Thursday, 20 October 2016

Gardening in October

Scampston Walled Garden, with it's naturalistic perennial planting, is known to be a particularly late garden. The grasses in particular still look spectacular into October.

Our Head Gardener Paul Smith has a few tips for keeping things looking trim, and encouraging further growth later on. 

  1. Leave ornamental seed heads on plants such as hydrangea to give winter interest
  2. Clear fallen leaves off lawns to prevent moss build up
  3. Plant spring bulbs now ready for next year
  4. Strengthen lawns with an autumn and winter lawn feed
  5. October is a good time for planting most hardy plants including shrubs and trees. The soil is still moist which enables root development before winter

Here are a few pictures of Scampston at this time of year, and evidence that just because dark nights and cold weather are setting in, it doesn't have to be doom & gloom! 

Friday, 14 October 2016

Opening the Garden Gates for Ryedale

Rod Anness reflects on his visit to Scampston Walled Garden on the October Community Weekend!

The sun was shining (well, there were occasional minor showers) and many a Ryedale resident took advantage of the repeat of the opening of the gardens free of charge. The success of the similar opening arrangements last April prompted the decision to repeat the chance for local people to come and see how the garden had changed after six months and the onset of autumn.

     Like last April there was a lovely atmosphere with so many happy smiling faces. The only negative from my point of view was the people who, on seeing my volunteer badge, started to ask me questions about particular plants about which I know very little and my confession that I was merely “a photographer”.

The following area selection of images of visitors that I met on a very pleasant afternoon in Scampston Walled Garden.  

The next community weekend will take place shortly after the gardens re-open for the 2017 season. Join us (and the rest of Ryedale) on the 22nd or 23rd April for another blissful day in the gardens. 


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown within a European Enlightenment context

The following essay has been written by Rodney Anness BA (hons) MA, a volunteer at Scampston: 

     Much has been written about England’s greatest garden designer and many would assert, artist but what intrigues me is what inspired him to design his gardens in the way that he did. The initial impact of his designs was how very different they were from what preceded them. Both the French and Baroque garden designs were intensely ‘busy’ and marked by their patterns of repeated regularity. Swirling partiers enclosed formally planted rows of annuals. The upper stories of the adjacent noble house were usually a very good vantage point.

     In contrast, Brown’s designs whilst also best viewed from on high could in addition be equally appreciated from ground level. At first sight their seemingly simplistic design appeared unsophisticated and to lack aesthetic intrigue and indeed Brown’s detractors complained significantly, of their naturalism. Without knowing it they had correctly identified exactly what informed Brown’s designs. However as is now known and well understand his designs are of enormous complexity. With remarkable prescience he sculpted out of earth, water, trees and shrubs, magnificent views that would only come into full maturity long after his death.

A lake view at Scampston Hall 

     When I started to think about what I will also term Brown as ‘artist’ in future, I recalled that what one immediately associates with Brown’s century is of course the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ when, mostly in Western Europe, well educated people or the so called ‘elite’ largely abandoned the strictly spiritual in favour of secular reason as a consequence of empirical study. They also claimed freedom of political thought and action. The philosophers of the 18th century and to name just a few,  Frenchmen, Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau and Englishmen, John Locke and David Hume (I hasten to add the last was a Scott) and not forgetting the German Immanuel Kant together in their very different ways, influenced and gave shape to intellectual thought in today’s societies. However in spite of their differences they all believed in the power of the human mind to solve every problem. Brown also showed throughout his career that he supported this belief. When viewing a new assignment for a potential client he proclaimed that it ‘had capabilities’ which he could envisage to give the estate owner hope of the new landscape he sought. As this usually would mean very substantial change it also required the foresightedness of what it might look like centuries into the future. Not least it was often considerably more expensive than the cost of changing garden designs in the past. A man noted for his tact and persuasiveness it is a tribute to Brown that he was able to get so many estate owners to agree to the high costs his plans required but perhaps they realised that future maintenance costs would be considerably lower. No more cutting the grass and hedging and replacing sometimes thousands of annuals! Space between his trees and shrubs could be grazed by sheep and deer all beneficially adding to the Arcadian look they sought.

