Thursday, 9 March 2017

Planting perennials & building homes for bees!

We've had a busy day at Scampston welcoming students from two local primary schools - Rillington and West Heslerton. A number of beds within the Walled Garden have been set aside especially so local children can be involved in their planting. The children learnt all about planting, and the benefits that plants bring to other creatures - especially birds, bees and butterflies.  

This project forms part of Capability Brown's 300th anniversary celebrations. The team at Scampston have been eager to show children and adults alike the importance of biodiversity and habitats. This is something that Capability Brown achieved with the varied landscapes he created - with his use of trees and lakes. 

The beds have been planted with six hardy perennials, which will provide homes and food for insects and birds throughout the year. Each of the schools were able to take away some of the plants, along with a beehouse and a birdbox. Pupils will then be able to monitor the activity around the plants, and watch as they grow and bloom. They will also be invited back to Scampston to see how their hard work has paid off.

Thank you very much to all the volunteers and teachers that made today possible. Apologies to all the parents who will be picking up muddy children this evening! Still, great fun was had by all.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Voting opens! Scampston Walled Garden represents Yorkshire in National Countryfile Magazine Awards

As part of the celebration of the British Countryside, we are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for Garden of the Year!

The only Yorkshire garden to have been shortlisted for the category of Garden of the Year, we will need to secure more public votes than the other four nominees to win the award before the voting closes on 28th February.

This is just a gentle nudge to request that you spare 10 seconds to cast a vote. Just go to this link, select your favourite garden (hopefully us!) and enter your email address. Hey presto - it's done!  

Scampston Walled Garden is also the only attraction, destination or business from Ryedale to be nominated across all Countryfile Magazine Award categories.

Alongside Scampston Walled Garden, the category of Garden of the Year has four other contenders: Hauser & Wirth in Somerset, Trebah in Cornwall, Great Dixter in East Sussex & Interewe Gardens in Wester Ross. All have been chosen by Joe Swift, presenter of Gardeners’ World, journalist and garden designer.

In describing why he chose Scampston Walled Garden, Joe Swift said: “At Scampston Hall [Piet Oudolf] has reinvented what can go into a Victorian walled kitchen garden. A path leads halfway around the outside edge to build up expectation before all is revealed; wide meadows of grasses, sumptuous perennial planting, garden rooms with simple topiary pieces as well as a viewing mound.”

Whatever the outcome, we feel very privileged to have gained this recognition in a national competition. We are keeping our fingers and toes crossed though! 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Scampston's Christmas Market

Sunday the 27th November saw our Christmas Market get under way despite the confusion with the road works on the A64! Volunteers worked hard on previous days setting up and stallholders were there bright and early on the Sunday morning unloading their wares. 

The Conservatory looked spectacular on a bright winter's day. A Scampston tree was proudly on display.

Business was brisk all day from 10am to 2.30pm with a steady stream of visitors. 

The volunteer’s craft stall had a wonderful display of Christmas gifts and decorations showcasing the hard work of the craft classes. The Bran Bin was a great hit with our younger visitors. The mulled wine and mince pies went down a treat, along with Carol Lyon’s Christmas Cake which was a sellout.

One of the stallholders selling Christmas Wreaths, planters and Festive Garlands is coming along on the 14th December to hold a class teaching attendees how to make those beautiful Christmas Wreaths and Garlands. 

To find out more about this course, visit our website or contact Gill Garbutt on 01944 758646.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016


It's feeling remarkably festive in the Walled Garden now our Christmas Trees are on sale. We've put together some top tips to help you keep your tree looking glossy and green until the 6th January, and to prevent it dropping those pines on your presents! 
How to Care for Your Farm-Grown Christmas Tree
When a Christmas tree is cut, more than half its weight is water. With proper care, you can maintain the quality of your tree. We’ve put together a few helpful tips to keep it looking beautiful until the 6th January.

1.      Displaying trees in water in a traditional reservoir type stand is the most effective way of maintaining their freshness and minimizing needle dropping. To display the trees indoors, use a stand which can hold water.

2.      Use a stand that fits your tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and shouldn’t be taken off if possible.

3.      Make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Don't cut the trunk at an angle, or into a v-shape, as this makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand. It also reduces the amount of water available to the tree. Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does not improve water uptake.

4.      Keep trees away from major sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Use of lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights, will reduce drying of the tree.

5.      Ensure there are plenty of presents underneath it to keep it company, and have a very Happy Christmas!

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