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Talking and walking through Trentham Gardens - The Open College of the Arts

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Talking and walking through Trentham Gardens thumb

Talking and walking through Trentham Gardens

Online studying can be a lonely experience.  The Garden Design Students have an amazing WhatsApp group with advice and encouragement a plenty, but nothing beats getting together and meeting in person.  A Student meet up was organised for the last May Bank Holiday, somewhere in the middle of everyone’s home towns.  Trentham Gardens was suggested and appealed to all as a place famous Designers have been asked to cast their eye over specific areas within their expertise.  Unfortunately life gets in the way of leisure activities and the closer we got to the date, the smaller the group attending.  On the day I was pleased to meet up with the wonderful Deb, with her love for plants and knowledge of Trentham, the whole day was a delight.

Remarkably for a Bank Holiday, the weather was perfect.  The sun shone bright to  show off the colours and the breeze made everything dance.  We were relaxed in our progress around the gardens, enjoying the sights and trying to take the perfect photos.  Touching plants and examining planting schemes.  Trying to work out the seasons of interest and where the fragrance was coming from.  It was a delight for all the senses.

Figure 1, Alliums and perennials in border (2023)

The famous designer, Professor Nigel Dunnett, designed the Woodland Meadow area inspired by North American woodlands.  Using herbaceous and ground cover to create well defined garden rooms with their own character.  Started in 2016, you can see the more mature areas full to the brim with swathes of colour.  Silene frimbata was one of my favourites, standing 3-4 foot tall, it covered a great expanse of dappled shade.  It has delicate bell shaped flowers and soft green foliage.  It swayed in the wind with the under planting creating space and enhancing the movement.

Figure 2,  Silene frimbata in a woodland area (2023)

I was so happy to see the use of dead wood and log piles within the woodland areas.  Dead wood can be a habitat for over 2000 types of insects, birds and mammals, amphibians and reptiles, in all or part of their life cycles. It therefore holds more biodiversity than when it was living.  At Trentham, they displayed them as sculptures, creating foci and interest.  Beauty in what would be considered waste.  We are always so quick to tidy up the garden and to use new plants and trees to increase biodiversity, so this was an interesting lesson for me.  To create your own or to just learn more: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/dead-wood-for-wildlife/#:~:text=as%20a%20habitat-,The%20importance%20of%20decaying%20wood,their%20home%20in%20old%20wood.

Figure 3 Roots of tree used as sculpture (2023)

In the Italian Garden the Gardeners were busy removing intricate patterns of box hedge.  These had succumbed to the Box Moth Caterpillar.  They explained that in 4 areas of the garden the Buxus was being removed and they were unaware of what would replace it.  Maybe a chance to get our ideas in!  Alternative hedging had been trialled elsewhere in the Italian Garden and they had not proven a success.  The site had little shelter from the elements and the new plants quickly suffered from a dry summer and harsh winter.  In gardening, as in life, nothing stays the same, I’m excited to see the new and improved Italian Gardens in the near future.


Figure 4 Box hedge before and after (2023)


I thoroughly enjoyed my plant knowledge being tested and with Deb’s ability to recall all the famous Garden Designers and give a detailed history of the site, it made a walk in the sunshine a memorable learning experience.  Although studying the same subject, we both analysed the garden’s designs in different ways.  Check out her blog here: https://www.ocasa.org.uk/post/trentham-trek

Figure 5 Deb and I, new friends (2023)

The whole experience was a joy and I can’t wait to do it again.

Fig 1-5 images obtained by the author (2023)

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Posted by author: Olivia Evans

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