The Present Order is the Disorder of the Future: Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta

Scottish artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay spent forty years creating his garden. He called it “Little Sparta,” a reference to the battle he fought with the town council who wanted to tax it, claiming that it was a gallery not a garden.

Little Sparta was a place of healing for the intensely agoraphobic Finlay. In the city, he could barely leave his room–at Little Sparta he could go outside.

This is one of my favorite gardens–I’m a sucker for classicism but I also like that it has a narrative, that it tells the story of the people who lived in it.

Here’s here’s another nice video about Little Sparta narrated by Finlay’s son:

I hope to visit it someday. In the meantime, I’ve got my own Little Sparta to work on.

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! My husband and I are planning to walk the Wainwright coast to coast walk this summer and will be flying into Edinburgh. Little Sparta has catapulted to the top of my must sees while overseas.

    I live in Oakland, CA on a 1/6 acre plot. Now that most of the concrete is out, we are struggling with design ideas for the back yard. Much of the back yard is already set aside for raised beds and the flock…

    This looks like just the shot in the arm we need to start building the pond and contemplation garden my husband is dreaming of.

    • We are green with envy! And Little Sparta aside, a coast to coast walk through that dreamy country sounds amazing. Enjoy it a little extra for our sake — and may the garden muse bless you.

    • You could share your adventures to Wainwright on a blog with photos and such. I’d also be interested in seeing the progress of our pond. We built one several years ago and enjoy it 3 seasons out of the year. We love to sit next to in the AM drinking our coffee and playing scrabble as the sun comes up.

  2. Thanks for the garden blessing Mrs. Homegrown! We are looking forward to this once in a lifetime trek!
    Dan – I’ll give the blog idea some thought. Not sure if i could keep up with such a thing,

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