Capability Brown blueprint created for modern landscape

The question of what England's "greatest gardener" would make of today's landscapes is being explored by a Sheffield University student.

Capability Brown portrait painted by Richard Cosway in the late 1700s. Private Collection/Bridgeman Images
Capability Brown portrait painted by Richard Cosway in the late 1700s. Private Collection/Bridgeman Images

Jonathan Emery, 20, is producing a Brown-style blueprint for one of Yorkshire's best-known landmarks. The new plan for the Great Yorkshire Showground includes many famous Capability characteristics, as part of an exhibition tracing the life and work of the legendary landscape architect to be launched at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show.

Capability Brown: A Man for All Seasons is part of the nationwide festival celebrating the 300th anniversary of Brown's birth. The exhibition is sponsored by the North of England Horticultural Society and will focus on Brown's history and style, what gardening was like in the 18th century and how his design principles might be applied today.

Emery, who comes from Macclesfield, is a third-year landscape architecture student at Sheffield and was approached to take part in the project by organisers of the Capability Brown 300 Years Festival.

In true Brown style, he plans to create a before and after design featuring a range of new paths and using trees to define classical view points over the rolling showground landscape. Existing buildings will remain in place, but will be screened by more strategically placed planting.

Emery said: "I have tried to view the showground as Brown would have seen it and applied his principles to show people what he might have done with the site if he had been commissioned to do the job.

"Capability Brown is the forefather of landscape architecture in this country and his holistic view of the landscape, using the existing countryside to define sweeping, naturalistic designs, still very much applies today."

The new exhibition has been created with the help of garden historian, Peter Goodchild, who will also be giving a talk on the life and legend of Capability Brown in the Dig It Garden Theatre each day of the show, which runs from 21-24 April at the showground.

Capability Brown: A Man for All Seasons forms part of the flower show's spring theme for 2016, Botanica: Plants & People, which explores the age-old connection between humans, plants and the landscape. The exhibition will tour to other locations after the show.

Show director Nick Smith said: "Many people will have heard of Capability Brown and many more will have admired his work, possibly without even realising it because he was so successful at creating what appears to be a natural landscape.

"We are delighted to be working with the festival to celebrate Brown's achievements and, 300 years on, it is particularly pleasing to be able to demonstrate his design principles for today's gardeners and landscapers."

Other attractions at the spring show include show gardens, over 100 plant nurseries, and the UK's biggest exhibition by florists and flower arrangers. New this spring is a series of How2 demonstrations on garden upcycling plus Horticulture On Trend offering ideas on the very latest in gardening.

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