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A Garden in January – Trentham – Part One

Since I began my blog a few years ago I have written monthly features with photos about our own garden on Greenbenchramblings but for a change this year I decided to visit another favourite garden, Trentham. So every month throughout 2014 we shall take you on a journey around these unique gardens so that you can enjoy them in all their different guises. Different plants will become the stars throughout the year.

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So enjoy a visit with us as we enjoy a winter wander in mid-January. The garden’s major features are huge areas designed by two of my favourite garden designers, Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith, both of whom have appeared before on Greenbenchramblings. These two new areas fit well within a huge parkland area created by Capability Brown including a mile-long lake with woodland all around, open grassland and specimen trees. There is also an Italianate Parterre designed by Charles Barry and an area where small show gardens display good modern designs full of ideas for visitors to take home with them. A huge maze with a viewing mound, a rose walk featuring David Austin roses and areas specially designed for children make Trentham one of the best days out in the Midlands where it is possible to indulge oneself whatever your age.

A beautifully designed modern suspension bridge welcomes you into the garden where Piet Oudolf’s “Rivers of Grass” greets you. Massed plantings of grasses dotted with patches of perennials are full of the colours of all sorts of tasty biscuits. Wide mown grass paths wind sinuously throughout providing plenty of choices of ways through. The atmosphere is one of complete calm, a place to be quiet and listen to the rustling of the grasses as they move in the slightest breezes.

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Seedheads on perennials cleverly left by the gardeners draw the visitor in for a closer look where the rich gingers, browns, greys and russets can by fully appreciated. No doubt the resident finches enjoy the seeds too and bugs such as ladybird and lacewing larvae shelter in their hollow stems.

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A row of River Birch act as an open barrier cutting across between the River of Grasses and Oudolf’s “Floral Labyrinth” which we entered next. The pink, silver and peach coloured bark of these Betula come to life with its peeling strips of orange paper.

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The Floral Labyrinth is explored from winding gravel paths and wider expanses of mown grass. This is in the style now called “New Wave Perennial Planting” featuring tall prairie style plants mixed with grasses especially miscanthus and pennisetum. Again the seedheads are key elements at this time of year.

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Where many plants have fallen or suffered from rotting in the winter deluges the gardeners have cleared up and signs of new growth are appearing. Here Day Lillies look raring to go!

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This fallen leaf has curled up into the shape of a Woodlouse or Pill Bug.

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Many of the seedheads when studied as individuals are like constellations of tiny stars.

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Others are like thin church spires.

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Many of the taller stems are now falling after all our strong winds.

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Under large mature Yew trees, cyclamen have been planted in circles. The leaves shine in the low sun and the little swept back petals of the flowers give so many shades of pink as well as a few white.

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Moving on from Piet Oudolf’s pair of gardens we wander through an area of open lawns with features of the older gardens and get views of the derelict buildings which must at one time have been impressive and dominating in the landscape. Pioneer plants such as Buddleja and Cotoneaster are gaining a foothold on the masonry as it crumbles. Try to spot them near the top of the ruins.

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As we finish the first half of our tour we can look forward to more startling planting creations but these have been created within the old structure of the Italian Gardens. These will be featured in part two, my next post.

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What a wonderful way to spend a cold January day!

By greenbenchramblings

A retired primary school head teacher, I now spend much of my time gardening in our quarter acre plot in rural Shropshire south of Shrewsbury. I share my garden with Jude my wife a newly retired teacher , eight assorted chickens and a plethora of wildlife. Jude does all the heavy work as I have a damaged spine and right leg. We also garden on an allotment nearby. We are interested in all things related to gardens, green issues and wildlife.

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