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A lakeside walk at Trentham Gardens

It was another hot day with clear blue skies and temperatures just short of 30C when we decided to take a drive out to the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent to visit two very different gardens. The first was a courtyard garden at the Emma Bridgwater Pottery Factory featured in my recent post, and the second the vast gardens at Trentham.

We decided to walk the perimeter of the lake now that my newly rebuilt leg was working well. This was a walk we had always wanted to do but I was unable, so it felt good to be setting off on the walk. We were looking forward to discovering new planting by Nigel Dunnett, meadows integrated into the trees and waterside planting designed way back by Capability Brown. We usually wander around Trentham by turning to our right and going through the Piet Oudolf “River of Grasses” then travelling through his prairie gardens before going on to Tom Stuart-Smith’s modern planting within the original structure of the Italian Garden.

On this day though we decided to turn left an make our way around Capability Brown’s lake. Nigel Dunnett’s first meadow plantings tok our breath away. The subtle colours worked so well together and led our eyes twards the water beyond.

As we moved into the shade of mature trees from Capability Brown’s original designs, his choice of flwers changed with brighter flowers being integrated with the purples and whites. This gave the opportunity for Dunnett to use the strong opposite colours, purple and orange, guaranteed to set the heart racing a little faster and smiles to appear on our faces.

With his designs there are always surprises to make to pause and think and we came across just such a place, a plantation of young Birches, Betula Doorenbos. Close by a flowing piece of metal sculptural pieces were integratred within a stretch of the meadows. Corton steel waves to reflect the waves on the surface of the lake when rough. It looked beautifully satisfying floating above the meadow flower colours.

After wandering through the woodland more meadows appeared with much softer planting style. These stunning owl sculptures were a fine finale to our visit.

 

 

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Return to Trentham Gardens

In mid-September we made a return visit to the gardens at Trentham which I featured monthly during 2014. This time we visited not specifically to enjoy the gardens themselves but to meet friends from university, friends we had not met since the early 1970’s.

While there our reminiscences were interrupted by the sheer beauty of a new area of planting, a meadow designed by Nigel Dunnett. The meadow was sown on a slope alongside woodland and even at this time of the year was full of colour and surprises.

Come on a journey around the meadow with us in my gallery below. As usual simply click on the first photo and move on by clicking on the arrows. If this new meadow looked this good in mid-September I can’t wait to go back next spring and summer to see what pictures they paint then.

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A Garden in December – Trentham – Part Two

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.

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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.

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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.

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The tallest stems were of a plant we did not recognise. Tiny seed heads hung like Tibetan prayer flags from gently bowing stems.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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As usual I took a few photos looking through the arches across to the River of Grasses.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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A Garden in December – Trentham – Part One

The final installment in my monthly series looking at how the gardens at Trentham change throughout the year.

The garden has gone full circle passing through the seasons. We began last January when the gardens were in the throes of winter and finish off in December in another winter.

As we crossed the River Trent on the suspension bridge we got a good view of the golden “River of Grasses” through the two trunks of a multi-stemmed Birch, our native Betula pendula. In all or our previous monthly wanders we turned right at the bottom of the bridge into this huge area of grasses. For our December wanderings we turned left partly because we fancied a change but mostly because we spotted a willow word.

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The gravel path took us beneath tall, ancient trees both deciduous and evergreen. Up in one we were surprised again to find a fairy looking down at us watching our every move.2014 12 16_8771 2014 12 16_8772

When we reached the willow NOEL we spotted a row of willow stars further along the path .

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On one old trunk where a large bough had been cut off nature had been at work with her army of fungi to eat away at the rotting wood, and thereby creating a piece of relief sculpture. Can you spot a figure emerging?

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After this little diversion from our usual route we retraced our footsteps to explore Piet Oudolf’s River of Grasses. Here a few seed heads stood against all odds having withstood the ravages of early winter.

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I have enjoyed seeing how the Betula nigra are looking on each of our monthly visits. The texture and colour of their peeling bark catches the light whatever the time of day or time of year.

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By passing through the avenue of Birches we found ourselves in Piet Oudolf’s prairie style borders, where so many different seed heads stood strong and proud.

