Godbold Blacksmiths at work - Chatsworth Garden

Chatsworth: The Duke and the Giant Pumpkin

A giant pumpkin, a giant apple and a giant pear have been installed at Chatsworth from designs by celebrated garden designer Dan Pearson as the transformation of the world-famous 105-acre garden continues.

Each has a gold-coloured stem to glint in the sunshine, sitting atop a hollow, lattice fruit-shaped structure welded together from mild steel by Godbold Blacksmiths in Whitby. Situated at the entrance to the Kitchen Garden, the giant pumpkin is nearly 5 metres high (with the golden stem) and 3m wide and the largest of the three topiary installations – the apple and pear are both around 3m high x 2m wide.

The pumpkin will have three yew trees planted inside which will grow into the structure over time while the apple and pear will each have one yew planting.

Installation was supervised by Dan Pearson and Steve Porter, Head of Gardens & Landscape at Chatsworth, family home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. All three topiary structures were lifted into place to mark the entrance to the Kitchen and Cutting Garden.

Dan Pearson supervising the installation of Chatsworth topiary at the entrance to Kitchen and Cutting Garden. Credit: Chatsworth House Trust

Dan Pearson: “We wanted to create something unexpected, amusing and with real scale and visual impact that would show visitors that they were entering the Kitchen and Cutting Garden. It’s a relatively new area at Chatsworth, put in during the 1990’s, and has developed in a rather piecemeal fashion but it has become increasingly important and interesting to visitors and the Duke and Duchess were keen to reflect that.”

Chatsworth has grown its own food for centuries. All manner of fruit, salad, cut flowers and vegetables are grown in the Kitchen and Cutting Garden, supplying the house with produce while surplus is sold in the stables yard and estate farm shops. Chatsworth is also the birthplace of the Cavendish banana, first grown by Joseph Paxton in the 1830’s, and the fruit is still grown in the greenhouses today.

The topiary installations are Dan Pearson’s latest contribution to the Chatsworth Garden transformation project. His principal focus has been the redevelopment of the Trout Stream and Jack Pond, which is intimately connected to his creation of Chatsworth’s and Laurent Perrier’s ‘Best in Show’ garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015. His redesign of the currently underused Jack Pond will include a large, new Corten steel pavilion.

Installing the Chatsworth topiary at the entrance to the Kitchen and Cutting Garden. Credit: Chatsworth House Trust

Chatsworth has recently begun a series of huge new plantings, including more than 250,000 flowering perennials, shrubs and trees which are set to transform an overlooked, undeveloped 15-acre area at its heart, now named Arcadia.

More than 80,000 plants were used during the first phase of Arcadia, which began in September and continues through into spring 2020. Working to a plan by the garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith and supported by the Gucci fashion house, Arcadia will include the creation of new, meadow-like glades connected by woodland walks and featuring a major new sculpture installation. It is part of a 25-acre project that also includes a remodelled Rockery, the Maze borders, the Ravine, and Dan Pearson’s redevelopment of the Trout Stream and the Jack Pond – making it one of Britain’s largest private garden transformations.

The foundations of Chatsworth’s garden and park were laid by the celebrated garden designers 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 up to 90m.

Chatsworth Kitchen and Cutting Garden

The Kitchen and Cutting Garden has had various homes over the years, but is now sited to the east of the stables. This ground was originally called the Paddocks because it was where the carriage horses were turned out for a pick of grass.

The greenhouses were already there, but until the early 1990s it was a relatively featureless area. The 11th Duke and Duchess thought that the new enthusiasm for growing fruit and vegetables merited an investment to make the place more interesting and open for all to see.

It was laid out during the winters of 1991/2 and 1992/3. The necessary drains were laid, raised beds were built from old bricks and some new paths were bordered with railway sleepers. Iron arches were installed to support fruit trees.

All manner of fruit, salad, cut flowers and vegetables are grown, supplying the house with produce while surplus is sold in the stables yard and estate farm shops.

Beyond a beech hedge at the lower part of the garden is a small orchard growing a range of fruit bred in Derbyshire, including the apple variety Beeley Pippin.

Timeline & principal changes

Rockery | Tom Stuart-Smith | early 2018 to 2021. Principal features: Improved access and rock interest plus massed perennial plantings to provide summer long interest.

One of the earliest and largest rock gardens in the world and designed and described by Joseph Paxton as an “imitation of the natural features of a wild and rugged scene… All the vegetation… should be subordinate to it.”

Tom Stuart Smith: “The Rockery occupies an area of three acres. The entrance from the Maze is impressive; passing under Paxton’s Conservatory Arch and then through a gully planted with a great swathe of Hostas. The two entrances from the direction of the house are weak by comparison, the rockwork giving less sense of dramatic arrival and the planting being unrelated to any overriding character that the garden as a whole might have.

“Improvements to these two entrances will redefine the rock garden as a fantasy domain, full of variety, spontaneous naturalness and picturesque diversion; quite separate from the rest of the garden where openness, smoothness, and settled grandeur prevail.

“The proposed planting is more comprehensive, naturalistic and ecologically inspired, using 10-20 dominant species through the whole area to provide a distinct botanical and visual character. Hundreds of other sub dominant or occasional species are then woven into the tapestry. The areas of planting will be much more extensive than they previously were, largely eliminating several small areas of worn grass.”

Arcadia | Tom Stuart-Smith | mid 2018 to 2021 (key period for planting will be late 2019 through 2020)

Arcadia lies at the heart of the garden and at 15 acres in size, it might seem anomalous that it has never been much developed.

The principal features are made up of views out across the park or routes to other parts of the garden that surrounds it. These include the Rockery and Maze to the west, the Trout Stream to the east, and the Grotto Pond to the south while the Cascade is situated to the north.

In February 2019, 150 large trees and shrubs were planted; between September 2019 and spring 2020, Chatsworth will be planting two acres with herbaceous perennials, equating to circa 80,000 plants. Each of the planting glades will have an individual character determined by the plant content. The woodland glades, or walks, will link the planting glades together. They will have a consistent planting throughout of shade tolerant species, designed to enhance these spaces.

Maze borders | Tom Stuart-Smith | late 2018 and planted early 2019. Principal features include additional Yew topiary to complement the Maze and new, more traditional herbaceous planting.

The borders in this area are being subdivided to make them more accessible with longer season planting. Stone pillars and large Yew trees will be installed and topiaried. Herbaceous planting took place during April 2019.

Trout Steam and Jack Pond – Dan Pearson, from late 2015 and continuing into 2020. (Key period of landscaping at Jack Pond starting late 2019/early 2020)

Redevelopment of the Trout Stream is intimately connected to Dan Pearson’s creation of Chatsworth’s and Laurent Perrier’s ‘Best in Show’ garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015, which provided the conceptual inspiration for new planting and seating along the Trout Stream, which ends at the Jack Pond.

Artist impression: Chatsworth topiary in situ at the entrance to the Kitchen and Cutting Garden. Credit: Dan Pearson Studio

His latest contribution to make best use of this area will be to redesign the Jack Pond to include a large, new Corten steel pavilion. The Jack Pond is currently underused as it no longer holds water and is quite hidden by vegetation. The pavilion will be installed with a curved bench to encourage contemplation around a newly formed elliptical pond, in what will remain a secluded area. Planting will aim for a calming effect.

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