Jacques Rousseau

     There are many different facets to the Enlightenment but the French name of le Siècle des Lumières, lit. 'the Century of Lights'; and in German: Aufklärung, lit. ‘a clearing away’ gives us the general tenor of philosophical thought in Eighteen century Europe. Like the Renaissance before the Classical past of Greece and Rome were celebrated as the fountain head of philosophical thought but in the 18th century an additional important concern was the natural world which was invariably referred to simply as, ‘Nature’. However at the beginning of the 18 century many still believed nature and the natural world to be a place of terror and superstition and nowhere was that more the case  than the ‘Alps’. Most travelers’ were of course obliged to cross the Alps to reach Italy the essential destination for a suitably wealthy young man, (and it was most often a man), and the culmination of a successful Grand Tour. Edward Hymes in his 1971 biography of Brown mentions that the 2nd Viscount Palmerstone, (his estate at Blenheim Palace was eventually redesigned  by Brown in 1768-71), had travelled to Italy where he “completed his education which had included the almost inevitable Grand Tour.”  However at the beginning of the 18th century, travelers  crossing the Alps drew the coach curtains to conceal themselves from the demons and worse they believed infested the mountain passes amongst ‘dreadful scenes of disorder of rampant Nature.’

Gin Lane by William Hogarth 

     However this reputation of the Alps as a place of dystopian terror gradually changed as the century progressed partly due to a contra conception of the cosmopolitan world of the contemporary Metropolis and the urban as being the source of all corruption and evil.  This was partly due to the writings of philosopher Jacque Rousseau  who not only shared this view of city life but he also claimed that only in the countryside was ‘Nature’, which was he said the creation of God and the true embodiment of a purity of life and living. Painters too responded to this change in perceptions of landscape as a subject of value worthy of representation. Landscape artists who were formerly low in the hierarchy of painters whilst the most celebrated artists confined themselves to painting scenes of History, Classical Legends and Myths and of course scenes from the Bible. It should however be noted that such ‘History genre’ paintings also attracted the highest prices! However the increasingly urbanization of society and incipient industrialization which took place throughout the century helped change perceptions of the rural alternatives. And here they sought scenes of poetic charm and calm serenity as a contrast to the hustle and bustle of city life. And where such scenes in nature proved difficult to find they were persuaded to remodel and constructed their own conceptions of the Arcadian views they had so admired on their Grand Tour.

        Artists such as the Frenchman Claude Lorrain (1600-82) became the most famous exponent of the ‘ideal landscape’ of the Classical periods of Greece and Rome. He worked for most of his life in Italy principally in Rome and cleverly elevates his essentially ‘landscape genre paintings by inserting, usually in the foreground, miniature figures in classical garb to elevate his work to the top of the hierarchy of paintings as a faux, ‘History’ work. 

French artist Claude Lorrain (1600 -82) 
      The Académie Royale was founded in Paris in 1684 by the culturally ambitious Louis 14th  of France and he set the new academicians the task of filling its galleries. Claude Lorrain was by this date one of the most famous French artists and the private owners of his work were persuaded to sell their paintings to the Sun King. As a consequence, when the young men of the 18th century passed through Paris en rout to Rome a visit to the Académie Royale became an essential part of their cultural education. And here they will have seen Claude’s work which appeared to encapsulate their idealized conception of ‘Arcadia’ so celebrated by the philosophers of the Enlightenment. Where possible they bought large numbers of Claude’s work together with a self portrait by Rome artist, Pompeo Batoni. This was meant to impress all and sundry on their return that they had completed the Grand Tour and were thus a cultured man. Indeed a ‘Claude and a Batoni’ were as much a 18th century social indicator as a stick of rock was a memento of the seaside for the urban classes in the 19th century.