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We enjoyed seeing how the gardeners had tied up some of the tallest of the old stems. We decided there and then to give it a go in our own patch.

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Where some of the herbaceous plants had been cut back by the gardening team, new growth of the freshest green has burst through and waits patiently for the Spring to come along. The cut down grasses however remain dormant, but without doubt within their sheaths new spears of green are making moves.

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Tiny vestiges of colour remained to surprise us, please us and amaze us.

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Before we left the prairie borders we looked back for the final time in 2014.

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We discovered new things at Trentham even this late in the year – a set of beautifully crafted wooden garden benches complete with meaningful phrases composed by local writers from Stoke-on-Trent’s past alongside a couple from the two great garden designers involved in Trentham Garden’s rebirth, Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith.

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Read and enjoy P O’s words of wisdom – words which express the power of these amazing gardens.

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And reflections on the gardens from Tom Stuart-Smith ……….

“What was once a scene of decay is now a breathtaking panorama of beauty.”

There are two phrases from Arnold Bennet, a local 19th Century writer,

“You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.”

“It is easier to go down hill than up but the view is from the top.”

The final two phrases were written much earlier by Capability Brown, 18th Century landscape designer and his contemporary John Bing, Viscount Torrington who owned Trentham at that time. John Bing wrote

“My old friend L Brown is to be traced at every turn……………. and a judicious former of water; the lake, here, is very fine”

Brown himself wrote,

“………. from its edges “quite round, making them everywhere correspond naturally with the ground on each side.”

A new phase of work is just starting to restore some of the early Capability grounds.

The old formal Italianate gardens that link the two main gardens had been replanted with seasonal bedding plants.

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In part two of our posts sharing our December visits to the wonderful gardens at Trentham, we move on to the gardens designed by Tom Stuart-Smith and see how they look as the year ends.

 

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A Garden in October/November – Trentham

We have now reached the penultimate posting in this series where we have been looking at how Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire have changed through the months during 2014. Since our last visit in September Autumn has taken a strong grip on the gardens. Many leaves have taken on their auutmn hues and many have fallen. But it is amazing how much colour there still is to enjoy, colours in late flowers, dried stems and seed heads.

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We always cross over the gently arching suspension footbridge over the River Trent full of anticipation. On our visit in early November we were presented with a sea of yellows, where Piet Oudolf’s River of Grasses had been transformed by the passage of time into a river of liquid gold.

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We wandered along the gravel path as it cut through the line of River Birch, Betula nigra in search of Oudolf’s prairie borders. These beautiful trees had already shed all their leaves but still drew our eyes as their bark was peeling and curling decoratively away from their trunks.

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Once in amongst the prairie planting we immediately noticed that seed heads in every hue of brown and beige and bright patches of late colour had joined the lemons, mustards and golds of the grasses. Pale purples glowed in the dull light of autumn. This glow is their secret weapon to attract moths and other night flying pollinators.

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The gardening team were hard at working replanting a section of one of the borders. It must be a never ending task. I suppose it gives them the chance to keep improving things as well as keeping the gardens in top condition.

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Deep pinks and cerise of the Persicarias and the Knautias catch the eye of every visitor. They look so good against the neutral shades that dominate gardens in the autumn.

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This lovely old Tulip Tree caught our attention. It is the oldest of its kind we have ever seen and a notice close by warned of the danger of falling branches. It must be susceptible to winter storms but should it fall it would make a wonderful natural bridge over the Trent. The dome of Hornbeam over a bench is now a golden dome.

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We made our way towards the formally planted Italian Parterre Garden, passing through an archway of Hornbeams on the way. Sunlight penetrated the coniferous plantings casting long shadows and creating bright patches. It lit up the little low box hedges of the  knot garden.

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The summer bedding in the parterre has been consigned to the compost heaps and winter/spring plants has taken their place, primulas and a deep red Bellis perennis.

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We always enjoy our first look out over the Tom Stuart-Smith gardens. We were not to be disappointed today.

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The autumn light emphasised the texture on this bronze sculpture and on the much newer tunnel archway which marks the way into the display gardens. It gave an all new look to the low slate walls around one of these gardens too. It again emphasised the texture but brought out extra colours too. The light similarly added colour to the plants and to the glass panels featured in another of the display gardens.

