The reinvention of Charles Barry’s monumental lakeside garden on the banks of the river Trent has created one of the largest examples of contemporary naturalistic perennial planting in Europe, set within a vast Victorian Italianate parterre. In 1997 the garden was in an advanced state of decay. Almost all of its architectural ornament was missing, and the upright Irish yews planted as part of the original scheme obscured the view to Capability Brown’s fifty acre lake.
The Victorian scheme for Trentham embodied control on an imperial scale, with its vast dimensions and highly controlled planting design. The new Trentham balances the grand formality of Barry’s parterre terraces with more contemporary planting informed by ecological principles. The dramatic contrast between the new planting and Barry’s formal framework is particularly strong in high summer, when the living material of the planting seems to burst through the constraining geometry of the beds. Piet Oudolf designed two flanking borders in the Italian garden and a magnificent perennial meadow in an adjacent area.
A web of tall grasses extends across the whole parterre to form a scaled representation of the Trent and its tributaries extending across the English midlands. It is a reminder of the river which has shaped both the estate that bears its name and the wider region.