Monday, January 11, 2010

English Landscape School

"We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there."

Seed for Thought 1949
Charles Franklin Kettering


Born in 1716 at Kirkharle, Northumberland, England, landscape designer Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was born at the right time in the right place.
Landscape gardening was undergoing a major change from rigid, tightly hedged formality to a more natural look inspired by popular landscape painters of the day.





The formal Italian Garden
at Blenheim Palace



Stowe Landscape Garden in England evolved from an English Baroque garden into a landscape park designed by Charles Bridgeman, William Kent and James Gibbs. In 1733, Capability Brown was made head gardener at Stowe and was greatly influenced by the design. Bridgeman was the inventor of the 'ha ha' which is a small wall that allowed the eye to flow uninterrupted into the landscape while keeping sheep and other wildlife off the grounds.

A 'ha ha' at Blenheim Palace gardens

Capability Brown, a largely self-taught landscape designer, established his own business in 1751. His timing could not have been better as his designs were greatly appealing to the wealthy English aristocracy who could afford a secluded, peaceful, world.

Brown's adage was ' a good plan, good execution, a perfect knowledge of the country and the objects in it, whether natural or artificial, hiding what is disagreeable, highlighting what is beautiful.'


Brown's formula was one of turf smoothing away from the house, clumps of trees laid out naturally, and a tranquil lake formed by damming streams. Nothing got in his way. In his design at Blenheim Palace, Brown partially submerged a bridge to form his lake.

Critics claimed that Brown's work lacked texture, color contrast, visual excitement, and was bland and repetitive. Yet, the test of time has shown that Brown's style is timeless and provides a natural backbone for landscape gardeners to continue to enhance his work.


An excellent designer cannot pretend that nature made the garden, but must interpret the design to fit the surroundings and architecture. Capability Brown fits the description. The scope of his work was massive, a result of the deep purses of his clients. Although most of us cannot reproduce a landscape design on such a scale, from Capability Brown we can see the art of an enduring landscape garden from a true visionary.

3 comments:

giggins said...

Well, I have a 12x20' patch of backyard that I'd like to have shaped into an english landscape.
-mitch

Green City Gardeners said...

We need to dam a stream. Can we partially submerge the house?

Moonstone Gardens said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the English Garden School. I'll be back.
Cindee