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.


2018-10-05T09:27:08+00:00October 5th, 2018|Tags: |


  1. Mary October 5, 2018 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Happy you were able to get a few days out in September and to meet up with like-minded folks. Lunchtime pinot and overcast skies notwithstanding, your photos are grand.

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      The opportunities for days out have been few and far between this year. But before long the weather will make the prospect far less pleasant. We take our chances where we can!

  2. janesmudgeegarden October 5, 2018 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    I’m a Piet Oudolf fan as well, so I particularly enjoyed seeing these photos. I’ve already added phlomos russeliana to my must have list ( the photo of it with the calamgrostis is just so striking) even though my garden looks nothing like Trentham. What a splendid garden to visit. Thanks for the tour, Jessica,

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 6:18 pm - Reply

      It’s funny to think that June used to be seen as the highlight of the garden year. It seems to be getting later and later. Grasses and seed heads have such value, even lasting into winter if we manage to escape the autumn gales. The phlomis here does tend to suffer if the wind blows straight up the valley. In fact I’ve had to cut part of it back already. Next year I plan to move it to somewhere a little more protected.

  3. derrickjknight October 5, 2018 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    An excellent tour, well photographed.

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 6:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks Derrick. Challenging conditions this time.

  4. grammapenny October 5, 2018 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Oh my what a delicious feast..

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Yes indeed. And I bet it was even more delicious a week or so back.

  5. Julieanne October 5, 2018 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    How weird, we must have passed each other, as I visited Trentham in September too, however I’ve never got around to doing a blogpost. Your’s is so good, I need not bother πŸ˜‰

    I love the Tom Stuart-Smith redesigned Italianate Garden. I can find Italianate gardens a bit cold, but this was a wonder and we loved it too. We did do a walk (or roll in my case – scooter) around the lake, and it was enjoyable, though cool, but the gardens were much more interesting, and I can see I missed out on some areas. Well, more to see next time.

    • Julieanne October 6, 2018 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Actually, I decided to to a blogpost Jessica (you inspired me!), but I’ve just focused on the sculpture and linked to yours re the gardens:

      • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 6:44 pm - Reply

        Thanks for the link Julieanne. Trentham is so huge that it does need a whole day (if not more!) to see all of it. Denise was telling us that she visits often (she and Andy have annual passes) so they go to a different part of it each time. I suppose much in the same way as I do with RHS Rosemoor. Rosemoor doesn’t have fairies though!

  6. vonniet October 5, 2018 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Incredible flowers!

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      I’m coming to love autumn gardens almost as much as summer ones, the colours are so rich!

  7. TextileRanger October 5, 2018 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Thank you for a beautiful walk! I loved seeing all the details like the bug house and the rabbit sculpture. And that Orangery! I thought that was the main house!

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      The Orangery must have been a fabulous building in its day. Perhaps one day it will be again as the grand centrepiece of a future restoration.

  8. Rosie October 5, 2018 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    So glad you got to visit Trentham Gardens, some wonderful things have been done there over the last few years. We have an annual pass so visit a couple of times a week to walk around the lake and gardens:)

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      You’re very lucky to live so close. A brisk walk around the lake must be fabulous, even in cooler weather if you’re properly attired! I would have enjoyed seeing more of the birds.

  9. greentapestry October 5, 2018 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    It’s looking even more fabulous than it did when I visited with a friend last September. We planned to return slightly earlier this year but it didn’t work out for various reasons πŸ™ We’ve missed out on the Potager Garden and The Secret Garden so we will look out for them next time. Did you get to see the dandelion sculptures? Thanks for the tour Jessica πŸ™‚

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 7:00 pm - Reply

      We saw the dandelion sculptures only from afar. But I have a friend down here who splashed out on one for her own garden. They really are quite wonderful.

  10. Jill Chandler October 5, 2018 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    A feast for the eyes. Thanks for the tours.

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      They make it look so easy. Then I come back and look at my effort. Never mind. Patience.

  11. Linda from Each Little World October 5, 2018 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    Three of my faves: Piet, Tom S-S and Nigel. So I greatly enjoyed this vicarious visit. Any idea of the name of that intensely pinkish red Sedum in photos 8 and 9?

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      The one in picture 9 looks like ‘Purple Emperor’ but I’m not so sure about picture 8. That one seems much pinker and with less purple in the leaves.

  12. Brian Skeys October 5, 2018 at 7:20 pm - Reply

    I hope you enjoyed your visit to sunny Worcestershire Jessica. We visited Trentham two years ago with our garden club, it is one of THE gardens to visit. I particularly liked the fairies with the dandelion seed heads.

