Woman Brown, Jocelyn

Artist, Author, Florist and Garden designer
Alternative Names
  • Giles, Jocelyn

Written by Anne Vale, The University of Melbourne

Jocelyn Brown (1898-1971) was one of Australia's first professionally trained landscape designers, she introduced 'Garden City' concepts to Sydney in the 1930s influencing garden design through her garden commissions, art and writing.

Born in Maryborough, Queensland, Brown demonstrated a talent for drawing, when she left school, she was apprenticed to Jones and Jardine, a leading Sydney firm of commercial artists. She became a skilled draughtswoman, giving her the advantage of both freehand and technical drawing skills. She met her future husband Alfred Brown in Sydney. Alfred served in the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces in WWI, wounded and invalided from France to England he took the opportunity to study architecture as an associate member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Jocelyn joined him in England in 1920 and they married in June of that year. This partnership was pivotal to her early influences and subsequent professional development. In his new profession as a young architect, Alfred won the Sloane Medallion which enabled the couple to travel to Europe. They visited many famous gardens in France and Italy including Luxembourg, Versailles, Malmaison and the Villa d'Este.

On their return to England, they lived and worked in the new experimental 'Garden City' of Welwyn in Hertfordshire. Alfred Brown was directly involved in the development of Welwyn, working as assistant to Louis de Soissons (architect and town planner) responsible for the town design. Over the following three years, Jocelyn Brown was strongly influenced by garden city concepts and those of the partnership of Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens, who were creating their now famous gardens, promoting the same ideals, only a few miles away.

The Browns left Welwyn in 1923 moving to New Zealand. Here Jocelyn became a commercial artist designing catalogues, biscuit packets, and advertisements. Her clients included the Yates Seed Company and the Auckland Society of Arts Annual Exhibition for whom she produced beautiful images of seeds, fruits and flowers. Returning to Australia, in the grip of the 1930s depression, Jocelyn became the primary breadwinner as a designer with the card company John Sands. The family developed their first Australian garden, Comely, in Woollahra, followed by, The Fountains, in Killara drawing heavily on the Brown's Garden City and European experiences. Pictures of Killara appeared in Shum's Australian Gardening of Today Illustrated and The Home magazine which fostered modern lifestyle concepts. Soon afterwards, Jocelyn was invited to contribute a series of articles on gardening. She wrote on gardening, garden design and plantsmanship from 1939 until the journal closed in 1942, attracting a loyal following of clientele.

Brown's garden designs incorporated tasteful arrangements of trimmed hedges, round box balls, and potted plants combined with generous plantings of foliage and flowers. She accepted a significant number of private commissions to design gardens. Very few of her gardens remain, one exception is the garden she designed for Professor E.G. Waterhouse, Eryldene, which now receives some recognition as a touchstone for the Sydney gardens of the first half of the 20th century. Jocelyn Brown's garden style was strongly influenced by her time in Europe and England, her experience of garden city concepts and the Arts and Crafts ideals of Gertrude Jekyll. She pioneered the translation of these concepts to Australian landscapes.

Published Resources


  • Proudfoot, Helen, Gardens in Bloom: Jocelyn Brown and Her Sydney Gardens of the '30s and '40s, Kangaroo Press, Sydney, New South Wales, 1999. Details


  • Vale, Anne, 'Olive Mellor and the Australian Suburban Garden', Masters Thesis, The University of Melbourne: Faculty of Land and Food Resources, 2005. Details
  • Vale, Anne, 'Exceptional Australian Garden Makers of the 20th Century', PhD thesis, The University of Melbourne: Department of Resource Management and Geography, 2009. Details

Online Resources

See also