As promised we made our promised return to the gardens at Trentham, near Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, right on the edge of The Potteries.
The day promised good weather which would make a welcome change. On our last few visits to this garden we had been subjected to rain and often cold winds. For our February exploration the sky was blue and the car’s dashboard read out told us the temperature was 9 degrees. The aim of this return visit and indeed all the following monthly ones was to see how the garden had progressed, how things had changed, which plants were looking good and which ones were the stars.
As we passed over the gentle arch of the suspension bridge we could see the “River of Grasses” with the golden stubble of the grasses which had been trimmed down low. In contrast the close mown grass areas along the riverside were bright green decorated with strips of sparkling white snowdrops. I realise the life buoy is a safety requirement and realise it has to be red so that it is easily spotted in an emergency but it is really distracting!
As always the gently curving line of River Birches looked wonderful, with the bark peeling more than when we saw them in January. I liked the meandering line where the dried grass area joins the deep green foliage of the evergreen Euphorbia robbiae with pale green highlights created by their flowering bracts.
Once beyond the birches the perennial borders designed by Piet Oudolf looked very flat having been trimmed tight to the ground. This was in strong contrast to all the interesting seedheads and stems that decorated it in January. But with the clear view over the area we did spot this lovely wooden seat which we had totally missed in January. The bright green new growth of the Hemerocallis has progressed well since our January visit.
We enjoyed seeing that the rings of cyclamen were still flowering away happily beneath the Yews. They looked good in the sunshine, their colours seeming richer.
There was little change to be seen at the Hornbeam arbor but we did notice a few white sparkling Snowdrops around the base of their trunks. The trimmed box alongside is most noticeable at this time of year when such green sculptures become one of the stars of the garden. Some other stars of the Trentham gardens on this visit waited for us close by -Hellobores and Cyclamen in full colourful bloom. The Hellebores impressed with more than the colour range however, for they had really proud upright habit. They lit up the shade beneath an allee of Hornbeam.
Leaving the Hornbeam allee we entered the old Italian Garden, with its rigidly symmetrical patterns of short cut grass, white chipping and smartly trimmed box edging. The low winter light emphasised this structure. It is not our favourite part of the garden but we always admire the skill taken to keep it looking so neat.
From here we could look out across the huge Italian Garden, re-designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. Since our last visit the perennials and grasses have been neatly and closely cut ready for the new growth that is sitting just below the soil surface ready to burst out.
Then after walking through these borders in waiting, we went off into the parkland where mature trees tower above the grassed slopes. Under the trees sits the coffee shop where we stopped for our statutory break. Some slopes appeared a bluer green than others and we discovered that the leaves here were of daffodils already with flower buds fit to burst.
Near the coffee house are areas for children and it was noticeable how busy they were. When here in January this area was deserted but on this visit there were lots of families with young children. It was the school half term holiday.
On the lake the swan sculptures presented sharp silhouettes taking off over the water.
Over in the display gardens the low bright light made the colours in foliage, flowers, stem and bark look extra bright.
We returned through the Tom Stuart-Smith gardens and walked along the rose pergola. The gardeners were busy pruning the roses, weeding and freshening up the soil surface.
The shrub borders at the end of the rose pergola were showing signs of interesting things happening, the Witch Hazels were shining yellow and the scented but subtle winter flowering honeysuckle sitting along side it looked rather drab. So that finished our February visit to Trentham. The next blog in this monthly series will be in March. Things should be really livening up then.