Capability Brown tercentenary gets underway with planting of his favoured tree

To launch a year of celebrations to mark the tercentenary of Lancelot (Capability) Brown’s birth, the National Trust is planting hundreds of trees back into several of his designed landscapes in its care.

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Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust plants a Cedar of Lebanon at Croome in Worcestershire to mark the tercentary of one of the landscape gardening greats – Capability Brown. Credit James Dobson & NT Images

Born 300 years ago, Capability changed the look of gardens in eighteenth century England, designing country estates and mansions, moving hills and making flowing lakes and serpentine rivers to create new landscape settings .

His work also involved digging up formal gardens, draining marshland to create new lakes and streams and even moving an entire village out of sight.

One of the key commemorative tree plantings took place yesterday at Croome in Worcestershire, one of Brown’s most significant landscapes where Dame Helen Ghosh, National Trust Director-General planted a cedar of Lebanon, a tree Brown used in many of his designed landscapes.

“Many of the trees and shrubs planted by Brown survive in the park today, but many others were lost during the decline of the landscape in the 20th century,” said Katherine Alker, Garden and Park Manager at Croome.

“Over the last decade, and together with a great team of volunteers, we have worked tirelessly to replant the parkland at Croome, as Brown would have intended it.

“This has included replanting more than 10,000 trees to Brown’s original design, often using GPS technology to be sure that new trees are lined up with those shown on the 18th century plans of the park and are planted with pinpoint accuracy.

“During 2016 around 500 trees will be replanted as this work to reinstate Brown’s original design continues.”

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Dame Helen Ghosh and head gardener at Croome, Katherine Alker planting the rare cedar of Lebanon in one of Capability Brown’s most complete landscapes. Credit James Dobson / National Trust Images

Dame Helen Ghosh said: “Capability Brown was one of this country’s greatest landscape gardeners.  Not only did he design or advise on over 250 landscapes in this country over four decades, but his influence spread throughout Europe.

“He created works of art in nature and we are proud to look after some of his most complete landscapes for the public to enjoy.  We look forward to celebrating his achievements over the coming months through our events, tree plantings and continuing conservation work.”

The cedar planted at Croome replaces one which was lost due to arable farming in the 1900s.  Considered one of Brown’s trademark features, cedars of Lebanon can live to many hundreds of years in their natural habitat, and once made up great forests.

Their numbers are now considerably reduced and many exist as individual trees in remote places.

The tree planted at Croome was provided by the International Conifer Conservation Programme, based at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, as seeds collected from native Cedrus libani (cedars of Lebanon). These seeds were germinated at the National Pinetum at Bedgebury, before being sent on to the National Trust’s Plant Conservation Centre in Devon to nurture.

Martin Gardener, coordinator for the International Conifer Conservation Group, added: “We are delighted to make a contribution to this important celebration by working with the National Trust to plant the next generation of wild sourced Lebanon Cedars in iconic locations such as Croome. Such initiatives are supporting conservation efforts to secure the long-term future of this highly threatened conifer.”

The National Trust is one of the partners of the Capability Brown Festival, an organisation set up to celebrate the work of Brown during this significant tercentenary year.

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