Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire

And so another month has passed me by.

It wasn’t meant to be this long a break, for which I apologise. Not least because it was supposed to be my ‘month off’. A month spent pottering happily in the garden and devoid of bathroom related angst.Β  Well ha ha to that. Best laid plans and all. No, it fell apart almost on Day 1 and September, while it’s seen some brighter interludes, wasn’t all sunshine and leisurely lunches taken al fresco on the lawn. A hastily grabbed sandwich en route to the bathroom shop more like. Or the architectural salvage yards. Never mind. A couple of very pleasant weekends out makes up for a lot.

The first was a visit to RHS Rosemoor with The Frustrated Gardener (here) and my more usual partner in crime, Torrington Tina. I’ve been reading Dan’s blog for many years now and it was truly a pleasure to meet him. So what happens when not one but three plantaholics descend on the garden and perhaps even more importantly the Autumn Plant Heritage Fair? Well all I can say is, it’s just as well we brought along our own plant creche facility. And extra hands to carry all the booty back to the car. You can read Dan’s eloquent account of our adventure by following the link above.



Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire


And then this last weekend we travelled north to visit the RHS Malvern Autumn Show and in doing so had the equally delightful opportunity to meet up with fellow blogger Denise and her husband Andy. Having recently escaped from Much Malarkey Manor to a much quieter life in the country Denise will have you in stitches over her Damson Cottage Capers (here). Goats, alpacas, enormous vegetables, a craft and food fair, plant nurseries a plenty, Malvern has it all. While Mike and Andy did the man thing and perused the many purveyors of garden toys machinery, Denise and I hit the RHS Floral Marquee. Where yet more damage was done. Four new plants to find a home for is one thing. But why do we now have brochures for rotovators? Just what, exactly, is Mike planning??



The Floral Labyrinth, Trentham Gardens

And being in Malvern put us within striking distance of somewhere else. I’ve been wanting to visit Trentham for ages. I’ve mentioned before that Piet Oudolf is a bit of a hero and he has a garden here. Just look at that miscanthus. And the persicaria. The dark leaved sedum. The colours, the texture, the movement. Could we persuade Denise and Andy to join us for a second day and a stroll around the garden? We could. It’s almost on their home turf.

At first glance Trentham might not seem the place for the horticultural purist. It has a shopping village. And childrens’ playgrounds. And Monkey Forest with 140 Barbary macaques wandering free (which actually I’d have visited if time had been on our side). It’s meant to be an attraction for everyone, not solely the preserve of the committed garden enthusiast. But don’t let that put you off. This is no theme park in the same way that, dare I say it, The Eden Project has always seemed to me. No. There is real inspiration to be gleaned here and, as you’ll have gathered already, big names in the garden design world have contributed their skills.



The Orangery, Trentham Hall

At the heart of the estate, a ruin. It gives a flavour of how grand Trentham Hall must once have been, the former seat of the Dukes of Sutherland. The main centre section of the house was demolished in the early 20th century and now only the outer wings remain, in a sad and sorry state. The estate was purchased in 1996 by St. Modwen Properties, a property investment and development company. While the restoration of the buildings has yet to prove economically viable the gardens and surrounding landscape were developed in 2003/4, attracting visitors in the hundreds of thousands each year.



The Italianate Garden restored in 2004 by renowned designer Tom Stuart-Smith sweeps down to a mile long lake dug by Lancelot (Capability) Brown in or around 1758.



Stipa gigantea



Plants more typically associated with modern, naturalistic plantings nestle within the formal structure of the garden.



Phlomis russeliana and Calamagrostis.



Bizarrely, it seems to work. Even this late in the season when the borders take on a decidedly relaxed feel, architectural seed heads mix seemlessly with the last of the summer blooms.



I have to admit, this is not my most accomplished set of shots. The blurry bits must be attributed to the heavily overcast day and the rather strong breeze. The lunchtime Pinot is, of course, of total inconsequence. Lightroom is wonderful for straightening out horizons is it not?



I would have loved a wander around the lake but by this time the clouds had properly rolled in and there was rain in the wind. Given that the weather forecast had been somewhat different, anything faintly resembling a waterproof coat was, on my part, four and a half hours farther south. The smart money backed a retreat to the cafe for a coffee.



Sculpture is a big thing at Trentham. An owl flying majestically over the grass..



There are many more fairies on the trail around the lake. This one acts like a weather vane, rotating in tune with the breeze. There was certainly plenty of that. Bad hair days all round..



And what do we have here? Caught, red pawed. You might well look aghast Mr Hare.. that’s Mr Oudolf’s River of Grass you’re quietly digging up.



The Potager Garden

Alongside the formal gardens, a series of smaller show gardens bring things down to a more urban scale. The resident hens, Heather and Hazel, had regrettably gone into hiding.



Bug House in The Secret Garden



The Wildflower Meadow, still bursting with colour on this last day of September.

Had the weather been more amenable for that walk around the lake we’d have seen much more of this. There are extensive areas given over to meadow planting, developed by Nigel Dunnett the mastermind behind the highly acclaimed wildflower meadows at the 2012 London Olympic Park.


I’ll leave you with a couple more shots of Oudolf magic.





Golden rod, grasses and asters. Now why didn’t I think of that.