Despite the wind last Saturday, we decided to take an afternoon out at the Trentham Estate in Staffordshire – it’s a favourite of mine and I particularly wanted to see this years meadow planting around Capability Brown’s lake. These meadows were originally designed by Nigel Dunnett and have recently featured on BBC’s Gardeners World – I’ve seen them previously, but different plants are used every year and so there’s always something new to see. Trentham also welcomes dogs in all areas of the park, lake and its fantastic gardens – this is a real bonus for us as we don’t like leaving Ollie at home! A word of advice though, in bad weather always check opening arrangements before setting out. Unfortunately when we arrived, the only area open to the public was the Italianate garden! High winds had prompted a closure of the lake and its walk, the Rivers of Grass and the Floral Labyrinth. However, as a result the entry fee was reduced and so we decided to make the most of our visit. This turned out to be a great decision, the blustery stroll around the 19th century Italianate garden was more than enjoyable.
Originally designed by Sir Charles Barry, an architect best known for his role in designing and working on the rebuild of the Palace of Westminster, the Italianate garden has been subject to a contemporary revival in recent years, with garden designer Tom Stewart-Smith being the artist behind the stunning planting schemes. The garden lies anterior to the remains of Trentham Hall, which with its clock tower and sculpture gallery, provides an enchanting ghostly backdrop.
Structure is maintained with the use of columnar evergreen cypress and round box balls – it really is amazing that the use of tall plants in long intertwining swathes fits in so naturally with the parterre style of the initial design.
Fountains and follies are strong features in the Italianate garden and along with the original layout, maintain the sense of history and tradition. There’s such a wonderful sense of old and new in this garden which for me, is so interesting when considering the development of gardening and garden design today.
The style of planting in swathes really appeals to me and I’d love to achieve it in our garden at home, albeit on a far smaller scale. Success has thus far completely eluded me – small isn’t necessarily simple!
An attractive feature of the Trentham Estate is the Fairy Trail – the way it weaves its magical way through the estate is delightful – these superb structures vary in size from the huge example in the pictures above, to smaller ones hiding in trees. Sculpted by local artist Robin Wight, the fairies are dotted all around the gardens and the lake – the trail is fun for children, but there is so much for the adult visitor to admire in them too – their ethereal beauty draws the eye and the sense of movement in the intricate wirework is amazing.
Finally as we made our way back towards the entrance , this was the best view we we could get of the fabulous Floral Labyrinth, designed by the Dutch prairie garden specialist Piet Oudulf. I’ll look forward to a more comprehensive experience next time we visit as I will have checked for last minute changes to the opening arrangements!