 1985, The Times wrote, “In a world where the gifted amateur is no longer the guiding light in the design of gardens, and in which highly qualified professionals prevail, Russell Page stood out as one of those great originals, for which England has been famous.”
2. He had a painterly touch
“Whether I am making a landscape or a garden or arranging a window-box I first address the problem as an artist composing a picture; my pre-occupation is with the relationship between objects whether I am dealing with woods, fields or water, rocks or trees, shrubs and plants or groups of plants” wrote Page in his book, The Education of a Gardener.
Using his artistic skills honed at the Slade School of Art in London and later on in Paris, the first garden Page remodelled and improved was at Longleat House, Wiltshire.
3. He had a head for horticulture
Page’s book, The Education of a Gardener, was not only recognised as an authority on garden design but was packed full of wisdom on plants and horticultural expertise. His encyclopaedic knowledge of plants and trees is borne out in the woodland garden designed for the Royal Estate, Windsor, and in the inspired planting of a formal terraced garden at Port Lympne in Kent.
4. He took international influences
Page took inspiration from all over the globe, embracing diverse cultures. He liked to use established European gardening traditions and combine them with Islamic garden design. This truly pioneering approach was present throughout his career, from the Festival Gardens at Battersea Park in London in the 1960s, to urban planning projects in Australia and Venezuela.
5. His work lives on
England boasts some of the finest examples of Page’s creations, all of which are on the Register of Parks and Gardens. One is the Culpepper Gardens at Leeds Castle in Kent. Originally a cut flower garden, Page transformed it into a beautiful English garden with an informal layout and low box hedges. At Overbury Court in Worcestershire and Flete in Devon he applied his talent for designing harmonious forms and compositions, creating an early 20th century water and rock garden.
The Education of a Gardener: The Life & Work of Russell Page 1906-1985 is on until 21 June at The Garden Museum, London.