News in this second annus mirabilis is rushed to the table of the Brown Advisor from every point of the compass and from every letter in the alphabet. Why this morning I thought I was taking A for Ampthill at quite a lick, when I was distracted by a great thundering at the door and all the rest of the alphabet from B to Z clamoured to make an entry.
In the interests of peace and good order I therefore agreed to take a modest, mild and meek letter from the middle of the alphabet – to wit ‘M’ – but only to find myself more perplexed than ever by the goings-on in Malvern.
Despite my concern (note 248) that the understatement through which Capability Brown – vicious or virtuous – whichever you may think him – sought to conceal his identity might sometimes be too little observed as good practice in the modern school of landscape architecture, I have been arraigned by Captain Ken, lately returned from the Malverns, where he had enjoyed a week of arduous training broken only by a visit to the local flower shower, attended both by Alan Titchmarsh and by Monty Don. But this is neither here nor there – our interest and our congratulations must fall on the garden designed by Dr L-G for he took inspiration from the work of Capability and found himself awarded with the show’s Gold Star.
Bravo for Dr L-G! Hurrah for the continuing harvest that accrues to the name of the Great Brown! Well-deserved are their laurel wreaths, noble and far-seeing are the discerning minds of Messrs T and D! Too little is spoken of the enduring influence of the immortal Capability Brown on the brave county of Worcestershire.
In short my friends I have reneged upon the sentiments of my note 248 – the restraint in the theory of Brownian design is one thing, and all well and good, but when in practice one sees the wild extravagance of an imagination unfettered, then one might well unseat the tables of Apollonian restraint and turn Bacchant.
Our Malvern garden describes itself as “an evocation of one of Brown’s aviary/menagerie gardens”, but it is set in one of those ruins that Brown delighted in, for, they say, he had a penchant “for saving, maintaining and revitalising fragments of mediaeval moats and dilapidated ramparts with a view to creating new gardens within them… they were, like so many of his innovations, whimsical and ingenious: some were planted with roses plunged in partially submerged pots and set out, as trees in an avenue, in pairs along the margins of serpentine gravel walks, whilst others were animated with exotic birds which darted and strutted under delicately netted tents supported by rustic posts. Our garden aspires to breathe life into these vanished gardens, and attempts to convey the playfulness of a forgotten aspect of eighteenth-century English gardening.”
With its roses, sunk in pots, its animation and that sense that having put so much into the pudding already, a few more spoonfuls wouldn’t do any harm, all this is a refreshing break from the strangulated, ascetic purity with which we sometimes treat Brown’s gardens – out of a commendable sense of reverence to be sure, and a desire that we do not interpolate foreign material into his work, but, and this is less admirable, out of a sense that we should watch what others watch, think as others think, and when we see what others do, do likewise.
Let us then celebrate the rose gardens of Malvern. I tushed the querulous Captain. Such speculative enthusiasms are intended only to spread happiness. We should not stoop to fault-finding in 2016, the year of abundant joy.