Friday, August 13, 2010

Glorious Shropshire summer days

A short stint of house and chicken sitting for friends in sunny Shropshire allowed me ample time to pad round some glorious gardens (including The Dorothy Clive garden and Wollerton Old Hall) in the environs. The last one was Trentham Gardens a huge estate with some spectacular gardens. Think mature meets modern. I visited in the winter last year and was breath taken by Tom Stuart Smith's Italian Garden borders so felt a summer visit to see it all in it's full glory was both appropriate and frankly a must do whilst staying less than an hour away!

It was heaving with families and kids, HEAVING.  I headed along the Trent beside the frothing grass paths and sculpture.

Sculpture and Grasses

Coming upon the Piet Oudolf borders is a delight they tantalise along the river path  inviting you to explore the wide paths and deep, blocky planting. Somehow there is something much more satisfying about big blocks of plants, not 3's, 5's 8's per Fibonacci but 34's, 55's and 89's (also Fibonacci's but bigger :) )

Piet Oudolf borders

Swathes of Echinacea, White Swan and purpurea and probably several other so (no plant list :( ), Eupatorium purpureum, Solidago, Achillea, all colours and sizes, bluest Salvias, stands of Monada's, and pink/purple Liatris amongst them and then, of course with blocks of grasses to form backdrops and punctuations in the floriferous groups.
Birch copse with grasses

Two smallish copses of birch (Betula utilis and nigra I think) underplanted with grasses promise of future season when they will join the mature canopy of trees that dot the gardens. Seeing the layering of the plantings against the well established shrubs and trees re-inforces the vital importance of seeing the planting scheme within the whole environment.
Stretching on forever

This section of garden is maintained by 1 full time and 1 part time person plus volunteers which surprised me. It's pretty weedless and looked in excellent shape given the time of year and recent dry spell. I was lucky enough to speak at length with the gardener about her plants and the maintenance of this beautiful series of borders. Her enthusiasm for the plants and the development are infectious and lead one to imagine it will indeed develop over time and not remain static.

beautiful blooms

Crossing the paths into the Italian Garden proved something of a disappointment though. They just didn't look great. The planting was bitty, or so it seemed, there were a lot of unfilled gaps, collapsed plants that were still flowering and shockingly weeds at eye height. OK I am not a weed snob and know it's impossible to maintain a completely weed free environment but 5'6" (eye height for me!) flowering dandelions? c'mon! that's just poor management!

5'6" Taraxacum officinale - DANDELION!

At the time I thought the whole area looked unkempt - hardly appropriate for the formality of the space - but looking back at shots it doesn't strike me as so uninspiring. Maybe it felt worse in comparison to the boldness and striking planting of the Oudolf borders, maybe it was simply a hard year for the plants in that area. But uninspiring it was.

Italian Gardens

Italian Gardens

scale of planting in Italian Garden

and can I just say Trentham what on earth possessed you to plant this up in the upper (Italian) gardens? talk about poor juxtaposition!

hideous bedding in upper Italian gardens

The 100 ideas gardens on the whole were not worth photographing, which is  a mean thing to say but they were so badly looked after - think dying plants, weeds, gaps, dead plants, broken fences, that I was shocked they were clearly starting to hard landscape for new ones. This was such a change from my December 09 visit when they were all looking full of promise and good structure.

WHICH just goes to show one season does not a good garden make!

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