Capability Brown landscapes are present across the UK. While you’ll likely have seen his name in the history books, would you know how to spot a Capability Brown landscape should you see one?
 
Following on from our run-down of the UK’s 10 Best Capability Brown Landscapes, here we explain what key features you should look out for during your next visit to the countryside.
 

Trees & foliage


 
Of course, trees, foliage and greenery are essential tools for any landscaper, and Capability Brown had specific preferences when it came to the types he used.
 
Arguably, Brown’s most preferred tree was the Cedar of Lebanon. The trees were a popular import in the 18th Century and has a distinctive horizontal shape. While Cedars of Lebanon feature across many of Brown’s landscapes, so did London Planes, Evergreen Oaks and the more decorative Weeping Willow trees.
 
As well as the type of tree, you can often spot Brown’s signature style through their positioning within the landscape. Major trees can often be found elevated atop of hills or located in clumps close to lakes to give the impression of an extended stretch of water.
 
Capability Brown landscapes also usually feature a woodland belt to the perimeter of the garden. Often a request from the landowners, the woodland belt was intended to make the parkland feel more private and provide a space for game hunting.
 
Overall, a Capability Brown landscape is designed to look picture-perfect, almost like an image on a postcard. The landscapes have a certain neatness about them, as if they had been tended to by hand.
 

Water


 
Water plays a huge part in the vast majority of Capability Brown landscapes. Usually positioned in the middle ground of the parkland or garden, the lakes were built to give the appearance of an almost never-ending stretch of water.
 
However, the serpentine river that appears to sprawl through many grounds was usually a clever network of lakes meshed together. This love of creating illusions in the landscapes would go on to define Brown’s work, as he strived to create a landscape with hidden elements that created a different image based on the angle its viewed.
 

Buildings


 
Buildings often featured in the work of Capability Brown. Usually, these buildings were in Gothic or Neo-classical styling, although Brown would often be directed by the landowner commissioning the work. In some instances, buildings within the landscape were inspired by the architecture of places the landowner had visited while travelling.
 
While buildings were incorporated into the landscapes, Capability Brown did so in a way that would retain a natural feel. In many cases, the buildings were set against trees to help them blend more naturally with the environment.
 
Ornamental bridges, also in Gothic and Neo-classical style, are another common characteristic of the landscapes. They usually complement a sweeping driveway — another popular feature of Brown’s work — helping to provide multiple perspectives of the landscape as visitors approach the properties.
 
The optical illusion tactic continued through Brown’s inclusion of ha-ha’s, small, sunken walls that were used to give the impression of a never-ending parkland. Ha-ha’s were often included along the border of the land to create the feel that the formal garden extended in the grazing land beyond.
 

How To Spot A Capability Brown Landscape: A Checklist


Cedars of Lebanon trees
London Planes
Evergreen Oaks
Weeping Willows
Trees arranged in clumps
A woodland belt
Serpentine lake
Gothic or Neo-classical buildings amongst trees
Ornamental bridges
Ha-ha’s
Sweeping driveway  

The next time you’re exploring the grounds of a castle, stately home or parklands, keep in mind the above checklist — how many characteristic features can you spot?
 
Alnwick Castle has Capability Brown resources within the grounds, which are perfect if you’d like to learn more about this 18th Century landscaper. With 10% off when you book your tickets online, why not plan your visit today?