According to countless landscape designers and theorists, there is nothing truly new in landscape design. Our most modern landscapes are eclectic conglomerations of ideas from earlier times and distant places.
Americans have been instrumental in restructuring the landscape profession in a fashion that sets trends worldwide. Our democratic system recognizes no privileged class of people, so gardens are available for everyone, in addition to the financial resources to support them. More inherent to America is the single-family dwelling with its front, back, and side yards that provide the space for garden development. The opportunity for ordinary citizens to own land and to develop it as they choose is unparalleled in most other nations outside of North America. It has moved landscape design from a qualitative level to a quantitative level. Yet, since no two properties have the same combination of physical characteristics and user needs, the mass reproduction of look-alike landscapes is not as common as might be feared.
By definition, modern landscape design is the arrangement of outdoor space in a way that serves the needs and desires of people without damage to natural ecological relationships. Dissecting the definition a bit shows that the profession is more service – than product-oriented. The landscape design must first satisfy the people who will use the land. Therefore, the designer must first carefully ascertain the needs of the user population. Yet in the larger sense, ownership of land is temporary, and our stewardship of the land mandates that we not make changes that will damage it irreparably and restrict its future use. A concern for the environmental impact of a proposed landscape change is a recent and important development in the evolution of the landscape design profession. It has added an ethical obligation to a profession whose past concerns have been largely aesthetic and technical.