Landscape architecture is probably the oldest and least recognized of all the physical arts, and like all art it is part of the history of ideas. Reflection Riding is an intentionally designed landscape garden in the picturesque style. This style has its roots in the traditions of English garden and landscape design and philosophy of the eighteenth century. In many respects this period is the most important in the history of landscape gardening. Reaction to the excesses of formal gardening resulted in the awakening to the beauty and value of natural rural landscapes. The movement called “romanticism,” the renaissance of wonder, manifested itself in all expressions of the period. The English landscape garden style did not subdue nature to an intellectual pattern, but enhanced the original character of the landscape by capitalizing on topographical features and asymmetrical designs. ”Capability” Brown and Humphrey Repton were very influential English landscape architects in this period.
In the United States the picturesque garden style evolved around the region of the Hudson River valley under the hands of Andrew Jackson Dowling , A.J. Davis and Andre’ Parmentier. Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park and also the Biltmore grounds, is the best known designer of the style. One of the best ways to understand the principles of this landscape style is to look at the works of the great American landscape painters such as Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. John Chambliss created his landscapes as one would a painting “with an eye to composition, balance and fidelity to nature.” One can drive or walk through the Riding and reflect on a series of designed paintings.