Gardens across the UK have shut down, and our usual garden visits have been halted. At Gardens Illustrated, we’re still trying to bring garden people together, which is why we’ve started a virtual garden tour series. Each week we’ll dive into one gorgeous garden, offering history alongside current videos and photographs from the people who run it. It’s not as perfect as wandering the borders in person, but watching a little slice of what’s happening in gardens throughout the country right now is a lovely way to spend some of the time we have in isolation.
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This week is the week of Virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show and so we have a very special tour for you around Chatsworth gardens, accompanied by head of gardens and landscapes Steve Porter. He introduces parts of the gardens worked on by the likes of Tom Stuart-Smith and Dan Pearson and gives you a flavour of what you can see in the gardens at the moment. Watch our other virtual garden tours here.
The 105 acre garden at Chatsworth House is the product of nearly 500 years of careful cultivation. The house and garden were first constructed by Sir William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick in 1555. In 1811 the 6th Duke (known as the Bachelor Duke) inherited a garden which had been neglected by his father. The restoration, on a very grand scale, was not immediate and 15 years were to pass before Joseph Paxton was appointed as head gardener. Paxton proved to be the most innovative garden designer of his era, and remains the greatest single influence on Chatsworth’s garden.
Tom Stuart-Smith is working on the Rockery, which was created by Paxton in 1842 as a reminder of the 6th Duke’s visit to the Alps and of the Bolton Strid, a narrow chasm on the River Wharfe near Bolton Abbey, the Devonshire family home in Yorkshire. The work runs from 2018 to 2022
2020 sees the continued reinvigoration of the Chatsworth grounds, including with a new sculpture, Natural Course created by Laura Ellen Bacon, as the centrepiece of Arcadia.
The Arcadia project is part of the biggest transformation of the garden for 200 years – it also includes a remodelled Rockery, the Maze borders, the Ravine, and Dan Pearson’s redevelopment of the Trout Stream and the Jack Pond.