Coast View of Delos by Claude Lorrain 

     It can be no surprise that on their return the former ‘Grand Tourists’ set about redesigning their gardens and estates with new enthusiasm. And Capability Brown will surely have been infected by their relish for all they had seen and were reminded of via Claude’s paintings. Brown was particularly blessed in his ability to scan the potential client’s property to see if it had possibilities for remodeling as the ex Grand Tourist desired. Thomas Jefferson saw the results of Brown’s artistry at Blenheim and Stowe and he wrote, ‘the canvas is of open ground, variegated with clumps of trees distributed with taste’. That, as Hyams wrote in his biography of Brown, ‘in a dozen words sums up Brown’s art.’ Brown was also employed by the young Viscount for advice on the architectural problems associated with giving an early Tudor house the look of an ‘Italianate Villa.’ Brown had been the under gardener at Stowe working under the supervision of William Kent who had been sent to Rome by wealthy patrons and had acquired considerable architectural skills from his friends and fellow students. But he did not have Brown’s knowledge of horticulture which allowed Brown to select and use the most appropriate tree, shrubs and plants for a particular spot. 

The flat ground at Scampston Hall 

In addition, Brown besides being a landscape artist was also an architect and water engineer. This allowed him to divert as he did at Scampston Hall, rivers and create with dams serpentine stretches of water that appear to interconnect and have the appearance of a single river reflecting the colour of the sky. Spoil from dug out sections of the lakes provided the basis for hillocks of rising ground essential to break up the very flat ground at Scampston formed from part of the ancient Plain of Pickering. In prehistoric times this was a huge lake and traces of the dwellings that the fishermen built on stilts have been found on the periphery of the formerly flooded area. The flat land of the estate at Scampston was a significant problem for Brown which he solved by his excavations and clever planting of trees and shrubs but also by incorporating the distant landscape in particular, the Wolds to the east of the estate. This produced the multiple view points where, through screens of trees and shrubs glimpses of the Hall or the Palladian Bridge can be seen. The scene from the Hall would be an almost theatrical view. The land would seemingly stretch out endlessly to the far horizon with the replanting providing the receding ‘wings’ of a  new Arcadia  artistically sculpted by ‘Capability Brown’.

The Pantheon at Stourhead

     The influence of Capability Brown and his garden designs spread throughout Europe. By 1811 26 year old Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau inherited an estate of nearly 200 square miles in Saxony and a smaller estate in Branitz. He was determined to carry out improvements and create a park on the ‘English model.’ But he was severely frustrated by also inheriting his father’s debts   But even earlier in 1787 Friedrich Wilhelm II directed the German Royal Gardener George Steiner to redesign the garden of Charlottenburg Schloss in the ‘English landscape style.’And his influence continues.

Conversation in the park Charlottenburg Schloss

       Very recently art historian and cultural writer, Lily le Lebrun wrote a long piece in the Art Quarterly the house magazine of the Art Fund on Brown’s influence on modern artists today. She traced his influence on artists such as Richard Wilson, Paul Sandby and JMW Turner through to land artists today such as Robert Smithson, Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long. Arguably the fame of these present day artists has discernable traces of Brown’s designs not least in the ability of these artists, just as Brown did to ‘read’ the landscape and exploit it aesthetically.

 In 1783 Horace Walpole writing to a friend of the death of Lancelot Brown, claimed, “Your Dryads must go into black gloves Madame, their father-in-law, Lady Nature’s second husband, is dead.” And surely this was indeed an appropriate reaction to the news of Brown’s demise for England and much of Western Europe of this great, garden, artist. 

The Lakes at Scampston 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Scampston's Autumn Plant Fair

Sunday 25th September marked Scampston's Autumn Plant Fair and a huge gathering of the green-fingered residents of Ryedale.

From the word 'Go!', the heat was on - the car park filled up, and eager gardeners emerged scouting for specialty plants. The competition was on, and soon people were seen re-emerging clutching bag loads of prime specimens, loading their cars, before returning to the game for round two!

Stallholders traveled far and wide to exhibit their beautiful offerings at the Fair - from ornamental grasses, to carnivorous fly traps, to alpine varieties and spring bulbs - each stall had something unique to show. The highly knowledgeable stall holders offered fair-goers plenty of hints and tips to help them at home.