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A wander back through the Stuart-Smith gardens gave us the chance to see the planting in a different light. As the afternoon had progressed the sun dropped down lower and was back-lighting the plants, giving a very different perspective.

 

 

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The Rose Walk was still remarkably colourful with Roses, Cleomes and Verbena bonariensis still putting on strong performances. Butterflies and bees were still busy here too, the blooms having attracted them as they emerged hunting for sustenance as the temperatures rose slightly in the afternoon sunlight. You can see our long shadows cast across the border.

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From the long metal pergola we looked back over the Oudolf gardens and at the shrubs nearby and the butter yellow leaves of the Wisteria climbing over the framework.

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Now we can look forward to our final visit to Trentham for this year in readiness to publish the final episode in this series of posts. So far we have determined that gardens at Trentham are worthy of a visit any month of the year. Let us hope our December visit confirms it.

 

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A garden in September – Trentham

So here we are back for the September visit to the wonderful gardens at Trentham. We arrived in bright sunshine which was a big change to the usual weather on our visits here. Usually we get wet but today looked set fair with blue sky with just a scattering of white clouds. As we walked over the bridge into the gardens we looked down into the River Trent below to see it swollen with floodwater and carrying much dirt in its wake. The water of the Trent flowed brown and the grasses of Piet Oudolf’s River of Grasses refleced this colour.

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Moving into Oudolf’s Prairie there was much more variety in the colours although grasses remained powerful elements. The tall herbaceous perennials were showing deepening colours as autumn approaches. Rich rubies, purples and blues were, in places, lit up by the crisp white of the Seleniums and sunny yellows of Solidago.

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Leaving the subtle but at the same time exciting Prairie we wandered off towards the Italian Garden with its traditional style of planting. We passed through a Hornbeam tunnel where the autumnal light played with shadows. Leaving its coolness our eyes were assaulted by Begonias and brightly leaved bananas.

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We always look forward to our first glimpse of the delights that await us in Tom Stuart-Smith’s Italianate parterres. Looking from the balustrade the view spread out below in the geometric beds promised so much of interest, while a quick glance below showed bursts of red Dahlias and yellow Rudbeckias.

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Once down among the many beds we soon discovered just what flowers were giving us the colourful sights.

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These colours were enriched all the more by the russets and chocolates of the grasses and seed heads of perennials such as Phlomis and Verbascums.

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We reluctantly left the Tom S-S plantings behind us and ambled off through the tall trees of the old parkland towards the display gardens. We glanced at the early autumn colours of Prunus trees between the silver bark of the trunks of Betula. Some Betula trunks were showing their great age and their textures contrasted strongly with their younger smoother neighbours.

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Rhus trees were showing deep orange foliage which matched the petals of a lovely Dahlia.

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Elsewhere another Rhus partnered a red leaved Cotinus. Coloured glass leaves atop silver stems added more colour close by.

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White and purple spires of Actaea caught the light.

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In the Allotment Garden orange globes of pumpkins were drying in the sun and heat of this Indian Summer.

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After a light lunch we made our way towards the Rose Walk to see how things had changed since our visit last month. We passed back through some of the Tom S-S borders where we were drawn for a closer look towards the long thin seed pods of Amsonias.

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Seedheads and dying flower heads of many different perennials and grasses were so enthralling that our walk back through these borders took rather longer than anticipated.

 

 

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A long line of thin rectangular borders designed by Piet Oudolf act as a link between the Tom S-S garden and the Rose Walk. Here colour abounded.

 

 

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In the Rose Walk itself most rose bushes were still in flower and tall flowers such as Cleome and Verbena bonariensis added even more colour.

 

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We enjoyed the views from the Rose Walk back towards Oudolf’s Prairie and River of Grasses. We could also see the shrubs growing alongside it including a spectacular deciduous Euonymous with orange and red fruits.

 

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So this Indian Summer we are enjoying provided us with great light to view the gardens at Trentham but the strange seasons mean that many perennials and grasses were far more autumnal than we could have expected. Next month’s return to Trentham may well show Trentham to be well in the grip of Autumn.

