I was looking forward to meeting a fellow Garden Design student in real life! We met at Trentham Gardens: A former grand estate of the 18th century. The house was dynamited and abandoned by its family in 1912.
The garden was restored in the 1990’s and 2000’s by designers Tom Stuart-Smith (Chelsea exhibitor), Piet Oudolf (designed the Manhattan High Line) and Nigel Dunnett (Olympic Park).
We were greeted first by the Rivers of Grass. I loved the pink Persicaria, the blue Iris and the white flower whose name I can’t remember (Astilbe?) I frequently asked Olivia, the plantswoman of the two of us, ‘What’s this called?’ I have a lot to learn!
I struggled to identify the ‘river’ – perhaps it was the wrong time of year to fully appreciate the flow of grass.
The former Victorian Italianate gardens were updated by Stuart-Smith to contain naturalistic planting surrounded by low box hedges. The yew tree pillars were retained. They punctuated the scene adding height while harmonising with the distant verdant backdrop.
I really like this mixture of styles – too much naturalism just looks wild to me (lovely but not a garden).
On the cusp of Spring/Summer I don’t think the garden was at its best: It felt as if I was waiting for the full symphony of flowers to crescendo. My favourite parts were the Wisteria-covered Trellis Walk and the adjoining flower border.
I loved these colour combinations and wondered if I could replicate them at home.
On the back of the Chelsea flower show it was interesting to see the tiny show gardens with their quirky sculptures.
There is plenty for the non-garden enthusiast eg. sculptures, children’s play area and the woodland walk around the lake.
I loved the dandelion sculptures swaying slightly in the breeze as we entered the woods with their spring bulbs and meadow planting, designed by Professor Nigel Dunnett. I would love to return and see the meadows in their full glory of planted curved ribbons of colour-themed mixes.
The Waves sculpture fits perfectly alongside Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s (1780) serpentine lake. The sculpture is a legacy from John Warland’s World Vision Garden at the 2016 RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace flower shows.
The Trentham estate also has a monkey forest, garden centre, outdoor shopping centre with independent shops and restaurants. There’s enough of interest to fill a couple of days and if you, like me, live some distance away, the Premier Inn is practically on the site. You don’t need to be a Garden Design student to enjoy it.
I found it interesting because the hands of well-known garden designers have contributed to the site. I also enjoyed meeting a fellow student for a different perspective and walking around with her. Olivia was less keen on the mix of formal and naturalistic planting but had a wealth of planting knowledge I could mine. I would definitely recommend meeting your fellow course students if at all possible. I look forward to meeting more Garden Design students on future visits.
For information about Trentham Gardens visit https://trentham.co.uk/estate-gardens/about-trentham-gardens/
Main image and figs 1-9 courtesy of the author.
Fig. 10 by Olivia Evans