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A Glossary of Terms

Landscape Gardening and Architecture

John Tatter, Professor of English
Birmingham-Southern College

Home Page: Stowe Landscape Gardens

literally, a series of arches; in gardening, often a straight, tree-lined walkway, the trees forming the arched ceiling.
a picturesque plateau region in Greece, reputed to be the home of pastoral poetry and commemorated by pastoral poets as an ideal landscape of peace and contentment, peopled by philosopher-shepherds.
a term generally used for the molding around a door or window, and specifically used for the lowest level of the entablature, directly above the capital of a column.
one of a series of short vertical posts that support a rail and form a balustrade, often forming the roofline of a building as well as the border of a staircase or porch.
artistic style of the seventeenth century characterized in sculpture by passion, in architecture by grandeur and the use of curved structures, and in painting by voluptuous figures, huge landscapes, and dramatic subjects.
a projecting part of a rampart or other fortification; in landscape gardening, a bastion is a projecting section of the ha-ha.
an architectural structure, such as a gazebo or a roofed open gallery, situated in a landscape so as to command a good view of the surrounding countryside; literally "beautiful view" in Latin.
in gardening, a term that refers to a hedged enclosure at the end of a walk.
a carved or molded decorative head to a column or pilaster, denoting one of the five architectural orders.
a type of landscape painting that reflects the whim or caprice of the painter in placing particular works of architecture in an unusual setting, such as the Roman Colosseum in a pastoral landscape or St. Paul's Cathedral on the Grand Canal in Venice.
a fall of water arranged in a succession of stages, either informally over a rock formation or more formally over a series of steps; a rustic arch often projects above the cascade, especially if the water emerges from a hillside.
an expanse of open, level countryside.
term in painting for the pastoral style in which nature seems left untouched by art.
a cluster, usually of trees, planted for visual effect in a landscape garden in the picturesque style.
one of a series of recessed panels in a ceiling, usually done in plaster.
a series of columns set at regular intervals, usually supporting the base of a roof structure.
a cylindrical, upright structural support in architecture, consisting of a base, shaft, and capital; an engaged column is one half-embedded in the wall behind it.
the uppermost level of the entablature; also the uppermost level of molding on an internal or external wall.
simple, projecting, tooth-like molding, representing the ends of roofing or ceiling beams, found on the cornices of buildings.
an undulating, treeless upland plain.
the uppermost part of a classical architectural order, a level of decoration situated above the capitals of a colonnade and consisting of the architrave, frieze, and cornice.
a series of fruit trees trained on a framework of lines and stakes to form a hedge.
an open or colonnaded recess, intended for conversation, often semi-circular, and furnished with seats or a long bench.
a structure, often an artificial ruin, built on a distant rise to catch the attention of a viewer and carry his or her eye out of the surrounding garden into the wider countryside.
any front of a building given architectural treatment.
a garland of leaves or ribbons suspended in a loop between two points; festoons are often painted or sculpted, the latter particularly in friezes of the Corinthian order.
fête galante
a type of landscape painting made popular by Watteau that depicts outdoor gatherings (fêtes) of men and women, dressed in fashionable contemporary clothes and engaging in dance, flirtation, conversation, or music-making; the setting may involve architectural ruins.
rounded vertical grooves on a column or pilaster.
a garden building built primarily for visual effect: to "fool" the eye.
the central level of the entablature, often decorated with classical motifs in carving or molding.
the architectural facing of a building, more decorative than structural.
open, grassy area surrounded by woods.
general term for a style of architecture and ornament prevalent between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, considered old-fashioned in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, characterized by pointed arches, ribbed vaulting, and flying buttresses, and by grotesque decorations; when it came back into fashion in the mid-1700s, it was celebrated as a symbol of British patriotism.
grand style
the style of painting, promoted by Reynolds as President of the Royal Academy, in which the figures and background are painted in highly formal and idealized ways; such paintings demonstrate the artist's elevated thought and dignified composition.
an underground passage, often decorated with crystals, bits of broken shells, and broken pieces of mirror, and involving running water in rills and pools; all of this is calculated to create a mysterious effect.
an obelisk -- that is, a tapering column of stone, square or rectangular rather than cylindrical, and topped by a pyramid -- often acting as a fountain.
a sunk fence; that is, a ditch with one sloping side and one vertical side into which is built a retaining wall; a ha-ha creates a barrier for sheep, cattle, and deer while allowing an unbroken view of the landscape.
a statue of the head of a Greek god set on a square stone pillar.
a garden building, often complete with a hired "hermit" to live there, calculated to raise an appreciation for contemplation in the context of nature.
heroic painting
