The History of Landscaping – Quite a Story

Up until about a hundred years ago, the average person didn’t have a lawn to worry about. They were too busy going to work, putting food on the table, and trying to educate their children. It was only when people started leaving the farming life for the life of the cities and suburbs that single-family houses sprang up in droves, and people had the money to spend on such luxuries as landscaping.

Which is not to say that landscaping is a brand new profession. As early as the 1800s, the wealthy of practically any country were able to employ professional artisans to build gardens and landscape their homes. Of course, they weren’t average people, but nevertheless it’s fun to learn about the forerunners of today’s landscape designer.

The most famous is the British landscape designer, “Capability” Brown. His real name was Lancelot Brown, but it was his habit to look at a piece of real estate and say, “It has capabilities,” and t hat is how he got his nickname. Brown has been called England’s “most famous gardener.” He was born in 1716 and died in 1783, and yet over a hundred years later his legacy lives on. Over 44 of his gardens are still in existence today (he designed over 170). Of course that’s because he designed these gardens for the “landed families”, or nobility, who were not about to sell their mansion every ten years and move up to a bigger one.

Prior to Capability Brown, the landed families had huge “formal gardens.” Brown changed all that, encouraging his clients to make use of a more naturalistic design, with compositions of grass, clumps of trees, and pools and lakes.

England has Capability Brown, the United States has Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted was born in 1822 and died in 1903. He went to Yale and studied agricultural science and engineering.

In 1853, the New York legislature decided that they’d have to create a park in the middle of the city, for their many inhabitants. They held a contest to decide who would design it, and Frederick Olmsted and his partner, English architect Calvert Vaux, were awarded the contract, to create a “greensward,” as Olmsted termed it. ” The park was not created on barren land, however – many poor people and free blacks were evicted from their homes under eminent domain so that the park could be placed there. (Not that that was Olmsted’s fault – that’s where the legislature wanted the park, and that’s where they were going to put it regardless.)

Olmsted went on to make a career out of creating city parks – indeed he conceived the system of parks and interconnecting parkways. Two of the best examples are the park system he designed for Buffalo, New York, and the system for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Olmsted and his partners also designed over 355 school and college campuses.

So as you walk through your city and see all the greenspaces and landscaping, spare a thought for the landscape architects who brought all this beauty to you. Studying the history of landscape architecture is fun and informative.

National Park Service and it’s Legacy

Artist George Catlin has been credited with presenting the notion of a governmental organization to protect our wilderness and wildlife. His essays reflected anxiety toward the continuing development and its effects of the westward expansion over the natural wonderland. George Catlin expressed the theory of creating a policy or agency to protect the wilderness. The lands of Yellowstone and Yosemite received protection under specific preservation laws in the mid 1800’s. Later the National Park service had begun to be established.

The potential for a booming tourism market inspired many keen investors to band together and lobby for the creation of a National Park service. Most importantly supportive conservationist lobbying began for the preservation of wildlife and natural resources. President Woodrow Wilson officially signed legislation for the creation of the National Park Service on August 25th 1916.

Congress created the national park service as a chapter o the United States department of the Interior. The national park service has since grown to employ over 100,000 people and boast many thousands of volunteers. As a cabinet office to the executive branch of government the National Park service is run by a secretary elected by the president. The national Park service receives a yearly budget of over 2 billion dollars.

The national park service has been actively involved in caring for American monuments, historical properties and parks since 1916. National parks are a place of beautiful picnic spots equally dedicated to the conservation of local wildlife. National parks are available to the public providing spectacular natural scenery and a place to enjoy healthy family entertainment for a lazy afternoon or the whole summer long. The chief duty of the national park service is a commitment to the conservation of historical properties, scenery, wildlife and properties contained within a national park. The national park service promotes public education in reflection of the American landscape. Receiving millions of visitors to over 391 units per year the national park service is a flourishing society.

Yellowstone national park became the world’s very first national park under the National Park Service. Yellowstone was previously privately managed with sometimes uncertain success. Yosemite received some protection as a state park originally but was soon to join in under the protection of the National park Service with others soon to follow. Mount Rainier, Glacier, Crater Lake, and naturally, the beautiful Sequoia, all thankfully receiving protection and conservation under the care of the National Park Service.

It was soon recognized that parks not in the western states should also benefit from the care of the National park Service and Acadia National Park in Maine was also included. Philanthropist John Rockefeller Jr. was among others who assisted in the gradual acquisition of eastern lands. In 1926 the Great Smokey Mountains, Shenandoah and Mammoth cave were all to be included for protection from the National Park Service. In fact later the eastern states with their many historic sites such as battlefields and war memorials became an even larger area under protection from the National Park service.

The National park Service has sustained continual growth and expansion over the past few decades. Presidents agreed to the importance of protecting the American heritage and supported laws even including additional laws and clauses. The National Park service protects living history and educational opportunities as a legacy and shall continue to care and protect the environment for many decades to come by order of their mission statement. To “Conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Auckland’s Religious Legacy in Neo-Gothic Splendour at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral

Parnell is Auckland’s premier suburb and also its oldest. Commanding an impressive position on an elevated ground looking over the city and the charming port, Parnell is known for its scenic ocean vistas and its religious institutions. Home to several Church of England establishments, its core charities, the Diocesan Library and the residence of the Bishop, the picturesque hamlet is also home to a number of breathtaking churches of historic significance.

