This year marks 300 years since the birth of a man who is widely recognised as ‘England’s greatest gardener’, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. He gained his nickname ‘Capability’ because he was always heard to tell his customers that their landscapes had great capabilities, and he would set to work providing some of the greatest gardens of the 18th Century which surpassed the work of his predecessors.
His style of landscape garden design and construction worked with nature itself to enhance it’s natural features and beauty. Brown’s signature style was developed from the two principles of comfort and elegance, very important principles to the high class clients he was serving.
He worked hard to ensure the landscape provided for every need of the great house it surrounded, yet he also liked to make sure his gardens looked elegant and unified with nature at the same time.
His designs certainly didn’t lack variety and Capability Brown was responsible for over 170 gardens surrounding the finest country estates throughout Britain. His work can still be seen today at places like Kew Gardens and Blenheim Palace. His style is recognised by features of smooth undulating grass, scatterings or belts of trees and serpentine lakes running into expansive bodies of water. His creations swept away the previously popular styles of well tended, tidy gardens with formal boundaries and styles, instead embracing nature and working alongside it.
Fast forward to present day and many aspects of his style can still be seen today, except a beautiful landscaped garden isn’t simply a luxury of the upper class nowadays. Be it a small courtyard in London or a large country garden, a beautifully designed outdoor space can be created for anyone who wants one. Thanks to Capability Brown and the other well known gardeners of our history, we can use their knowledge and ideas to work with the nature we’ve got today and create something truly unique and fit for purpose.
So the next time you see a garden that causes you some admiration, remember that Capability Brown was one of the first of his time to create works of art in nature, and that you’re probably looking at something influenced by him, whether you know it or not.