 

 

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A Garden in July and August – Trentham

So back to Trentham to see how good this wonderful garden is throughout the year. Because of preparing for the first ever opening of our garden we will have to join July and August together and do just this one post. From past experience of visiting in late summer we had high expectations. We expected the River of Grasses to have grown tall and be flowering profusely and for the herbaceous perennials to be full of colour, texture and structure. So let’s have a wander to see what is going on.

We entered the gardens over the little curved bridge over the River Trent and got our first look over the Piet Oudolf gardens. The River of Grasses was showing stress after the strange weather so far in 2014, with the grasses only looking half grown and showing no signs of flowering.

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Taking the gravel path through the winding row of River Birches we were amazed by views of Oudolf’s prairie planting. After the restful green shades of the River of Grasss there was suddenly so much colour! The planting combinations worked together showing great use of contrasting colours and textures.

 

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Persicaria, Eupatorium, Echinacea, Monarda, Sedum and Sanguisorba were star performers. But there was lots more to appreciate too!

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We were sad to leave this area with its gentle atmosphere and some of the best plant combinations you can find anywhere in England. But we were here on a mission, seeking out the changes since our June visit. So off we went to the bit of Trentham we don’t like, the Italian Garden with its gaudy bedding plants. But it is part of the story so I took a few pics of the bedding. Below the balustrading the narrow border was much better with its Aeoniums, Kniphofias and Dahlias. At this time the drizzle started to fall and as usual we got our Trentham soaking.

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From the balustrade we got our first views of Tom Stuart-Smith’s redesigned Italian parterre garden. The garden seemed gentler in colour on this visit with a concentration of greens and yellows with clusters of mauves and purples.

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Any red or orange looked stunning in this company of course, especially the Heleniums and Crocosmias, with an odd surprise Hemerocalis thrown in for added interest.

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As usual the corner beds looked great encouraging the visitor to explore further. We certainly enjoyed them as we moved on towards the display gardens.

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Within the display gardens there were several little areas of interest, such as this old fence leaning on the ivy-covered wall and the delicate pink planting.

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As usual we made our way back to the car via the Rose Walk, where our senses were invaded.

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This piece of sculpture created by Mother Nature stopped us in our tracks – never before had we seen Foxtail Lilies looking quite like this with their towering stems dotted with marble-sized seeds affording a are glimpse of its unusual structural qualities.

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From the Rose walk we glanced across through the wrought iron supports to Piet Oudolf’s River of Grasses and his Prairie plantings.

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Trentham never lets us down. We were expecting to see big changes and lots of colour on this visit and we were not disappointed, except for the River of Grasses where the grasses seemed small and lacking in flowers just like ours at home. The weather this year has a lot to answer for! So next visit will be in September when once again we will go with great expectations and full of excited anticipation.

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A Garden in April – Trentham

So here we are on our April visit to the gardens at Trentham, already the fourth in this series of posts looking at Trentham Gardens throughout the year.

We immediately notice that the fresh growth of Spring is well underway. The grasses in the River of Grasses are no longer brown and dead but putting on strong bright green growth. The herbaceous growth huddled in the grasses is looking vigorous with Trollius adding splashes of gold. Euphorbias look vibrant under the river of birches. Leaf buds are bursting on all the deciduous trees.

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As we move into Piet Oudolf’s perennial prairie plantings some plants are well into growth where others have barely started. Thalictrum and Amsonias are looking particularly vibrant.

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Leaving the Prairie area we immediately notice that the Hornbeam arbor has grown vigorously and is now looking like a big shaggy sheep. The bench is a great place to get a shaded, secret, quiet moment. The arbor looks like it could get up and walk away!

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As you may remember from our earlier visits we move through grassed areas with shrub borders towards the Italian Garden, passing through an avenue of Hornbeam on the way. The tulips in this part of the garden are nothing short of startling! We are not sure at all of some of the colour combinations but they are definitely cheerful.

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From here we take our usual look over Tom Stuart-Smith’s garden where bursts of colour mostly oranges and blues greet us. When we get closer we realise they are the colour is provided by Camassias and various Euphorbias.

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Let us now have a closer look at some of the individual plants of interest.

Firstly the strange Primula like flowers of Dalmera peltata looking like pink lollypops on tall sticks. The flowers come before there is any sign of the leaves and the flower stem appears out of the rizomes which sit right on the surface of the soil. The leaves when they do appear are equally dramatic – big circular leaves held right off the ground.

