Alan Titchmarsh explores Britain's great gardens. In this edition, he looks at Stowe in Buckinghamshire, an example of a design by the 18th-century landscape movement.
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For many of us, Britain's great historic gardens are museums
that have little in common with modern garden design.
But the truth is that these gardens can have huge contemporary relevance.
In this series, I'm exploring four of my favourite gardens,
to show just how much we can learn from them.
These are the gardens that have inspired me,
and which affect the way I garden at home.
They're a perfect example of the evolution of garden design,
but in many ways every bit as relevant today
as they were in the centuries when they were first made.
And few are as influential as the great gardens
of the 18th-century Landscape Movement.
For me, one garden epitomises the epic designs of this age.
So you see your building from a great distance and then you
go off down a serpentine path and you don't see it again
until it's right in front of you, like that.
'I reveal how it continues to influence modern design...'
What's great is you get a mount created nearly 300 years ago,
and it feels so modern that it fits with something like this that was created last year.
'..And demonstrate how your garden can benefit from the wisdom of the 18th century.'
A bit of judicious weaving and it'll soon all settle in.
So join me as I reveal the secrets of Stowe, my favourite landscape garden.
These days, we think of our gardens as a blank canvas that we can redesign at will,
but we wouldn't even think that way
if it were not for a group of mavericks in the 18th century
who changed the way we view our gardens forever.
To the untrained eye, this landscape, at Stowe in Buckinghamshire,
looks like the work of Mother Nature.
But it's not. It's actually revolutionary gardening in practice.
Those pioneers quite literally uprooted villages,
created lakes and planted swathes of trees to bring
their idea of natural beauty right up to the back door.
In the early 18th century, Stowe was an extensive estate
that belonged to one of the country's wealthiest politicians -
Cobham wanted to turn the gardens into a showpiece of wealth and power,
so, in 1715, he turned to a brilliant exponent of the art,
Charles Bridgeman, to redesign the estate.
Bridgeman was an early figure in the Landscape Movement -
a new philosophy in gardening.
It was inspired by a cultural shift in Britain in the early 1700s.
At the time,
there was a backlash against the political and artistic ideas that
had flooded into the country from mainland Europe in the 17th century.
In the 18th century garden,
rigid French formal design was banished and replaced by
an idealised version of nature, inspired by literature and art.
Stowe was one of the first gardens
to adopt these new ideas and became a master class in landscape design.
Here, you can see how the garden was opened out,
creating views of the surrounding landscape.
Lawns were resculpted, serpentine paths were laid.
Classical buildings dressed the landscape.
Rustic grottoes were all the rage.
And trees were planted en masse,
all to create a garden more beautiful than nature could manage alone.
At Stowe, you're surrounded by exhilarating uninterrupted views, and it was Bridgeman's early work
here at the start of the 18th century
that allowed those views to become part of the garden.
The 400 acres closest to the house are known as the Pleasure Gardens,
but appear to flow into the surrounding parkland.
Bridgeman achieved this by using a method that would become
one of the defining features of the landscape garden.
Before Bridgeman, Stowe had been a classic baroque garden
like this one at Hatfield, where the focus of the design
was its rigid parterres and straight, tree-lined avenues.
But Bridgeman wanted to free the garden from these constraints
and connect it with the wider landscape.
So he began to sweep away the existing elements.
The next stage was to remove the formal barriers that surrounded the house -
the hedges and walls that restricted the view.
He replaced them with this, a large ditch,
which not only kept the animals out,
but brought the landscape in, quite literally borrowing the view.
The ditch at Stowe runs for three miles, and became known as the Ha-Ha.
Visitors strolling through the pleasure gardens
would reach the ditch and exclaim, "ha-ha"!
It's like a sunken fence.
A clever piece of practical design
allowing uninterrupted views of the whole landscape.
Not only did it bring nature up close and personal, but it also
allowed you to demonstrate the extent of your power and influence.
And if you were into showing off, as Cobham might have been - after all,
he was richer than the king - then why not focus your visitors' eyes...
on something like this?
Thanks to gardens like Stowe, borrowing a view or
creating a focal point has become an essential element of garden design.
Today's designers regularly use this technique to enhance their gardens.
Alan Gray, at East Ruston on the north Norfolk coast,
found a borrowed view could have practical as well as aesthetic benefits.
Our coastal site here is flat.
It's a very open and prairie-like landscape around us.
I always say if there's a breeze inland there's a gale on the coast.
