The Gardens, which Henry Middleton envisioned and began to create in 1741, reflect the grand classic style that remained in vogue in Europe and England into the early part of the 18th century. The principles of André Le Nôtre, the master of classical garden design who laid out the gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte and the Palace of Versailles were followed. Rational order, geometry and balance; vistas, focal points and surprises were all part of the garden design.
Henry Middleton’s original gardens contained walkways or allées, which were planted with trees and shrubs, trimmed to appear as green walls that partitioned off small galleries, green arbors and bowling greens. Sculpture was placed at the end of long vistas and ornamental canals designed with mathematical precision. Changes in elevation and new surprises were created at every turn.
Extended vistas in the Carolina Low Country were usually flat, across great expanses of river and marsh. The house site at Middleton Place was an exception. It stood on a bluff forty feet above the Ashley River which forms a wide canal directly in line with the house. Henry Middleton’s appraising eye appreciated the incomparable view of the river, and its alignment with the center hall of the house built by his father-in-law John Williams some thirty-odd years earlier. This main axis was to become one side of the perfect right triangle that inspired the original garden design.