After a full morning of plant hunting, gardeners retreated to the Garden Cafe to restore their energies. It seems that Cream Teas are the nutritional choice for welly-wearing competitors - with over 150 of Scampston's famous scones being consumed throughout the day!

It was then time to explore the Walled Garden, and to seek inspiration in the perennial meadow or drifts of grass. Crafts and blooms were on display in the Conservatory. Those that still had reserves of energy took a stroll through the Capability Brown parkland. 
All in all, a good day was had by all! The Plant Fair games will return to Scampston on the 4th June.  

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Collage for Capability

In celebration of Capability Brown's birthday month, this week we held a Family Fun Day here at Scampston. 

Throughout the day we were joined by 60 children who took part in the collaging & crafts, family walks, and the bug hunting in the ponds! 

These incredible collages were created to capture the essence of Brown's landscapes, and the habitats they create - for butterflies, bees and all sorts of other creatures. All the different materials used made an array of different textures and bright colours.

It was a busy day here, but were so pleased to sit back and admire the gorgeous creations which will now take pride of place on display in the Heritage & Learning Centre in Scampston Conservatory 

This event took place as part of a year of celebrations for Capability Brown. Scampston is a hub site for the Capability Brown Festival. 2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, a designer who changed the national landscape. As the first ever celebration of Brown's extensive works, the Capability Brown festiavl 2016 brings together a huge range of events, openings and exhibitions. 

Monday, 15 August 2016

Like a Moth to a Lamp

You might not think a quaint little rural place like Scampston would have much by way of night-life, but there you would be wrong.

Friday 12th August saw us gathering in the dusk for an evening of moth hunting. Julian Small from Natural England set up his moth trap in the garden and as darkness fell the moths and insects came in to the light. 

The public who attended were very hands on and were happy to use our magnifying bug containers to catch the different species and examine them by torchlight. Several rare species of moths and insects were examined.

It was a truly enlightening evening!

If you are interested in any of the events we run at Scampston visit our website 

Thursday, 28 July 2016

A Visit to Scampston's Spring Plant Fair

Thanks to Rodney Anness, a volunteer here at Scampston for submitting his account of a visit to Scampston Walled Garden on our Plant Fair day in June. If you are interested in writing content, taking photos, or volunteering with us at Scampston - please contact to find out more.  The Autumn Plant Fair will take place on the 25th September. 

An incredible number of cars were in the overflow field when we turned into the car park with the plant fair taking place in the usual spot for cars. Big surprise was a happy reunion with Chris who was on gate duty and we knew from our time as volunteers at Nunnington Hall. After what had been an incredibly busy morning, there were now not too many visitors here. We were told that, as it was lunch time, most people were assuaging their pangs of hunger in the Scampston Hall’s splendid café adjacent to the walled garden. This was opportunistic for us as we could see all that was available and chat to the nursery men and women without having to feel obliged to move for others.

First up was an incredible display of ‘Venus Fly Traps’ of various shapes, sizes and colours and very attractive. But they were too reminiscent for us of the deadly plants from John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic novel, ‘The Day of the Triffids’!

 We had both decided that we had more than enough in our garden without buying anymore-but needless to say we did. We bought a trachelospermum asiaticum a climber for a difficult spot in our garden; a gunnera for our large pond surround and some much needed herbs for the kitchen.

The stallholder kept them for us whilst we went for a walk around the lake and surrounding woodland and back through the historic parkland of Capability Brown fame. Even without the expert assistance from the superbly informed staff it was possible to appreciate the cleverness of the planting that frames the Hall with the lake enhancing and drawing the eye. Nevertheless I made mental note that I must avail myself of the kind offer of a conducted tour which one of the staff made to me when I became a volunteer.

After a super coffee in the café which was still pretty busy, (how hard those ladies work) we returned to the plant fair and picked up our purchases. The stall holder very kindly threw in a lovely pot of African marigolds - a perfect end to a most enjoyable visit.

Rodney Anness, June 2017