And so the first thing we had to do is have a windbreak around the garden.
And it gives us the opportunity to have tall hedges.
Perhaps slightly taller than most people would.
Because the idea is to keep the wind above our heads,
up there in the ether, if you like,
and to stop it coming down into the garden and doing damage.
That's why the garden has a system of rooms.
So the garden itself had to be inward-looking.
That's why we borrowed views from the landscape.
and the lighthouse.
Well, we really wanted to keep this view.
And what we did is we cut away the lower branches of the Monterey pines
and made a dip in the hedge that's the other side of the pines,
and suddenly that started to take on the form of a circle.
And we thought, hey, this could be fun. And humour's so important in a garden.
So we cut the side branches off the trees as they grew and then let them
grow over the top of the opening, and, hey presto, we had a porthole.
A nautical influence for the lighthouse at Happisburgh on Sea.
Having tied them and leave them there for a year, they will stay there.
So you can then just cut around the inside of your window
once or twice a year, just to keep the view clear.
By framing a vista through a window in a hedge or a wall, it actually fools the eye.
It changes the perspective so that it appears to be nearer to you than perhaps it really is.
And it makes it much more important.
You know, borrowed views are just as important in the garden as they are on the outside,
because they allow you a glimpse from one part of the garden into another.
A gap in the hedge gives you an element of surprise.
You can cut a window in almost any kind of hedge.
The reason I chose beech, I love it for its bright spring greenness.
I love it for the fact that it has warm, russet tones throughout the winter
which look wonderful when they're lit by the low winter sun.
But most of all, I love it because it's easy maintenance.
It needs cutting but once a year.
When you've created your window in a hedge or a wall, the eye then needs something to focus on.
And that could be anything. It could be a monument, a statue.
Here we have an 18th century copy of a statue of a gardener.
He cost me the huge sum of £30. He's made of cement,
but I've painted him with a solution that makes him look as if he's made of terracotta.
Two years later, when he's grown lichens and algaes on him
and he's got a spider's nest under his chin,
he could have been there for 300 years.
Borrowing the view is about drawing the eye to something you want it to see.
But it can also help you draw attention away from something you don't.
This talk of borrowed views is all very well if you've got a distant view of Salisbury Cathedral spire.
But what if the end your garden looks like this?
Compost bin. For goodness' sake, put that lid on straight.
Bags of leaf mould, logs.
I mean, there's no view you can borrow here, is there?
Ah, but you can cheat a bit.
A couple of posts is all you need.
And a few battens.
'Rather than waiting for a hedge to grow,
'a trellis screen gives instant results.
'This one measures ten feet across.
'It's just like putting up a fence panel.
'When you know the height of your focal point, frame it,
'using battens, front and back, for stability.'
The thing is, you can still see all this rubbish through it, can't you?
What it needs is some plants.
I've chosen four hardy climbers for year-round interest.
Garrya elliptica has long silky tassels that appear in November through to January.
This honeysuckle, Mint Crisp, is semi-evergreen and bears white,
fragrant flowers in summer through to autumn.
Variegated Canary Island ivy and Sulphur Heart are fast growing
and will brighten up even the darkest of corners.
A bit of judicious weaving and it'll soon all settle in.
Whether it's creating a view where there isn't one,
or taking advantage of one that already exists,
the Landscape Movement taught us that nature was there to be embraced.
Of course, if you were cynical,
you could say, well, if they were into all this naturalness
in the 18th century, then presumably they could just have got the back of
a parchment envelope and a blunt quill and done a few twirly-whirly designs and called it a landscape.
Don't you believe it.
There's artistry in this apparent artlessness.
And also a fair touch of trigonometry.
You can see this technical skill at work in Stowe's extensive landscaped lawns.
In the pleasure gardens are hundreds of acres of undulating grassland.
These may look like natural contours within the landscape,
but they've actually been carefully mapped out and sculpted.
To build them, vast areas of earth were shifted, and anything that got in the way was removed.
This area was once a small village with a pond and a vicarage.
They demolished it, creating this lake and landscaping the spoils into grassy banks.
These enormous sweeping lawns at Stowe were actually created in the latter part of the 18th century.
But we can see the origins of 18th century lawn sculpture in these giant angular features
at Boughton House in the heart of Northamptonshire.
The gardens here at Boughton crystallise one of the most
exciting transition moments in the whole of garden history.
Right at the beginning of the 18th century and the Age of Enlightenment,
based on politics, on poetry and on science.
