This year is the tercentenary of the birth of one of the great gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Brown learnt much of his trade at Stowe, where he rose through the ranks to become Head Gardener. I visited Stowe for the first time this month and I’d like to share some typical features of a Capability Brown garden and how you can incorporate them into your own garden.


Brown’s aim was to create a natural looking landscape. This style was very much a reaction to the very formally laid gardens that were fashionable before Brown. They also can seem strange to modern eyes because there are very few flowers. So what features define a Capability Brown garden:

  • Sweeping expanses of parkland, running to the main house or an architectural feature, with ha has to contain livestock and to give an uninterrupted view.
  • Serpentine Lakes, often curving around the house, often at different levels and divided by locks, weirs and dams.
  • Bridges, to provide crossings over the expanses of water, but also to lead the eye to particular design features.
  • Trees were often planted in clumps, in belts or around the tops of small hillocks. Brown also liked cedar trees and they are found in a large number of his gardens.
  • Theatrical features such as follies, temples or statues, that often appear through gaps as though Brown were playing peekaboo with the visitor.

So I’m not suggesting you move