CELEBRITY TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh was guest of honour at the grand opening of Stowe Landscape Gardens’ new visitor centre last Friday.
The historic New Inn has undergone a £9 million maekover since being acquired in a state of near collapse by the National Trust in 2005.
Originally the coaching inn where 18th century visitors to Stowe would stay, and mentioned in Seeley’s Guidebook of 1769, it has now been turned into a state-of-the-art visitor centre.
Mr Titchmarsh said he has admired Stowe for years, and he featured the gardens in an episode of his series Alan’s Garden Secrets in 2010
In the programme, he explained how 18th century head gardener Charles Bridgeman removed hedges and wall to break down the formal barriers that existed from the previous century and open up the views of the surrounding area.
He told the Advertiser: “Stowe is the finest example of landscape garden of the 18th century. This is the time at which there was a seismic change in garden design. All the twiddly beds and borders were swept away in favour of Arcadian desgn. It set out to be pleasing.
“It was, I think, the most exciting time in landscape history.”
And he hailed Capability Brown’s vision as a gardener.
He said: “The trees Capability Brown planted were whips, 2ft high. He knew what they were going to look like.”
And he added: “So little emphasis today is on beauty – it’s all down to cost.
“As I’ve got older, what matters to me is scale, line, proportion, perspective.
“Stowe is an object lesson for that.”
And he said the lessons we can learn from the vast landscapes at Stowe are still “totally relevant” to the smaller-scale gardener.
“If you made a model of Stowe and put it on a table, the proportion and perspective are still relevant.
“It’s vital that places like Stowe are looked after, because so much of life now is about the price of everything and the value of nothing. I think we underestimate the value of beauty to the landscape.
“I went to the Da Vinci exhibition in London and it was stuffed with every kind of person from all walks of life. All those exhibitions – Leonardo, Hockney, Freud – they’re selling out. People want beauty. It’s reality.
“There is nothing more real than this landscape. It’s lasting, it will be here tomorrow when today’s worries are gone.
“This is a larger-scale Leonardo. You can sit and look at some of the views and just gasp.
“It’s the age of classical elegance.
“It’s boastful, it may be bonkers, but it’s also staggeringly beautiful.
“English domestic gardens are the best in the world.”