So you can really see here what they were trying to do
with this landscape of reflecting planes of water,
strong lines of trees, and then these amazing sculptural earth forms.
This garden is believed to have been designed by Stowe's head gardener, Charles Bridgeman.
It shows how the Landscape Movement was evolving from the formal designs
of the previous century into a more naturalistic style.
It took vast teams of men with shovels and wheelbarrows
and donkeys moving vast quantities of soil and mud
and creating perfectly symmetrical sculptures out of land.
Last year, landscape architect Kim Wilkie was commissioned to create
the first new feature at Boughton since the 18th century.
So you had this great mount, seven metres high, and
then we just flipped it, inverted it and went down seven metres there.
You can't see the bottom of it from here.
And, actually, within the whole landscape, I hope it's quite discreet,
but when we go down you'll see quite how deep and powerful it is.
We worked out the mathematics and the proportions and the gradients very carefully on the computer.
And then were able to put that into the laser survey equipment,
so that the digger was guided very precisely, to the millimetre,
as to how to create all of the gradients and the slopes.
Whereas the mount would have been set out by eye,
by theodolites and by plumb lines in the 18th century.
What's great about that brief couple of decades
at the beginning of the 18th century is you get a mount like
that, that was created nearly 300 years ago, and it feels so modern
that it fits with something like this that was created last year.
This water is pure spring water,
that's risen from a source, a spring up by the lily pond,
come down through the curving channel from the cube there, and
then down into this pool, and then returns to the river afterwards.
There's a real tip for laying turf on such steep slopes,
and that is to roll it out like stair carpet,
so that you roll it from the top down, and then pin it with fine bamboo canes
until it's rooted into the soil underneath.
It's a very tricky job to maintain and mow this landscape.
It takes probably up to two days in the height of season.
I should imagine in the 18th century that they would have used scythes to mow the grass here.
I can't imagine they would achieve such a fine finish as what we do here today at Boughton.
We use hover mowers
and also a state-of-the-art remote controlled banks mower.
So it's just a case of a motivated team and the correct equipment
in order to achieve the fine finish that we have here.
Every day of the week is spent mowing somewhere on the estate.
But once it's complete, I think it just looks spectacular.
One of the best things about being in northern Europe
is that you get low light,
so that the slightest shadow in the evening or in frost makes something
look dramatically sculptural.
Working with soil and mud, and then sculpting it into a fine shape and
clothing it with grass, is a really sensuous way of sculpting the land.
A lawn sculpture, of whatever size,
can be a dramatic addition to any garden.
But you don't need a landscape like Stowe or Boughton to create one.
You can do a bit of ground sculpture using turf.
Now, before you say, "And how much is that going to cost?",
if you go to a turf supplier or a garden centre where the turf's
gone off, they'll more than likely give it to you, and you can make a seat, just like this.
My lawn sculpture is based on a circle,
but it's going to spiral upwards to make the seat.
Now that I've got my first two or three layers down, the base, I need now to start my spiral.
Coming in from the edge.
Turf provides a relatively solid structure
and is easy to sculpt into whatever shape you want.
As you build up the layers, make sure you compact them as you go.
Well, the sun's going down, I've been here a while.
What I've had to do as I've gone along is really keep it moist with a can and a hose
so that it stayed damp, and I've been able to pound it down with my feet,
and I've been filling in the gaps that I've got with compost.
And, again, just making sure that all goes in.
So I've made a sort of spiral cake, if you like.
A lovely little place for grandchildren to walk all the way round up to the top of there.
Or what will be, for grown-ups, somewhere very nice to sit.
Which has now got to be covered, not with this old turf
out of which I've built it, but with new stuff.
You'd think I'd get a man in, wouldn't you?
Turf costs from around £1.50 a square metre.
But you can prepare the surface and sow grass seed instead.
Now, you can use ordinary turf if you want.
But this is one which is quite slow growing,
and that means you don't have to cut it quite so much.
What you do need is a bread knife.
Just to help you make some little pleats.
Just to make sure it stays where you put it, these wire pins -
a lump of wire bent into a hairgrip. Push them right in.
So that you can't see them.
If you start at the top and then work your way down,
you don't have to walk on what you've done.
You can see now that this is where
you start having to be a bit cunning or you're going to have gaps to fill.
It's really handy if your turf is nice and wet.
It's heavier to lift but it moulds in there better.
