In response to an earlier exchange (note 95) comes the suggestion from Mrs S of Grantham, a considerable dendrophile, that Cedar of Lebanon well represents the style of that ineffable stylist, Capability Brown.
There is a truth, Mrs S, that I feel I can almost capture when I am walking out sometimes and all the women I see seem to be pregnant, just as at other times they are all wearing blue or slightly ripped jeans. So it is that sometimes at a Brown landscape I simply see Cedars – walking in Brocket or Highclere or Southill for example I have occasionally found that no other tree registers in my mind. What it is that sometimes causes the mind to select one class of things and pass over all others I do not know. So I have to confess that I am weak on Cedars. They were hardy, they were regarded as ‘excellent to terminate a vista’, they were adored by William Gilpin for their ‘mantling foliage’ and the ‘piramidal form of the stem’ – yet I do not really understand what Brown used them for. They tend to come in numbers, as though to represent those trees, celebrated by the psalmist, that the Lord made to skip like a calf – perhaps this was something Brown first saw on the lawns of Wilton, where they had been planted in the 17th century as a parterre shrub.
Perhaps we get an inkling of Brown’s attitude in the Bowood correspondence, from which it appears that he thought them a plant that could be overdone. However – and this is what makes Mrs S’s suggestion so à propos – a row of them was planted at the west end of Tong Knoll at Weston, at the foot of the quarry I have just mentioned (note 106). Now what wildness – what desert waste – what feeling – what call – what coming together of calm and catastrophe – was to be conjured up by that?