The great English landscape gardener, Capability Brown, transformed the working farmland and small formal gardens around Chatsworth House to rolling gardens in 1760. Joseph Paxton added the kitchen gardens and glasshouses a hundred years later during his period as head gardener.
Today the trails above the house meander through mature woodlands, flower beds, and sculpture displays between the working gardens. Turns in the path open to dramatic views of water and sky, framed by natural and architectural accents, the whole estate extending across 405 hectares.
Lancelot (Capability) Brown’s style was style founded on two principles. First, the practical: that the finished gardens should meet their ‘capability’, providing for every need of the great house. The second was elegance: the features of the garden must cohere to a grammar of features. The result was was a pleasing (for me, anyway) alternative to the geometric and boxed French gardens, lots of grassy planes with open views, scattered trees and hedges, and winding waterworks and lakes.
It didn’t come cheap: the Chatsworth gardens took 25,000 man and horse days to create, and cost over £40,000 (nearly £6 million in today’s currency). Still, on a sunny warm spring day, their real value is evident.