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Celebrating ‘England’s greatest gardener’

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show marks the 300th anniversary of ‘Capability’ Brown’s work
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Celebrating England's greatest gardener

This month, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) will pay homage to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, whose landscaping changed the face of 18th century England. Three gardens that celebrate his work will feature at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (5-10 July).

Capable landscapes

Nicknamed ‘Capability’ for describing landscapes as having ‘great capabilities’, Brown was famous for introducing new concepts which favoured naturalistic landscape, sweeping away a previously formal patterned style. Brown become a pioneer in the gardening world throughout the last three centuries and is seen by some as ‘England’s greatest gardener’.

‘Capability Brown was the most famous and influential British gardener of the eighteenth century. There is a strong link between Brown and Hampton Court Palace; he was appointed chief gardener at Hampton Court in 1764, and his role was to run the kitchen gardens to provide produce for the royal family.’

RHS Historian

The gardens and designers

Paying tribute to Brown’s designs at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Victoria Truman (from Kent) makes a contemporary homage to Brown’s landscaping with her garden, Reflecting the Landscape.

Truman uses serpentine landforms to create the illusion of a valley and places his signature trees, such as copper beech, to adorn the mounds. A turfed bench allows the visitor to sit and contemplate the surrounding countryside which will be visible between and beneath the canopies of the trees.

The Capable of Reinvention garden designed by Peter Wood, Zaidee Penhaligon, Emma Wilson, Alex Newman and Lyndsay Cooper (from Sussex) is based on a study of reflection – inspired by Capability’s innovative use of reflection in his lakes.

The designers use water to reflect both the planting and the custom-made sculpture follies with the aim of distorting illusion and perspective. The unusual shape of the garden constructs the visitors view through the space, while the path drags deeper into the contours of the land where the famous Capability tree clump is reimagined in dead wood and metal.

‘This year marks the 300th anniversary of Brown’s birth and the RHS is one of 21 festival partners staging events across England and Wales throughout 2016. There is a host of events and publications being produced to celebrate the occasion, and the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show provides an opportunity for a celebration in three dimensions. Three show gardens are being created as modern responses to aspects of Brown’s design principles.

‘Visitors to the Show will have an opportunity to reflect and debate about the legacy of Brown’s work, and what it might mean for the 21st century.’

RHS Historian

Finally, Burnham Landscaping demonstrates a contemporary interpretation of one of Brown’s most favoured elements; the ‘ha-ha’ style in Mind the Gap. International designers Dendetta Pecorari and Alisa Veretti (from Italy) will split the garden into two zones, a lawn reachable by visitors and a wildflower area to be admired.

Dividing the two environments is a moat, ensuring the wildflowers remain a place to be admired from afar whilst creating a clear visual perspective to the onlooker, like one of the paintings which inspired Capability’s gardens.

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show runs from 5-10 July 2016. Click here for further information or to buy tickets.

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