Before recommending to our public Tom Williamson and David Brown’s Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men (London: Reacktion Books, 2016), the new basket of bouquets to that ‘Tractor of True Taste, Capability Brown, my friends and I decided we would each select some bonbon from the book that would justify such a purchase.
Category: Exotics (Page 1 of 2)
Ms T writes from Hampton Court. She is designing a garden in the style of that man, no nun, but a notable gardener, Capability Brown and wants to know how he would have felt about Fagus sylvatica ‘purple fountain’ weeping copper beech, or corkscrew willow.
Mrs W from Nether Lamport has been in touch again and do you know, on this occasion she may have a point. She came upon me strolling on the High Street, her iron grey hair somewhat awry, summoned me to her side and asked if we call spruce trees ‘spruce’ for their spruce habit.
Captain Ken may be called by some a quibbler and by some laconic of utterance. Some find his usual costume of trousers gartered with cycle clips and brightly checked sweaters a sufficient deterrent to conversation in itself. Nonetheless he put a fine question to the company when last we foregathered four our monthly supper at the Tatler’s Waste-Bin. The fact is that besides fir (Abies spp.) and spruce (Picea spp.), Scots and Corsican pines were also called firs in the 18th century and there is not much that we can do about it.
‘The ilex, or ever-green oak, presents a character very different from that of the yew. The yew is a close bodied, compact tree. The ilex is generally thin, and straggling; tho we sometimes see it, in soils, which it likes, form a thicker foliage.’ Such, from his vantage point in the New Forest, was the judgement of the Rev. William Gilpin.
When I asked Mr Honey what he thought of Cypresses, he replied ‘Not much’ and left off talking. I think the master, Capability Brown, bold but never fool-hardy, may have used Lombardy Poplar instead to give an Italianate Claudean air to the view to Woodstock when he planted the island on the Queen Pool at Blenheim.
Here is a final attempt to shed light on this difficult question.
We have noticed perhaps that those exotic broad-leaves that were planted in parkland tend to be planted near structures and buildings, or might have been used as nurses for the slower-growing natives. If we turn now to the pleasure ground we will find by contrast an abundant use of floriferous exotics, and it might be possible to show that Capability Brown’s hand lay behind their purchase.