The Year of the English Garden

Published: Tuesday 12th Apr 2016

This year sees the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, one of England’s greatest gardeners. Earning the nickname ‘Capability’ for his capabilities in seeing improvements in his client’s gardens, Brown is responsible for designing the gardens of some of the country’s grandest stately homes including Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth and Compton Verney.

Before Brown, gardens were formal and enclosed and with his signature style of natural rolling hills, wide open spaces, grand trees and flowing rivers Brown revolutionised gardening at the time and set a new standard for English landscaping. These seemingly effortless designs actually involved a lot of work, with some designs requiring lakes to be created and thousands of tonnes of earth to be moved.

Brown became hugely sought after by owners of large, country estates and he worked on as many as 260 sites in his lifetime, with over 4000 more landscaped according to his vision. Yorkshire is lucky enough to have it’s own Capability Brown designed landscape, with the parkland surrounding Scampston Hall, Malton worked on by Brown in the 18th century. The park stretches over 80 acres and, in true Capability Brown style, features a series of lakes, naturalistic planting and the use of native trees.

To celebrate the anniversary of Brown’s birth, 2016 has been crowned the year of the English Garden, with Visit England selecting 20 of the best English Gardens. With many beautiful gardens up north, Yorkshire’s made it on to the list twice, with Burton Agnes Hall’s beautiful Elizabethan gardens crowned number 8, and Studley Royal Water Garden (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) making it onto the list at number 19. Crowned number one is the beautiful Alnwick Garden in Northumberland. The garden was designed by celebrated international garden designers Wirtz and features stunning spring blossoms, calming water features and geometric ornamental gardens with one of the largest collections of European plants. 

Castle Howard, in the Vale of York, was voted number 5 on Visit England’s best gardens for groups, the stunning gardens stretch over 1,000 acres and feature statues, lakes, temples and fountains along with an 18th century walled garden. 

With many self-catering cottages close to these beautiful gardens, it’s easy to explore them for yourself!