Flower power brings new life to Chatsworth’s garden

More than 50,000 flowering perennials, shrubs and trees are going into the ground at Chatsworth, ready to bring a riot of colour and new growth to the world famous 105 acre garden when it reopens later in the season.

Closed to visitors until further notice during the coronavirus pandemic, the garden team is engaged in a two-month-long planting programme in the Rock Garden, as well as the 15 acre former wilderness now known as Arcadia. Thousands of new plants are filling the four recently created open glades between the Cascade and the Grotto Pond to the south.

Working to a plan by the garden designer Tom Stuart Smith and supported by the Gucci fashion house, the 15 acres of the Arcadia area have been cleared and hundreds of new trees planted. It includes the creation of new, meadow-like glades connected by woodland walks and features a major new, stone sculpture installation called ‘Natural Course’ built by the artist Laura Ellen Bacon.

At Chatsworth, the garden usually has a full time team of 25 supported by around 75 volunteers working under Steve Porter, Head of Gardens and Landscape, but numbers have been reduced during the coronavirus pandemic. Working in different areas and observing strict social distancing and hygiene rules, a core team of ten has, however, received helping hands from the Devonshire family with both the Duke and Duchess and their daughter-in-law Lady Burlington joining in.

“The Duke has been in every day cutting tulips to give to staff, and he and the Duchess have helped with planting and watering. They appreciate everything, their feedback has been so important,” says Steve Porter.

The new, wet glade in the Arcadia area, to be known as the Bog Garden, will gain more than 34,000 new plants and bulbs including 8000 Camassia grown onsite in Chatsworth’s own nursery. Drifts of more than 2000 Candelabra Primula in six different varieties are being planted as well as IrisRodgersiaGunnera, swamp cypress (Taxodium), royal ferns and other plants able to thrive in damp conditions such as pond edges, stream banks or damp shady borders.

Work is also continuing along the Trout Stream. Planting will feature some 7000 additional plants familiar to the woodland floor, such as Tiarella and Helleborus. Redevelopment of the Trout Stream is intimately connected to Dan Pearson’s creation of Chatsworth’s ‘Best in Show’ garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015, which provided Dan with the conceptual inspiration for the new planting and seating.

In the Rock Garden, Irises will be the standout flower among more than 12,000 new plants, which will also see many more grasses, and perennials consistent with the initial planting in this area, which took place in 2019.

This latest planting is part of a total of more than 300,000 new plants and bulbs included in the transformation of a 25-acre section of Chatsworth’s historic garden. One of Britain’s largest private garden transformations, it includes a remodelled Rock Garden, new borders north and south of the Maze, a revamping of the Ravine, as well as the Trout Stream and associated Jack Pond, and the new Arcadia glades.

Garden designers Tom Stuart Smith and Dan Pearson are working alongside Chatsworth’s Head of Gardens and Landscape, Steve Porter, and his team to add major new layers to the garden at Chatsworth. The foundations of Chatsworth’s present garden and park were laid out by William Kent and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the 18th century and Joseph Paxton in the 19th century.

The 105-acre garden is the product of nearly 500 years of careful cultivation. Although some points of interest have been replaced to make way for new fashions, the garden retains many early features, including the Canal Pond, Cascade and Duke’s Greenhouse. The famous waterworks include the 300-year-old Cascade, the Willow Tree Fountain and the impressive, gravity-fed Emperor Fountain, which reaches heights of up to 90m.

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