Back at the Trentham Gardens we moved into the borders designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. But first we passed through the formality of the Italianate borders with their strong structure of low box hedges. The view of these borders, which we get from the top of a flight of semi-circular stone steps is guaranteed to take our breath away. We looked forward to this moment every time we visited.
Seed heads were the stars here too with a mix of tall grasses and structural perennials. New growth was appearing promising colour to come in the spring.
Phlomis, having given bright sunshine coloured flowers in summer, were now starring again with their dark brown almost black spheres of seed heads spaced up the length of their straight stems.
The tallest stems were of a plant we did not recognise. Tiny seed heads hung like Tibetan prayer flags from gently bowing stems.
As we left the T S-S borders we looked back over them from the raised pathway. Dampness from earlier showers made the path surface glisten and reflect the blue of the sky.
On the lawned slopes by the glass fronted cafe giant snowdrops powered over our heads. We always love willow structures! These were made from willow, some stripped of their brownish green bark and were beautifully woven and shaped. They stood a good 10 feet tall.
After our compulsory coffee stop which, was much appreciated on this cold December morning, we wandered back through the borders towards the Rose Walk. Again my camera snapped away at the wonderful structures of the perennials and grasses.
Although most winter structure showsoff the many shades of biscuits and browns, silver seemed to dominate one area. Giant leaves of Verbascum hugged the cold ground in huge, soft, silver rosettes. The silver giants were the Onorpordum or Scotch Thistles which in winter take on strong sculptural shapes.
The roses still persisted, producing occasional buds in gentler colours than in the summer. There was an added subtlety about them which gave them extra charm.
The sculptures at either end of the Rose Walk were wrapped up snuggly against the ravages of the winter. The Japanese Acers along side the walk displayed their seeds like the rotors of helicopters. The Wisteria which had clothed the metalwork with blue racemes of flowers in the Summer was now showing buds and old seed pods.
As usual I took a few photos looking through the arches across to the River of Grasses.
We were amazed to see a clump of Delphiniums with fresh growth of foliage and strong flower stems with fattening buds. No doubt the weather will have the last say and bring them to a premature ending.
The team of Trentham gardeners were, as always, beavering away in the borders. We have enjoyed seeing what they are up to on each of our visits. They have always greeted us with a smile and a few words of welcome.
So there we have it – a year in the life of one of Britain’s best gardens! Even though we have made the effort to visit every month throughout 2014 it never seemed a chore. We loved every minute of the many hours spent here. And we shall keep coming back. It has to be our most popular garden destination.