And then again pins there will stop it from curling up.
I know what you're thinking.
It's going to be the devil to mow.
You don't get your cylinder out, or your rotary.
You do it with a pair of shears on a pleasant afternoon.
Yes, it takes you a while, but then you don't get a nice
mound to sit on without having a little snip every now and again.
And, provided you make sure there are no air pockets,
this will very quickly knit in.
You water it well, particularly in dry weather,
immediately after you've made it, and very shortly
it will start to turn
into a green spiral that you can sit on.
And boy, will you need it.
Within a month, the grass has become a lush green velvet carpet.
Thanks to Cobham, Stowe was evolving from a 17th century baroque garden into a grand landscaped park.
Soon the garden began to attract influential guests, including nobility and political leaders.
It became so popular it ended up in print.
Stowe wasn't just pioneering in terms of landscape.
It also produced the first garden guide.
This is one of my most treasured books.
Published in 1769. The first one came out 20 years earlier.
It includes a lovely folding map of the gardens,
and it's packed with engravings and descriptions of the temples.
Where Stowe led, others followed,
and our yellow book now has 4,000 gardens in it that you can visit.
The guide enabled Cobham's esteemed guests to navigate their way round the extensive estate.
But they were helped by another revolutionary technique
that was introduced by Bridgeman's successor, William Kent.
Kent created a device that would draw their eye to Stowe's epic views as they strolled the grounds.
I think one of the most important things that the landscape movement gave us is also one of the simplest.
The meandering path.
Without it, we would never have had the surprise of an unexpected view around a corner.
'These curvy paths changed the look of early landscape gardens.
'Historian Richard Wheeler explains how they came about.'
So, Richard, are we saying then that when the landscape movement came in,
they rearranged all these straight lines and avenues and vistas
into just meandering paths, quite randomly?
I think the answer to that is perish the thought!
No, it was not random at all, it was very, very highly considered.
So all the avenues around the edge of the garden all remained,
with their views out into the landscape.
But in addition to those, they then had their serpentines
going alongside them.
So that's what all these wiggly lines are over the formal ones?
They overlaid their informality on the existing formality, just to diffuse it, really.
I think that happened a huge amount at Stowe.
So you see your building from a great distance, and then you
go off down a serpentine path and you don't see it again until it's right in front of you, like that.
They actually made walking in the landscape, then, much more interesting.
Absolutely. Entirely. Entirely.
There isn't anything more boring than walking along a straight road.
William Kent had trained as an artist in Italy,
and his garden designs would be heavily influenced
by the classical buildings and the landscape he saw there.
At Stowe, he built ten architectural follies and placed them along the path at opportune points.
These are the Elysian fields, designed by William Kent,
where heroes chosen for immortality by the gods would reside.
And this is the Temple of Ancient Virtue.
I'd fit in quite well here.
These were lofty intellectual statements.
Today you could call it intellectual snobbery, where your knowledge of the classics and your ability to discuss
the important theories of the day put you and your garden into a different league.
Designers like Kent began to dress the landscape with heavy symbolism.
Classical temples, ruins, and statues.
Kent used the meandering path to take you on a journey of discovery to each one of them.
Alongside the path, he planted shrubberies and trees to enhance the experience.
Coaxing you through dappled shade, where the sunlight glints on the glossy leaves of laurel,
carefully clipped to eye level, so that it offers you tantalising glimpses of journey's end.
'But Kent's buildings weren't just placed for aesthetic reasons.
'With politicians, aristocracy and artists in the grounds,
'they were a refuge for discussing wars and rebellions.
'As well as a place for social gatherings.'
Did they have fun here as well?
Absolutely. I mean, here at the Temple of Friendship,
this was where Cobham's political cronies met.
And we know that there was a wine cellar and probably a kitchen too.
So they were in here drinking and eating and probably wenching too.
Oh, so the weren't averse to a bit of hanky-panky.
Not even... even the vicar of Stowe, who famously chased a maiden
to a secluded garden building, where the maid was maid no more.
In relative terms, these buildings must have cost an absolute fortune.
Yes, but they had enormous amounts of money.
And they thought it was worth spending it on this show of wealth and power.
Was it something that the lower classes thought was a complete waste of time?
What was their attitude to all this extravagance?
It's hard to know, but every now and again they were invited into the gardens, particularly here at Stowe,
and there were huge parties where there were thousands of people in the gardens.
And they were treated to free food and they got to see the fireworks and listen to music
and have a jolly good time and go home after midnight.
