The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A tour of ......Trentham gardens

One of my gardening heroes is Nigel Dunnett, he specialises in research of 'modern' meadows and planting schemes using diverse plants with wildlife in mind but also plants to give a long flowering season. He was involved in developing the Pictorial meadows seed mixes, colourful flower meadow seed mix which are less reliant on nutrient poor soil. Originally I guess he had more of a lean towards landscape design in an urban setting and he was one of the designers for the Olympic park planting, he's transformed parts of Sheffield with his innovative planting plans and designs and he's also done the planting round the Barbican in London. He's a big advocate of green roofs and water management within garden design and has designed a number of gardens with these sorts of themes for the Chelsea Flower Show. I heard that he was developing some new perennial meadows and planting schemes at Trentham Gardens near Stoke and so this was on my summer list of gardens to visit.
Trentham was obviously a very big and impressive estate at one time but there are only a few remains of the house left. The demise of the estate was partly blamed on pollution in this once very industrial area and the house was abandoned in 1905, eventually sold and demolished in 1911. It seems there have been a few semi-revivals of the estate in the 1930s and again in the 1980s. My sisters have very fond memories of visits there as children, remembering the outdoor swimming pool there. But there appeared to be no big redevelopment until it was bought by a property company, who went on to build a shopping village with restaurants and a large garden centre at one side of the estate. This might make you cringe a bit but maybe it was necesary to revive the garden. They certainly seem to been innovative regarding the garden, bringing in experienced designers and plantsman such as Piet Oudolf, Tom Stuart-Smith and Nigel Dunnett.
After my visit there I feel excited for its development, it feels like a garden continually evolving and on the move embracing new concepts and ideas. It has a rich garden history, including the man of the moment Capability Brown who did a lot of work on the estate enlarging the lake and designing the main landscaped park. This is where we bring in Nigel Dunnett as he has been asked to develop the planting around this Brownian landscape to mark the tercentenary of the the man himself. There is more evidence within the garden of this concept of retaining the old but invigorating it with modern planting in the 19th century Italian garden, designed by Charles Barry. These have seen a makeover by Tom Stuart-Smith with perennial planting.

Piet Oudolf created the long borders flanking the Italian Garden.

Piet Oudolf was involved in the initial redevelopment where some new areas were created including the Rivers of Grass area.
Plus the Floral labyrinth where you can get up close and walk amongst fabulously tall perennial planting.

At the far end of the garden are some of the remains from the original big house.
However to see the new meadow planting schemes you need to walk round the lake through the estate. You can go on boat trips on the lake and also you may see rowers and other boat users as at the far end is the Trentham boat and canoe club who train here.
This summer there has been a scheme to engage children on the walk round the lake and through the estate where you can seek out the Trentham fairies which can be found dotted around the lake. These were delightful little wire creations which certainly engaged the child in me!

Around the estate there were also some stunning wood sculptures by Andy Burgess who is based in Cheshire and creates them from old tree stumps using a chain saw!
This top one was my favourite, a group of otters.

But there were a couple more...

But on to the meadow planting that I wanted to see, there were some perennial meadows close to the entrance at the side of the lake. Looking very purple with Verbena bonariensis, Leucanthemum, Achillea, Scabious, Lychnis coronaria Alba, Sanguisorba amongst the grasses.

Then there are a couple of areas of annual meadow planting, one a frothy mix of pinks and blues, mostly Cosmos when we went but there were cornflowers, Ammi, poppies and corncockles in the mix.

There was some tantalising shady meadow planting in the woodland areas of the lakeside, there was some mass planting of Michaelmas daisies. Unfortunately I couldn't get any very good photos of these. But they lit up this shady area.

Further along was some newer planting of spring flowering shade lovers a mix of Brunnera, Lamium, Ferns, Epimediums, Geraniums which will be interesting to follow its development.
But then as you walk back to the far end of the lake the woodland opens out into a meadow full of sunshine, looking glorious under the tall giants of the Redwoods.
Hope this wasn't too long a post but there was just so much to see in this beautiful estate, great for a good walk, lots of fabulous planting to see, there are big play areas for kids, a couple of cafes, you could spend the whole day there and I definitely recommend that you do just that.


  1. Truly lovely. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love to see the mass planting of flowers as you have shown in some of your photographs. Oh to have enough space to be able to do this myself. I also love the annual flower meadow as this is something that I try to achieve on a very small scale on our plot. Also love the dandelion clock sculpture.

  3. A most enjoyable, and interesting, post with lots of wonderful pictures.
    The combination of colourful planting and stunning views clearly make this a place well worth visiting more than once. Flighty xx

  4. Oh gosh, I could spend all day there! The Piet Oudolf borders are wonderful. If I can create something half as good here I'd be over the moon.

  5. What a wonderful place, thank you for showing it to us! Love the meadow planting, fabulous to see so many flowers together. Also love all the sculptures, especially the pole the pole vaulting fairy!

  6. An interesting post with some lovely photos. I really love the idea of the meadow planting. RHS Hyde Hall (near to me)has started meadow projects here, again using experience from the Olympic Park. It is fascinating watching it develop. I love the chainsaw carvings, too - especially those otters.

  7. Wow, isn't it all amazing? You have inspired me to go visit! I loved it all, the sculptures are fantastic, but my favourite has to be those wire fairies, I love the one with the hair hanging

  8. Some stunning photos Annie. I really loved the fairies and wood sculptures too. Are dogs welcome there??

  9. A most informative and enjoyable post Annie which has only whetted my appetite to visit Trentham. My plans to visit this summer were thwarted but I'm debating an autumn visit. Was it August when you visited ? I am sure that I've seen sculpture by Andy Burgess in a Cheshire garden but exactly where is evading me at the moment. Thanks for sharing your visit.

    1. Yes it was August. It would be interesting to see how the meadows looked over time. I'd like to have seen them earlier in the year.
      I'm sure you'll have seen Andy Burgess sculptures around Cheshire if you look at his website there are quite a few around this region.