European Themes

Discover European Garden Art and Future Gardens


The huge diversity, the local distinctiveness, the commonalities and differences that prevail throughout Europe is particularly well reflected in its gardens. To discover the connecting elements and roots of European garden design, the EGHN set up five European Themes:

Historic Gardens”, “Gardens of Famous People and Events”, “Productive Gardens”, “Contemporary Gardens” and (since May 2011) "Green Urban Development".

A visit to the gardens of the first European Theme is a journey through the “history of garden design”. Renaissance and Baroque as well as English landscape gardens reflect a dynamic past. Plants, paths and buildings reveal the ideals and visions of designers and garden architects. Where and when were new ideas and elements introduced into garden design? What kind of exchange of ideas was there between the regions? How did the ideas of the Enlightenment influence garden design? How the common garden heritage developed and how ideas were accepted and adapted in each of the regions becomes clear through the EGHN gardens.

Great parks and gardens are almost always associated with the names of famous people. The park of Versailles is inseparably linked not only with Louis XIV, but also with the garden designer Le Nôtre. Other historic European figures – artists, politicians or industrial magnates – used their gardens as places of refl ection and inspiration. Their gardens were places where visions for the future were developed. Finally, many garden designers are recognised throughout history as representing the spirit of the age. A visit to the “gardens of famous people and events” brought together within the EGHN conveys much of their lives and creativity.

One of the main motives for planting and cultivating gardens has always been the harvesting of fruit and vegetables. Herbs and medicinal plants increased the enjoyment of foods and were used as preservatives or to produce medicines. Other plants were cultivated because they were necessary for housework or handicrafts. Preserving the knowledge of plants, their cultivation and reproduction, as well as their proper processing was and still is the role of the botanical gardens, school and nursery gardens. The “productive gardens” theme includes these gardens along with spa parks which have a positive effect on body, mind and soul through their design and tranquillity.

Where are tomorrow’s historic gardens and parks being created today? In art and culture, confrontation between the old and new has always been an important force driving creative developments. The EGHN “contemporary gardens” display innovative ideas for the redevelopment of inner city open spaces, the establishment of new public and private parks and the use of dormant industrial land. The use of unusual locations, new techniques, new forms of documentation, information and instruction, or their creation by interdisciplinary collaboration and public involvement make them outstanding examples of contemporary garden design.

The big number of municipalities, counties and regional organisations associated as partners is one of the unique characteristics and strengths of EGHN. Their specific knowledge, experiences and best practice on how to use the resources of parks and gardens for sustainable development strategies are presented in a new European Theme from May 2011 onwards. One focus of the new theme of “green urban development” will be on the innovation of inner city urban areas, in particular public parks. This type of urban green, with its long history and specific resources, can be used to enhance areas with social problems or structural deficits. The evolution of existing, but sometimes rundown green sites into vivid and multifunctional spaces according to local needs and resources and inspiring all senses requires inventive designs and comprehensive implementation strategies.