But there was also a degree of making sure
all the locals voted for you, those that were eligible to vote, as well. So there was a bit of power as well.
At Stowe, as the century progressed, the concept of an idealised landscape
evolved beyond the designs of Bridgeman and Kent.
The designers wanted parts of the garden to look even more rustic.
The existing buildings here looked out of place,
so they invented a way to blend them into their surroundings.
At Stowe, the best example of this is the grotto.
It was originally built in 1730, as an elaborate Italianate banqueting house.
But 50 years later, as its surroundings were being deliberately
overgrown, it was partially buried and covered with rough stone.
It had been instantly aged to a dark and cosy nook.
You know, Kate, everybody worries about that shady corner
down the bottom of the garden where nothing will grow.
The answer is a grotto.
Yep. Every garden should have one.
It's decorated with these enormous rustic chunks of tufa, limestone, what you know as limestone deposit,
which creates a light rock which we now plant alpines in, hollow them out.
But here the whole thing's covered in it.
It's to make it look much more cave-like.
The building started off a bit more classical,
and you can just see little bits of that kind of running through.
But the idea is it's dark and it's cave-like and all the planting here would have been very dark and shady.
So it's quite a private place as well as a public place when they had the big parties.
So they changed the look of it over the years then.
It started with these little tiny pebbles.
-as we can see on the floor, and then it suddenly got much more chunky, rugged and wild.
So what was it for?
Well, they used it a lot for parties.
They had lights in all the trees, and lights on the lake,
and musicians stationed on boats on the lake.
And then the best place for the best guests was in here where they'd all be eating syllabub.
Oh, very nice. Would you care to join me for a syllabub?
-I would, absolutely.
-Come and get blotto in the grotto.
Ageing buildings like the grotto was an elaborate form of set dressing.
Using design to give the appearance of nature reclaiming the landscape.
And there are simple ways you can apply this to a corner of your own garden.
Premature ageing is something that most of us guard against.
But sometimes you want to emulate in certain corners of your garden that 18th century idea of something
looking established and maybe even ruinous.
And there are various ways of doing it.
With clay flower pots, for instance, that are brand new, sometimes they stand out as just being too strident.
Well, the easiest way to get them to age more rapidly is to paint on natural yoghurt.
Dip your brush into it and just coat the entire pot.
Now, there's absolutely no point then in putting this pot back into full
and blazing sunshine, because it will just dry out once more.
But kept somewhere shady, mosses will very quickly colonise that yoghurt and you get this sort of finish.
Call it what you will, but much more natural looking.
Underneath this bench, where it's nice and shady,
there's a good habitat for ferns.
They like it dim and damp.
And if you get some logs and arrange them down here
in the shade, and stuff some compost back in there.
get this out.
It's quite important that you don't leave any air pockets around it.
Stuff plenty of...
compost in there. And on the top as well.
That root ball will dry. Make sure it's quite soggy when you put it in.
And with that stuffed around it, and another log pushed into there.
Firm it down.
A bit of bark to further keep the sun off.
It won't be long before that gets going. And in the little crevices at the bottom,
you can pack moss. This is obviously where it's going to remain shady.
Look at that. You'd think that
had been there almost, when I've swept it up,
In the sunny crevices in the paving, you need something
which can cope with baking heat, rather than damp shade.
And here you can use things like house leeks, and thymes.
What you need to do is to scrape out the mortar or the earth between the paving slabs
and replace it with a bit of potting compost that gives them not very much, but something to root into.
Just gently feed it down there with your fingers.
And then you can set about breaking up these pots.
Don't worry that you're going to destroy them. They're quite resilient little things.
These rosettes will come off with a bit of root at the bottom.
Want just a bit more compost in there.
You can push them into it.
And then, with your fingers, quite fiddly, firm it around it.
You're actually, I suppose, to be absolutely honest, set dressing.
You know, you're creating a bit of garden theatre.
And with a bit more set dressing,
a corner like this will suddenly look as though it's been there forever.
There are added benefits to creating an area like this.
All these nooks and crannies will encourage insects and other forms of life to set up home here.
At Stowe, as you feast your eyes on these verdant epic views,
you can't help feeling there's something missing.
Here at Stowe, you won't see thousands of flowers vying for your attention.
But sometimes, as a gardener, it's nice not to be bombarded by colour,
but to seek solace in gentle greens.
But, contrary to popular opinion, the 18th century landscaped garden did have flowers.
