A Capability Brown landscape updated by Piet Oudolf, Nigel Dunnett and Tom Stuart-Smith sounds like a garden worth seeing. Put this together with a “Country House Rescue” project and that formed the basis for a trip arranged by the Leicestershire & Rutland Gardens Trust. The trip was to Heath House and Trentham Gardens.
The estate was financially non viable and was a candidate in Country House Rescue featuring Ruth Watson in 2010. It is now in the process of being transformed into a wedding venue. The surrounding 125-acre parkland includes an old walled kitchen garden, former stables and a delightful Regency orangery that overlooks a sunken rose garden with clipped box hedging and stone balustrades. There is still work to be done, particularly on the garden and out buildings but the location is stunning
Approach to the Orangery
View from the Orangery
The box is cut late in the year to avoid browning of the leaves. Apparently the brides do not like it when the leaves are scorched with the sun!
The pergola was being destroyed by the weight of an old wisteria and is in the process of renovation with half the uprights having been rebuilt.
Heath House enjoys a fabulous location and as such the borrowed landscape enhances the gardens. If you are in the area when they are open it would be worth a visit.
Gardens that were well known for their carpet bedding borders were given a major makeover in 2003-2005 by Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith.
The Floral Labyrinth
Piet Oudolf’s distinctive prairie planting of perennials and grasses is now a well known gardening style. Running alongside the River Trent there are two main areas. The Floral Labyrinth, which Oudolf describes as having a pattern like “the neck of a giraffe”, consists of a network of borders divided by wide grass paths which are interspersed with little clearings. There is then a dividing curtain of river birch (Betula nigra) before you move into a wet meadow.
The Rivers of Grass
This area is The Rivers of Grass and looking down on it the movement of the grasses simulates the movement of a river. It is simply planted with two varieties of molinia grasses (‘Edith Dudszus’ and ‘Heidebraut’) and some dotted colour (Persicaria bistorta ‘Superba’ or Astilbe chinensis). Unfortunately this area was not looking particularly good as, following a winter chop, the grasses had not attained a good enough height to really move in the wind.
The Floral Labyrinth:
The best source of plant names is from Piet’s web site where the original planting plans can be downloaded. There are two viewing mounds which enable you to look down on both the areas.
Tom Stuart-Smith’s contemporary naturalistic planting combines the formality of the Victorian Italianate parterre with soft grasses and perennials, punctuated by the strong verticals of yew.The Italian garden links the site of the Trentham Hall with the lake and can be seen beyond the last of the carpet bedding schemes although Tom modified this with the yews and Stipa gigantea.
Nigel is well known for his wildflower meadows and was responsible for much of the wildflower plantings in the Olympic Park. At Trentham he has planted his traditional pictorial meadows and is experimenting with a new woodland garden under shade. August is not prime month for such planting but the meadows still looked spectacular.
Overall, the new garden developments at Trentham are worth seeing, particularly if, as we had, one of the excellent garden guides to show you around and give you some of the insider information on the garden. However, beware, Trentham is also a major destination for people with little interest in gardening but go for the many other attractions to be had there so choose the day you visit carefully.
Glebe House Garden
It’s Friday and at last we have a little drop of rain. Not really enough to make any difference to the dry state of the plants. Maybe the weekend will bring more rain.
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