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Simon Smith Garden & Landscape Design

The Capability Brown Connection

Lancelot Brown, more commonly known as Capability Brown, was an English landscape architect. He is remembered as ‘the last of the great English 18th century artists to be accorded his due’ and ‘England's greatest gardener’. Brown designed over 170 parks, many of which still endure today. According to Hobhouse (2002) his style references ‘the hunting parks of Mesopotamia, the deer parks of Norman England and the gardens of ancient Rome and Renaissance Italy.’

Emma, who works in the practice, is a direct descendent of Capability Brown on her mother’s side. Having learned of this connection, Simon has spent some time researching the work of Brown and his discoveries have influenced his work.


Brown’s work is inspirational because of the breadth of his vision: the influences from abroad and at home; the large scale nature of the work and the creation of new landscapes with their fine views, features and ‘natural’ aesthetic considerations. His careful gauging of these interwoven variables is part of good garden design and something Simon aims to achieve in his design work.


Brown’s work provides a sense of perspective and warning. In his work, Brown cleared lots of previously existing landscapes from earlier times, for example Elizabethan knot gardens and Baroque parterres (Richardson, 2007). This serves to remind us that we can lose some things forever. Therefore, there is a note of caution present in the assessment and analysis of every site that Simon works on.


Brown worked at a time of huge change in agriculture, science and philosophical and political thinking. The theme of change is resonant with our lives today. We are living through the sixth great extinction (Kolbert, Wilson, et al) with resources including land and water becoming more scarce. We are in a time of such climate change that geologists have named our time the ‘Anthropocene,’ meaning that human activity is now the biggest influence to our climate and environment. Simon believes that garden designers should listen to this change and take on the implications, just as Brown was influenced by his culture. Then the lessons learned will help protect our environment for the future.

Hobhouse P (2002) The Story of Gardening
Kolbert E (2014) The Sixth Extinction – An Unnatural History
Richardson T (2007) The Arcadian friends – Inventing the English Landscape Garden
Wilson EO (2016) Half-Earth - Our Planet’s Fight for Life

“The garden is looking amazing! Very happy to give you the go ahead for the front garden” Catherine Large, Harpenden