Quite bright ones.
Because of the scale of landscaped gardens, flower borders were assigned
to areas that were used for entertaining in the summer months.
Historically their role in the grand landscaped garden has been overlooked.
But here at Painshill Park in Surrey, new research into landscape flower schemes has enabled head gardener
Kathleen Clark and her colleague Karen Bridgeman to recreate 18th-century flower borders.
I think one thing that really surprised me was the range of plants,
flowering plants they had available.
And also I'd always assumed that they'd have gone for the very basic kinds of things. But they weren't.
In the 18th century they wanted stripes.
They wanted double flowers, they wanted variegation.
They wanted flowers that looked rude.
And it all ties in with what I suppose we think of
as the 18th-century sense of humour and character.
If you look at some of the ways they painted their houses and the kind of
garish colours, we'd think it was just dreadful now, really bad taste.
But they loved it. Which is why, you know, these beds don't have a colour scheme.
'It's just as much colour as you can get really.'
-Got it, got it.
Well done. Can I let go now?
-Oh, that looks better.
-Oh, thank goodness.
I've spent a lot of the last few years looking in garden catalogues
that are available in very specialist libraries and museums.
And they reveal a wealth of information about the
plants that nurserymen were selling in the 18th century.
At this time, more and more plant introductions were arriving from newly-discovered continents.
And as a result, London's plant nurseries were awash with bloom and blossom.
All these plants were available to the 18th century gardener.
And we make sure that we grow exactly what they could have used at the time.
Some of our best-loved garden flowers were introduced to our shores in the 18th century.
This white Obedient plant, Physostegia Virginiana,
came over from North America in 1714, along with the Spider Flower, Cleome, in 1731.
Pelargoniums were becoming increasingly popular in the 18th century.
As explorers discovered more of South Africa,
particularly the Cape of Good Hope, more and more different kinds of pelargoniums were coming back.
We have a plant just over here,
which in the 18th century they called the long-tubed marvel of Peru.
And you can see by the length of the flowers just how weird and wacky it is.
We suspect they particularly liked it in the 18th century because it looks
just a little bit rude, and they did like that kind of thing very much.
But it also has a very, very sweet scent, it's very strongly perfumed.
And it's just great fun.
But I've been trying to grow that from seed successfully since 2004.
And the first few batches I tried never germinated.
So this year it's so exciting, because here it is, it's going to flower
and I'm going to smell the same scent that probably 18th-century gardeners
could have enjoyed as well.
Like many of the great landscape gardens,
Stowe covers an enormous area, more than 400 acres, and includes three enormous water features.
For the landowner in the 18th century, the ultimate status symbol was to have one of these.
Not the boat, the lake.
Not only did it reflect the sky, it also reflected
the wealth of the owner. And they weren't cheap to make.
This one at Stowe took 20 men with shovels a year and a half to excavate.
And then they diverted the stream into it, to create an 11-acre lake.
But as the century progressed, the scale of these features
would be surpassed by a young man who worked his apprenticeship at Stowe.
As a designer, he'd ultimately become the most important figure in the landscape movement.
One of Stowe's best kept secrets is that young Lancelot Brown
cut his teeth right here, working as head gardener.
These are Stowe's Grecian fields, 60 acres of land in which a 25-year-old Brown wanted to create a lake.
But he couldn't get enough water to fill it.
Brown was renowned for assessing the capabilities of a site.
So would this view have looked more breathtaking with water?
We'll never know.
Lancelot "Capability" Brown was experimenting with giant ideas,
and they would make him hugely popular.
After Stowe, he went on to reshape the nation's landscape from Northumberland to Devon.
He pushed the idea of improving on nature.
But unlike Bridgeman and Kent, his designs were almost invisible.
And one of the ways he achieved this was in his use of trees.
Before the 18th century, trees were predominantly used
to extend the architecture of the house.
They'd often be planted in a single variety
to complement the straight lines and symmetry of the formal design.
But in Brown's grand, picturesque vision,
trees are planted in groups, with darker evergreens contrasting
with the lighter tones of deciduous varieties like beech, oak and lime.
Trees were like accents in Brown's design.
They framed the views and put detail into vast swathes of green.
They were also handy for blocking out unsightly views of local peasants.
But despite the natural look of the design, it was an ecological disaster.
Back then, there were no tree preservation orders, so entire woodlands were ripped up
and mature trees repositioned to achieve "the look".
