Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Events With Capabilities

View of part of Blenheim Palace's landscape by Capability Brown.
View towards Vanbrugh's Grand Bridge (built in 1710) at Blenheim Palace, September 2010
Capability Brown re-landscaped over 2,000 acres of parkland surrounding the palace (1764 to 1774) 

Lancelot Brown was nicknamed 'Capability' because he had a habit of telling his clients their estates had a 'great capability' i.e. potential for the kind of sweeping changes which made his fortune.

Sadly Capability Brown and his contemporaries swept away many of the gardens which pre-dated their work via the 18th Century's English landscape movement. However, the movement's legacy still has much to be admired.

Now 2016 is set to have a 'great capability' as far as garden visits and events are concerned. In addition to the usual suspects, there is the long awaited festival to celebrate the tricentenary of Capability Brown's birth. You can find out which events are happening near you here.

View down to the house at Dyrham Park Gloucestershire
Dyrham Park, Gloucestershire, October 2010

Then there are Brown's gardens and landscapes, and I've included views from some I've visited so far in this post. He was involved with more than 250 and the biggest number ever will open as part of the festival, including many not usually open to the public.

Lots of those usually open are found in the care of either the National Trust or the Historic Houses Association (over 70 of them in the case of the HHA). Therefore membership of either or both organisations is worth considering if you plan to visit lots of gardens during the festival (hint, hint to NAH re the HHA and Christmas).

Lacock Abbey
View during the Illuminating Lacock Abbey event, January 2014

Here's an interactive map to find out which gardens are near you. As far as Wiltshire is concerned, I have a choice from 10: Bowood (HHA), Charleton, Chute Lodge, Corsham Court (HHA), Lacock Abbey (NT), Longford Castle, Longleat (HHA), Tottenham, Wardour Castle and Wilton House (HHA).

No wonder VisitEngland has designated 2016 as the Year of the English Garden.

Trentham Gardens
Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire, June 2010

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NB Dyrham Park is looked after by the National Trust and Blenheim Palace is a member of the Historic Houses Association.


  1. All the garden photos are lovely, but the last one is extra spectacular!
    Have a great week!

    1. For some reeason I never got round to writing up my fab visit to Trentham gardens even though we went on one of the Head Gardener's regular guided walks. As well as the annual re-interpretation of the Italianate garden in my photo, there's also major gardens by Piet Oudulf and Tim Stuart-Smith (the latter you can just about see in the background). I was pleased to see the demands of the regular floods from the river Trent led Piet Oudulf to choose some different plants to what you usually see in his designs. It also means there's some interesting terracing in the design. Oh and there's lots of different little show gardens there, some of which were done by the Head Gardener for shows such as Hampton Court.

  2. We are fortunate to have Browns first garden, Croome Court, right on our doorstep.
    Trentham is on our visit list with the Black Pear Garden Club next year.

    1. Yikes, I should have said Tom Stuart-Smith in my previous comment!

      I'd be interested to see what you make of Trentham, Brian. They had big plans for major restoration work when I visited and I believe the HG has had more show gardens at Hampton Court which have been added to the display gardens section.

      I've wanted to visit Croome for ages, so hopefully next year's celebrations will spur me into action...

  3. ... and I never wrote up Blenheim either. So many posts, so little time ;)

  4. I can totally relate to the "little time" bit, which gets lit'ler and lit'ler by the moment. While I did wring out a few during NaBloPoMo this year, I still have so many gardens to write up. So envious of all the garden "capabilities" you UKish garden visitors have. Wish I could plan to come over during the Year of the English Garden, but don't hold out much hope at the moment. BTW, in her book Mansfield Park, Jane Austen had a bit of fun with the "garden improvers" like Brown and their wealthy clients, not blinking at tearing down an ancient avenue of trees to modernize the garden.

    1. It would be lovely to see you over here sometime Helen!

      I have a massive Toronto Fling backlog to get through. We had a fantastic time in Canada, but sadly my MIL's demise and other sad family events over the summer meant that the planned blog posts got put back in the box. I hope to open the box in the New Year when the blog will need a burst of summer to liven it up.

      I must take a look at Jane Austen with fresh eyes - she expressed quite a few forthright views via her books. I wonder who else protested at the works of Capability Brown and the sweeping changes wrought by other advocates of the English landscape movement at the time?


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