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      It was very sunny at Malvern, a lovely day at the show. We were sitting down with a cup of coffee looking at the weather forecast for the next day which seemed to offer much of the same. Something changed overnight! But it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the garden which really is quite special.

  13. peppylady (Dora) October 6, 2018 at 1:59 am - Reply

    I know I would enjoy the garden
    Coffee is oj

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 7:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Dora and welcome.
      The garden was lovely. It would be even better backlit by the sun!

  14. Kris P October 6, 2018 at 2:57 am - Reply

    With the sheer number of fabulous public gardens available to you, I’m amazed you have time to get anything at all done in your own garden. I don’t like most garden art I see (here anyway) but the fairy hanging on to the dandelion with all she has appealed to me. I hope your bathroom project proceeds with due speed in October. On my end, out kitchen project is stalled in the city’s hands, well beyond their self-stipulated timeline.

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Nothing ever seems to happen quickly anymore. Even if we get the bathroom finished in October it will still have been 18 months since we first started planning it. And that’s only one very small room that doesn’t need any planning permission.

  15. Heyjude October 6, 2018 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    Ah, never did get to Trentham when we were living in Shropshire, and obviously missed a trick, but I am still hoping to get there one day. What lovely photos Jessica. I am not keen on the formal Italianate style, but I can appreciate the wonderful symmetry of such landscapes. And that brilliant sculpture of the fairy and the dandelion clock! I’d love to have that in my garden, though I suspect it would probably take up ALL of my garden. And how lovely to meet up with so many blogging buddies during the month. I hope the bathroom is soon at its completion.

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      I don’t much like formal lines either but this is different. The planting, especially the tall grasses, spills out and breaks through the formality. It can hardly be said to be naturalistic but it does have movement and the character that so many formal schemes lack. It sits next to Piet’s more typical design perfectly!

  16. hb October 6, 2018 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    All my sympathies on the Remodel Hell. Very anxious as mine gets closer to beginning.

    All I could think on the sculptures was Bad Hare Day. They are all far more tasteful than what can be seen here. Trentham looks like yet another must-visit UK garden. One more goes on the list. Rain/wind or not, great photos!

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      Ha Ha! Bad Hare Day. Wish I’d thought of that line.
      We shall probably still be bathroom-less long after yours is done and dusted. Every time I think we’re nearly there another problem crops up. So I’ve stopped thinking we’re nearly there.

  17. germac4 October 7, 2018 at 4:55 am - Reply

    I just love Piet Oudolf’s designs & the colours in the gardens at Trentham look gorgeous in the autumn. Another garden on our wish list! I also enjoyed the blogs of your two partners in plant buying … How lucky you are to have like minded bloggers close by.

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      Compared to Australia everyone is close by in England! But there are a few of us in Devon and others, like The Frustrated Gardener, who pass through from time to time and it is lovely to meet up if there is a chance. Eventually I will have the bank in the Oudolf style. How long it will take I have no idea, the slope complicates matters several fold. But it is a work in progress!

  18. Pauline October 7, 2018 at 6:39 am - Reply

    Another super garden to visit, love the sculptures too! I can’t believe that I missed Trentham Gardens all the years when my parents lived in Stafford! It sounds as though you all had a wonderful time at the gardens you visited and came home laden with plants!

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 8:11 pm - Reply

      They’re all planted now too! Having finally cleared the pot ghetto a month or so back I was determined to get up straight again as soon as possible. Now I just have the ‘small’ job of getting the garden in better shape for winter. I really have neglected it this year.

  19. Denise October 7, 2018 at 11:01 am - Reply

    It was a lovely weekend, Jessica, and even more lovely to meet you and Mike after all these years chatting across the blogosphere! I feel so lucky to live near the Trentham Estate. It’s a magical place all year round.

    • Jessica October 7, 2018 at 8:21 pm - Reply

      It was a fabulous weekend Denise.
      You are lucky, it’s a lovely place. I would be going back time and again to see it through the seasons. And then wondering why my plants weren’t doing half as well!

  20. Cathy October 8, 2018 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Always fun meeting fellow bloggers πŸ˜€ Well done for making it to Trentham – even though it is only ‘just down the road’ I haven’t been since the early 80s when these plantings were not even a twinkle in anybody’s eye although there was a good garden centre! Admittedly the cost might have something to do with it but i will make it sometime… πŸ˜‰

    • Jessica October 10, 2018 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      There still is a good garden centre, at which I made a purchase. Of course!

  21. wherethejourneytakesme October 8, 2018 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    I love that dandelion seed head sculpture – I have just the place for it in my garden! I need to concentrate on some better Autumn planting – the colours have a real depth of colour at this time of year.

    • Jessica October 10, 2018 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      It’s going to be a good year for colour I reckon. Except that we have a storm headed our way on Friday.. πŸ™

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