Instead of creating an idealised view of nature, at Ryewater nursery,
in Dorset, they're designing with trees in a way that actively encourages it.
I like to amuse and entertain and amaze.
But then on that top layer,
there's the very serious element of conservation.
All the trees here have been planted deliberately.
Falkland Little is head gardener at Ryewater.
Ryewater's a relatively new garden. It hasn't been here for hundreds of years.
And if we didn't have the trees, we wouldn't have the sort of feeling of
permanence that we're getting.
The landscape has been divided into 15 individual themed gardens.
The mood and purpose of each is defined by the trees that are planted there.
Most in the wider landscape are native trees, because somehow
exotic trees out in the wilds don't sort of look right and don't feel right, at least to my eye.
Closest to the house is an idiosyncratic garden known as the "plant prison".
The plant prison is unashamedly a piece of fun.
The prison cells contain the thugs and the criminals of the plant world, and we use the trees
as the prison guards, including a native hawthorn,
but a vestigiate form, which is very beautiful.
The hawthorns here are planted deliberately very close.
They're very slow-growing and they have this excellent habit
of knitting together to form one dense head.
Cretagous tanacetifolia, it's got the most silvery leaves you can think of.
In the spring, it's covered with blossom, white blossom.
Their fruits are just beginning to colour up
and the fieldfares and the redwings come through like marauding gangs.
Wonderful for humans to observe and great for wildlife as well.
Out into the more open landscape, Clive has created a folly.
This is an island in a sea of wild flowers. It's an island of dreams.
We have a circle of vestigiate Scots pines.
A native tree, and very rarely planted, Scots pine is bombproof, very hardy.
And maybe one day, the pine hawk moth will come in and lay eggs on them.
They'll grow up like dark green columns, and it'll add to that sort of Dali-esque dreamscape feel.
Near to this formal design, you come across a wild orchard.
It feels as though it's been here forever.
But it's only ten years old.
The fruit trees have been deliberately unmanicured and left to grow wild.
We planted it up with every single sort of fruit tree you can get.
It's one of the most sort of natural parts of Ryewater. It's just left.
I mean, look we've got plums, Japanese wine berries, raspberries, you name it.
I think pretty much all the birds we have
at Ryewater will give the fruit here a go and they really appreciate it.
That really is the ethos of this place, is working hand in hand, alongside nature.
The whole estate really is a gigantic nature reserve.
I'm a happy man and I'm a very lucky man.
It's as well to remember that although the tree is one of the key
structural elements in the garden, it's also a valuable resource for wildlife.
If you're thinking of planting one, make sure it'll last and fit in with the design and scale of your garden.
Of course, the traditional place to plant a tree in a small garden
is slap bang in the middle of the lawn, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Choose your tree carefully, choose your spot carefully.
Plenty of light, doesn't get in the way.
And this is a tree which was introduced to this country in the early 18th century.
Ginkgo biloba, the maidenhair tree.
The tree that they tell us was on the earth when dinosaurs were in charge.
It's a beautiful pyramidal tree.
It doesn't get too wide, or even too high.
Plenty of compost in the bottom of the hole.
Always be generous to a tree.
It's going to be there probably for longer than you are.
It is really important that this tree has been soaked in this pot before it was planted
and you might be thinking yourself, cor, that's a bit of a small tree.
Why doesn't he get a decent sized one?
Well, if there's one thing I've learnt, it is that the smaller the tree,
the better and more readily it establishes itself.
Now, if it's too tiny the chances are it could be nibbled off by rabbits
or deer or broken by the dog, but one which is between waist and chest height is for me, perfect.
It's young, it's vigorous, and within three or four years
it will have outstripped one which is twice its size.
So don't be tempted to always go for the biggest one.
I want to get my boot behind it now,
because that needs to be really firm round the bottom.
So we need a proper tree tie.
Don't try using an old pair of tights.
Well, you can if you want, but to be absolutely honest it's a waste of time.
Treat it to a proper proprietary one.
And there is one vital thing to do now and that's to give it a drink.
This is a two-gallon can.
You can give any newly-planted tree
at least two of these but be patient, let it soak down in between dousings.
If you splather it all on, it'll just run off over there somewhere.
It needs to go right down by the tree
and while you're waiting for it to go down, finish.
Very important, just a little run around the hole.
Frankly, it doesn't really affect the tree very much, but if offends my sensibilities if it's not neat.