painting in the grand style, depicting scenes from history, mythology, or scripture, and promoting the heroic qualities of courage, loyalty, justice, generosity, etc.
a small, rectangular garden, developed in Tudor times, that consists of an intricate, geometric pattern, or knot, laid out in dwarf plants such as box or rosemary; sometimes the pattern takes the form of objects such as heraldic beasts.
a gallery or arcade that is roofed but open, along the front or side of a building, and often on an upper level.
specifically, the district over which a lord had domain in medieval western Europe; in general, any landed estate.
artistic style of the late eighteenth century, characterized by its regularity and uniformity and its close resemblance to the art of classical antiquity.
an upright, four-sided, tapered pillar that terminates in a pyramid; it may be inscribed or plain, and it is often placed prominently in the center of a pool, at the crown of a hill, or at the end of a terrace walk.
a building, usually with large and numerous windows, built to house potted orange trees during the winter; the trees are moved outside during the warmer months.
one of the five classical architectural formulas consisting of base, column, and entablature: seen most easily in the capital of a column, the orders range from the plainest (Tuscan and Doric) to the scrolled Ionic, the leafy Corinthian, and the most elaborate Composite, a combination of the Ionic and Corinthian.
architectural or painterly decoration, as opposed to structural elements: urns, statuary, and friezes might ornament a building, while dress and jewelry might ornament a figure in a portrait.
a low protective wall or railing at the edge of a roof, walkway, or embankment.
a flower garden with beds and paths designed to form a pattern, the outdoor and botanical equivalent to an indoor Persian carpet; literally "on the ground" in French.
a type of poetry or painting, on a lower level of formality and subject matter than the heroic, which has to do with the life of shepherds and shepherdesses, particularly during the golden age of classical times.
patte d'oie
three radiating garden avenues; named after a goose's foot.
the architectural structure above a window, door, or porch -- either triangular or segmental (an arc, or segment of a circle); an open pediment has the center of its top missing, and a broken pediment has the center of its base missing.
literally, surrounded by columns; a term for a temple or other structure enclosed in a colonnade.
piano nobile
the main floor of a building where the most important rooms would be located: literally "noble storey" in Italian.
an artistic principle in both painting and gardening that emphasizes the rough and irregular, the surprising, the various, the commonplace, and the decaying or aged; picturesque gardening and painting were mutually influential.
a rectangular column, including its base and capital, set into the face of a wall.
a block or slab upon which a column, pedestal, or statue is based; also the bottom course of stones supporting a wall -- the plinth course.
literally, porch: an architectural design used widely by Palladio and his followers, which consists of a colonnade supporting a pedimented roof of varying depth.
an arrangement of five objects, usually trees, with one at each corner of a rectangle and one at the center; this basic structural unit is often multiplied to create a larger pattern, and plantations of trees in this pattern may be identified by the same term.
one of a series of stones laid at the exterior corners and angles of a building and consisting of contrasting material to that of the wall.
a large defensive fortification consisting of an embankment and often topped by a parapet.
a small defensive earthwork fortification, sometimes temporary, and sometimes used to reinforce a permanent rampart.
artistic style of the early eighteenth century characterized by energy, lightness, delicacy, playfulness, and self-conscious artificiality; it was replaced by a more stern neoclassicism.
a circular, domed building or hall.
the roughened finish, naturally or artificially created, on blocks of stone or masonry, and the deep engraving of the joints between the blocks; rustication is often used on the facade of the ground floor of a Palladian building.
the immediate foundation of a colonnade; literally "column base" in Greek.
an architectural unit consisting of four columns.
tiers or terraces in a hillside, resembling the concave formation of seats in a classical outdoor theatre.
the shaping of evergreens by clipping.
a garden or shrubbery trimmed and shaped into geometric or animal forms.
topographical painting
a type of landscape painting that tends toward factual representation, particularly in views of royal and aristocratic residences and of prominent features of a particular countryside; this type of landscape stands in contrast to the more mythological, imaginary representations of nature in the landscapes of, for example, Claude Lorrain.
the calcareous (chalky, containing calcium carbonate) and siliceous (flinty, containing silica) deposits of springs, lakes, or ground water; also a rock composed of compacted volcanic ash: in architectural terms, tufa refers to a rough facing stone applied to buildings to give a rustic look.
Venetian window
also called a Palladian window or a serliana, this decorative window is characterized by a central arched opening, wider and taller than its flanking openings, which have flat entablatures; these openings are usually flanked by decorative columns, and the center opening may sit above hinged panels which, when opened, create a Venetian door.
a long view into the countryside.

© John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College,