|Hydrangea macrophylla 'Pfau' - a well-named peacock of a plant.|
|Holehird Gardens in the rain.|
|Woodland steps at Austwick Hall|
|Crozier sculpture in the Austwick sculpture walk.|
|The Italian Garden at Trentham, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith on Sir Charles Barry's plan.|
Returning southwards on the M6 and frustrated by the crawling traffic, tempting signs led us to make the snap decision to visit the gardens at Trentham. Once the property of the Dukes of Sutherland, the estate was acquired in 1996 by St Modwen Properties Plc, who have unashamedly turned it to profitable purpose. Only being familiar with images of the garden, we were not prepared for the vast carpark and behorded retail village through which one passes, but once over the bridge into the garden that all seems very far off.
The gardens were laid out in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries to accompany successive incaranations of the great house, Trentham Hall: first (1759-1780) with a 'Capability' Brown landscape of lake and wooded vistas, which remains magnificent, and the formal Italian gardens adjacent to the house, created by Sir Charles Barry in the 1830-40s. The house fell into disuse and was demolished in 1911, but the landscape survived and has been magnificently, and justly famously, restored by St Modwen. The centre piece remains the vast Italian garden, whose parterre beds have been filled with grasses and perennials in the modern style by Tom Stuart-Smith, but adjacent to it are areas designed by Piet Oudolf (the 'Floral Labyrinth' and 'Rivers of Grass'), a Victorian trellis walk, and areas of lawns and trees.
We arrived with just half-an-hour off sunlight left, in the unpleasantly and suddenly shortened winter afternoon, but the low sun showed the plantings at their most beautiful and radiant - a really lovely sight. It was interesting to compare the styles of the two designers: Oudolf's big bold blocks, and the subtle diversity of Stuart-Smith's plantings, so skilfully worked into a true parterre with formal box edging. Once again, this is a place to return to and really explore and study.
|Artichoke heads embedded in grasses.|
|Miscanthus plumes catching the last of the sunshine.|
|Piet Oudolf's Labyrinth of Flowers.|