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The flower shoots of Eremurus robustus, the Fox Tail Lily are appearing at the base of the whorl of leaves. These were the mystery leaves in last month’s visit. The grey-pink blooms of the Giant Red Deadnettle, Lamium orvala wrap themselves right up the stems between the leaf clusters.

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The yellow pea flowers of  the Thermopsis montana, variously known as False Lupin, Golden Pea, Revonpapu and so on,  are just freshly out and blend nicely with the silvery green leaves.

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As we leave the Tom Stuart-Smith gardens we notice, as we follow the gravel pathway to the display gardens, that the daffodils in colour on our last visit are still presenting a haze of yellow.

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On our return journey through the garden we notice the newly emerging flower bud of this Allium, sitting like a table tennis ball in the centre of the three leaves. The fresh leaves on a deciduous tree stand out in sharp contrast to the dullness of its evergreen companion even in dull light.

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Tulips adorn the Rose Walk where the roses are budding strongly. From here we can look back on the team of gardeners beavering away heads down in their waterproof jackets.

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Looking through the rose pergola we can see the green growth in the River of Grasses. Alongside this path Corydalis is flowering at ground level whereas at a higher level the red leaves of the Acer manage to look cheerful in the rain.

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So we leave Trentham in the rain yet again and look forward to our May visit when maybe we will see a little sunshine and a blue sky!

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Italian style gardens outdoor sculpture Uncategorized

A Garden in March – Trentham

This post sees us visiting one of our favourite gardens to visit, Trentham, for the third time this year.

panorama trentham

We were hoping for slightly better weather for our March wander but it was cold and mostly overcast. The breeze was icy enough to make our eyes and noses run!

nb

Passing over the bridge over the River Trent we get our first glimpse of the gardens and at first sight little has changed in Piet Oudolf’s River of Grasses. There remains a lot of straw coloured stems mostly now cut low to the ground but within them we found one lonely daffodil blooming away cheerfully. A joke by a gardener perhaps? A rogue that came in a wheelbarrow from the compost heap? Beneath the trees in the sweep of River Birches the chatreuse bracts of the euphorbias glow like swarms of glow Worm.

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Moving into the Piet Oudolf prairie borders there are signs of strong growth on many perennials especially the Thalictrum, Papavers and Monardas. Beneath the old Yew trees the circles of Cyclamen continue to bloom for the third month running.

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The only change with the Hornbeam arbour is that the leaf buds are on the verge of bursting and the gardeners have painted the bench. Nearby we found seagull shaped areas of crocus in the lawns just as last month we had found them created from snowdrops.

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Moving through the Hornbeam tunnel we discovered that the Helebores we enjoyed so much in February were still going strong. When we reached the Italian Garden with their formal beds we found much more colour than on previous visits with daffodils, pansies and primulas flowering within the box hedging. A splash of yellow from a Forsythia matched the golden blooms of the daffodils growing in the urns along the stone balustrades. They were lovely daffs with clear yellow colour throughout and long trumpets with slightly reflex petals (flying backwards!).

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The distant view over the Tom Stuart-Smith Italinate Garden looked much the same until we peered over the ballustrades and we immediately noticed a sea of blue mist. On closer inspection we discovered the colour was from masses of Scillas. It is a good year for Scillas – such common little bulbs but such a brilliant blue that enhances everything that is alongside it. We found them with the fresh bronze-purple filigree foliage of fennel, with narcissi and with another small bulb which I think may have been Chionodoxa.

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These huge, strongly bursting bulbs we believe may be Cardiocrinum gigantium. We shall find out on future visits.

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Moving from Tom Stuart-Smith’s garden towards the old parkland we came across a new addition to the collection of fairy sculpture dotted around the gardens. This new one is by far the best, a fairy blowing the seed parachutes from a dandelion seedhead. So delicate! My photos do not do it justice.

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We were enjoying the sight of thousands of daffodils growing in the lawns when a sudden shower of icy rain and hail forced us to take an early coffee break but we were soon wandering again through the “display gardens”. You can see that the first picture of the daffs was taken through a haze of rain.

