Chatsworth’s new Arcadia set for planting

A series of huge new plantings, including more than 250,000 flowering perennials, shrubs and trees, is set to transform an overlooked and underdeveloped 15-acre part of the world-famous 105-acre garden at Chatsworth, Derbyshire.

Named ‘Arcadia’, the new development will see more than 80,000 plants used during the first phase, starting in September 2019, and continuing through to spring 2020. Working to a plan by celebrated 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.

The development is part of a 25-acre project that also includes a re-modelled Rockery, the Maze borders, the Ravine and Dan Pearson’s redevelopment of the Trout Stream and Jack Pond – making it one of Britain’s largest private garden transformations.

One of the Duke of Devonshire’s favourite shrubs, Daphne will feature strongly, placed particularly around seating areas because of its scent, while winter Helleborus in different colours and Primula in spring will be particular highlights.

(above) Assistant Gardener, Phoebe Chambers

Interest will be extended across the seasons in Arcadia with each glade having different characteristics. A wet glade will feature Gunnera, swamp cypress (Taxodium) and royal ferns while other glades will have a mix of native and exotic vegetation including Rhododendron and Hydrangea.

The Chatsworth Garden team, directed by Head of Gardens and Landscape Steve Porter, is working with the help of four trainees and 70 volunteer gardeners, who are handling this huge project in-house. Hundreds of new trees have already been planted and the Arcadia area has been cleared ready for planting.

The Duke of Devonshire commented that it might seem strange that such a large area as Arcadia could have been overlooked for so long in such a well-known garden: “It’s certainly very exciting to open it up to our visitors with a series of colourful glades which will make it accessible and attractive,” he said.

The estate and garden is the product of nearly 500 years of careful cultivation – its foundations laid out by the celebrated garden designers William Kent and Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the 18th century and Joseph Paxton in the 19th. Now, Tom Stuart Smith and Dan Pearson work alongside Steve Porter and his team to add a 21st century layer to this historic landscape.

(above: The Rockery)

Although some points of interest have been replaced to make way for new fashions, the garden maintains many early features, including the Canal Pond, Cascade and Duke’s Greenhouse.

Having completed a £32m masterplan project to restore the house a few years ago, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire have since been planning to have a similar re-vitalising effect on the garden. As the Duke points out, Chatsworth is often thought of as timeless but the truth is that it has always been changing: “What we think of now as ‘traditional’ was often considered challenging or revolutionary at the time. Capability Brown and Joseph Paxton used the latest tools, techniques and ideas to deliver their particular genius for modern garden design,” he said.

“Tom Stuart-Smith and Dan Pearson have the vision and talent to continue Chatsworth’s radical tradition. We’re going to create an exciting, beautiful and contemporary garden that stands on the shoulders of those earlier giants,” the Duke added.

Tom Stuart-Smith points out that when he first came to talk to the Duke and Duchess and the garden team at Chatsworth, he was struck by their creative energy and the drive to achieve excellence: “Arcadia, in particular, is a huge project and while some of the changes to the four glades within it and the pathways between them will be immediately obvious, I’m confident that, thanks to the long-term thinking here, that the whole area will get better and better as the years go by and the planting and other work beds-in,” he said.

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 RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2015, which provided the conceptual inspiration for new planting and seating along the Trout Stream. Commenced in late 2015 this part of the redevelopment will complete early in 2020.

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Photo credits: All photographs strictly copyright Chatsworth House Trust.