Mr A of Boston, and Mrs H of Houston, Texas, raise a robust series of familiar questions about Capability Brown’s use of exotics in parkland: did he use them? Could he have used trees that were not hardy and so have failed? If he didn’t use them why didn’t he use them?
These questions come in a form that asks me to agree that they are unanswerable even as they are put to me. They send me to my shed and the peaceful task of sowing leek seed. I seldom have much success with leeks either, but there is a peaceableness to them that such questions only disturb. All my Brownian prejudices incline me to conclude that wherever he could Brown stuck to native species, along with others, such as Horse Chestnut and Cedar of Lebanon that had long been familiar sights in the English countryside. I want this to be the case, primarily because I would like to believe that in his parkland Brown was trying to bring to life his idea of what the English countryside looked like in the middle ages and indeed the evidence does tend to support this claim of mine.
Rather than respond in a theoretical vein however, on this occasion I shall follow these observations with some notes on four hardy exotic broad-leaves that he might have used – and occasionally did use – in parkland.