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Watch this space! One area of the display gardens was being re-developed so we shall have something new to discover on our April visit. There were some exiting metal structures going up but apart from that we couldn’t even guess what the gardeners and landscapers were up to.

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We took a detour into a part of the gardens that we did not even know existed – a short woodland trail. We couldn’t access it all as work was being done to the fire pit area but we liked what we saw. Sadly the visit to the bird hide was a waste as the multitude of bird feeders hanging there were empty! The woodland is alongside the lake and on the lakeside we found batches of this mysterious looking plant with yellow-green flowers in a tight umbrella shaped head. Does anyone recognise it?

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Den building was an activity provided for the children and it looked as if they had been enjoying being creative.

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Making our way back to the car we passed the rose border where perennials were coming into growth strongly. The view through to Piet Oudolf’s River of Grasses looked just as it did last month. The roses were making new growth especially the climbers. We found a colourful planting of hellebores and Brunnera “Jack Frost” as we left the garden which was a real bonus.

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I shall close with my one successful photo of the fairy sculptures – at least one worked! So we are now looking forward to out April visit when there should be a lot of change. The growth rate will be accelerating nicely by then.

adce

 

Categories
garden design garden photography garden pools garden seating gardening gardens gardens open to the public grasses hardy perennials light light quality meadows natural pest control ornamental grasses outdoor sculpture trees water in the garden Winter Gardening winter gardens

A Garden in January – Trentham – Part Two

Welcome back to Trentham in January where we find ourselves in the part of the garden featuring the Italian Garden re-designed by Tom Stuart-Smith.

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From the raised terraces of the Italian Parterre we can see how symmetrical and rigid the structure is. Tom Stuart-Smith has designed a brilliant garden within this structure using grasses and perennials similar to those used by Piet Oudolf. If anything the planting is more varied. The impressive thing about his design is the way soft flowing plant combinations can look so good in a formal setting.

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I always particularly like these corner beds with their plantings of low grasses, sedum, phlomis, marjoram and knautia. The little box edging is a most effective foil for the softness of the planting.

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Our walk around Tom Stuart-Smiths plantings was interrupted by a shower of freezing rain accompanied by cold winds. We sheltered in the loggia conveniently located nearby. This afforded us a good view over much of this area.

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We managed another five minutes exploration of this garden when the heavens opened once again. Conveniently by this time we were close to the coffee shop which is always our half way stopping point so we retreated to enjoy a welcomed beverage and slice of something sweet. The cafe is housed in a beautifully designed modern building based on a semi-circle. It sits snuggly within a clump of trees. The seating fits all around the floor to ceiling windows giving great views over the Tom S-S gardens.

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The wind was moving the grasses around and skewing the water in the fountains. It illustrated how important grasses can be in any garden, as even the slightest breeze sets them waving.

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Within the grasses the seedheads of the perennials were the stars of the show.

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The garden team were busy cutting down the perennials in the beds which had been worst effected by the winter weather. If you look carefully you may spot the one gardener’s amusing headgear! When she bent over it looked as if it was Yogi Bear doing the work!

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We made a diversion into the area beyond the cafe and tall trees where the show gardens are. We found a few new gardens including a “Stumpery” (a favourite garden feature of Mrs Greenbench) and this row of colourful dogwoods, Cornus Midwinter Fire.

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The glass panels in one of the gardens looked brilliant alongside the russet coloured grasses.

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Close to the cafe is an area for children’s play with climbing frames, a maze, a bare foot walk, road ways for sit-on toys and these superb sandpits. Because of the poor weather they were sadly deserted today but they are usually very popular. It is so good to see children absorbed in play that does not involve screens or batteries!

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As we neared the end of our wander we walked beneath the metal archways of the “Trellis Walk” running alongside the David Roses border. Here there were roses still trying to bloom and others with hips on. The gardens are maintained organically so within these borders we found lovely insect shelters and clumps of Phacelia plants both designed to bring in beneficial insects. Four beautiful relief panels were spread out along the border depicting different garden movements  from the past. We could see through the trellis walkway back to the “River of Grasses” and in the ever-darkening late afternoon light the grasses really seemed to glow. We now look forward to re-visiting in February to see what is going on.

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