These include a number of Presbyterian and Wesleyan churches, St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Chapel and of course the neo-gothic wonder that is St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral. Reputed as the first church to have been built in the city of Parnell, the wooden structure is also renowned as one of the largest of its kind in the globe. Beautifully executed according to the design of B.W Mountfort, the church has a decidedly neo-gothic air about its form and architecture. Built in 1863, the church dominates its landscapes even today due to its iconic bell chimes and imposing facade. Having been relocated from its position on the other side of the road, St. Mary’s was moved to its current position next to the Selwyn Court and the New Holy Trinity Cathedral in 1982.

Devoted to St. Mary, this ancient religious institution has stood the test of time, remaining a focal point of the town’s many attractions and its community’s consciousness. With Venerable Archdeacon Kissling serving as its first incumbent, the church went through extensive renovations which included enlargements of its already monumental size under the care of its later incumbent Venerable Archdeacon Maunsell. Nearly 159 feet in length with a 32 foot broad nave, the church is approximately 48 feet in height from floor to summit. Complete with captivating screens and a pulpit contributed by Parnell resident M. J. Gay the two aisles within the church are 12.5 feet each.

Leave A Legacy – Post-Olympic Thoughts

The Olympics is over but what is the legacy of it that will be left behind? This was the big question in the initial planning and it seemed was the trite justification being trotted out when questions were being raised about vast sums of money going to fund such an event. Now, I’m not knocking the Games at all – I thought it was terrific to see such a variety of sport and for the first time ever became engrossed by the four-yearly spectacle. I do wonder though whether all the money spent will make any difference to the average British person.

Having said all that, what is legacy all about? Is it simply about the infrastructure and opportunities available to us in the future or is it related to how we have changed? One commentator suggested that maybe the legacy of the games would be that people now acknowledge the value of persistent and sustained encouragement and will put that into practice on a more local level, supporting those around them. Having watched the athletes do amazing things, they may also urge one another to be more self-sufficient and call on reserves of inner strength in order to achieve, even at a moderate level. “If Tom Daley or Ben Ainslie can put initial set backs behind them then surely we can too.”

As a coach committed to people developing their potential, overcoming obstacles, becoming who they want to be and achieving their goals, I can only agree with these as being worthy outcomes from this major event. If people take up more sport in the next months and years then that would be great. However, if they develop and grow personally, then they will be the ones leaving the legacy for the people that come after them.

There has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, much talk in the media about the legacy of the Olympics; for Boris, for the monarchy, for the east end of London, for the nation. I am primarily interested though in what your legacy will be. It might be related to your sporting achievements or not. What great things will you leave behind you? For me there are three questions to look at:

  • What mark will you leave behind?
  • Who will benefit from it?
  • What are the foundations to lay and how is the building progressing?

What mark will you leave behind?

Often legacy is a word that is synonymous with money and possessions – it is that which is apportioned by the due legal process of will reading. This though is to constrain it as a word and an idea to the merely tangible.

Now, your legacy might well be stored in physical things. Buildings and monuments can well be a legacy left to your family, town or country; much like the Olympic stadium, it may be used for generations to come. This is especially true it seems in a country like Germany where the tradition of building a house and then passing it on to your children is stronger than in the UK.


Maybe you will leave a whole pile of money behind when you are gone which might prove to be a legacy for people known to you or others further afield. Certainly the value of this legacy will not lie in the amount but in what it is spent on. Take for example someone like Bill Gates who has used some of his vast fortune to set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which, according to their website, aims to “help all people lead healthy, productive lives”. Consequently, money is spent, in the USA and further afield on mainly health-related programmes, such as Rotary International’s polio eradication scheme.


Possibly your legacy will be a public building, maybe even named in your honour. I was hearing this week about ‘Clare Short schools’ in Malawi – the MP and Minister for International Development was responsible for arranging funding for building them and so she is remembered.


You could leave behind an invention or idea that transforms life for people. Another Rotary International example springs to mind of Tom Henderson from Cornwall who created ShelterBox, a project providing crates for families in disaster areas that contains what they need for temporary rehousing when everything else has gone. Read all about it at


Could your legacy be an organisation or association that you have started, like Robert Baden-Powell did? I work with a sailing organisation that works with around 50 young people every year. After running for 65 years, it has impacted a lot of young people even though the original founder is now dead.

At the end of the day, it probably doesn’t matter what it is that you leave behind assuming you have done it from a sound value-basis and you, or others after you, finish what you started. What you don’t want is to build another McCaig’s Folly or similar bricks and mortar carbuncle to adorn our landscape that no longer has much function other than to remind us of the builder and their pride – I certainly don’t know much else about the aforementioned Oban resident.