Ever since I first set eyes on Stowe, I've been astonished, not just by the beauty of the place,
but also by the fact that the principals and ideas in use here can be applied to gardens of any size.
This is Clearbeck in Lancashire, where art lecturer, Peter Osborne,
and his wife, Bronwen, a retired nurse, have created elements of the 18th century landscape
in a garden that is a fraction of the size of Stowe.
Their four-acre garden has been 25 years in the making.
It has meandering paths.
Buildings and sculptures that have been aged.
and giant trees that frame the design.
It even has a lake.
I guess we wanted to recreate something that had the character
of the early 18th century thinking garden, but in a more modern form.
The garden is very much planned to encourage sauntering around bends where you come across things.
Everybody says there's a surprise round every corner and that's just what we're trying to say really.
It's landscape, but it's also things happening in the landscape that will intrigue people.
We planted this nearly 20 years ago.
It's Leylandii, of course, and it grows very fast but we
wanted a really bold statement at the point where the flower garden became a wild landscape garden.
It's about 40 feet or so up here, but I can handle heights
because I've done a lot of mountaineering over the years.
I'm pulling out these very pretty water lilies from the lake, because they cause the most terrible
silting up when they eventually decay and they also prevent us
moving the boat out of the boathouse and into the channel of the lake.
So several times in the summer we try to get them under control.
It's actually quite pleasant, and if it's a nice hot afternoon
it's actually quite a joy to be in the water, because it's really cool
and the damsel flies are flying about with me and it's really rather beautiful.
The whole area was a very flat field, and, of course we had huge
diggers that came in and moved the earth and then we had the wonderful spoils to make levels in the garden.
There's so much enjoyment in this garden, all through the year
and you wouldn't be able to achieve that without having developed the landscape.
The pyramid was the first structure that we made in the garden.
I needed something really sculptural in the middle of lots of greenery
and the shape of the pyramid was just the very thing.
As you approach the pyramid, you go past black plants.
And then as you come through to the other side, into life, you come to a sequence of gold and white.
Although it's built of old concrete blocks, it's surfaced over with
a sort of mixture of cement and lime and peat, actually, and cow manure, so that things would grow on it.
Bronwen didn't help with this, I don't think it was her cup of tea really, with the cow muck.
We had a party and people decided it should be called the Temple of the Tall Trees.
You couldn't have stone pillars, because it's so boggy here
that the whole thing would just sink into the ground.
So they're really hollow and light.
They're made of drainage pipes and they're just coated up with the same mixture that is on the pyramid.
We love to have the flowers.
It's quite important to us, as well as the landscape aspect.
It would seem quite bleak sometimes without the flowers.
We have ideas and work through things together.
We don't always agree about what we're doing.
And I tend to modify some of your wilder schemes, don't I?
Peter and Bronwen's garden shows us the direct link between the designs of Bridgeman, Kent and Brown
and our own more modest gardens.
But towards the end of the 18th century, the future of the landscape movement was far from certain.
Yes, just like today, nothing stands still.
You just get used to a look, and then the fashion changes.
Columns are in, columns are out.
Decking's in, decking's out.
But the grandeur of the landscape movement meant that its effects couldn't be so easily swept away
and, as a result, it still affects our gardening perceptions and aspirations to this day.
I'm so glad.
Next time, naturalism bites the dust, as the landscape movement makes way for 19th century showmanship.
I'll review a garden full of surprises that typifies the brash and bold designs of the Victorians.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Alan Titchmarsh presents a stunning series that reveals the amazing secrets behind Britain's great gardens, examining how they continue to influence gardeners, including himself, today.
Few gardening movements can match the impact of the 18th-century landscape movement, and Stowe in Buckinghamshire is one of the most important examples of their revolutionary designs. Here, we find a rejection of the rigid formality of the previous century and an embracing of nature, no matter what the ecological cost.
Alan demonstrates how they 'borrowed' views, manipulating the landscape to draw the eye to certain features. Creating a focal point is now a staple of modern garden design and Alan shows how it can accentuate a garden's best bits and also be used to hide things.
Designers such as Bridgeman at Stowe were the first to sculpt huge areas of lawn, and Alan meets Kim Wilkie, who is creating his own modern version of this type of lawn at Boughton Park. And Alan shows how the landscape movement pioneered the meandering path and placed statues and buildings in key places, ageing them deliberately to fit with the landscape. Alan shares his own tips on ageing, and how to recreate this type of 'set dressing' in a garden.