More than 80,000 plants will be used during the first phase of Arcadia, which starts in September and continues through into spring 2020. Working to a plan by the 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. 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.

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.

Many different plant and flower types will be used to extend interest 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 with shrub plantings on the peripheries including Rhododendron, Eucryphia, Viburnum and Hydrangea.

The 25-strong Chatsworth Garden team, directed by Head of Gardens and Landscape Steve Porter, working with the help of four trainees and 70 volunteer gardeners will handle this huge project in-house. Hundreds of new trees have already been planted and the team has cleared the Arcadia area. More than 1,000 tonnes of mulch is being laid to help with weed suppression and water retention before the team begins working with the 80,000 new plants for phase one.

The Duke of Devonshire: “It might seem strange that such a large area as Arcadia could have been overlooked for so long in such a well-known garden but 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.”

The foundations of Chatsworth’s garden and park were laid by the celebrated garden designers William Kent, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the 18th and Joseph Paxton in the 19th century’s. Now, Tom Stuart Smith and Dan Pearson will work alongside Steve Porter and his garden team to add another major layer to this historic garden

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.

Timeline & principal changes

Rockery | Tom Stuart-Smith | early 2018 to 2021. Principal features: Improved access and rock interest plus massed perennials 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 surround 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; in September 2019 and into 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.

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.

The Garden at Chatsworth

Having completed the £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 revitalising effect on the garden.

The Duke of Devonshire: “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.

“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, contemporary garden that stands on the shoulders of those earlier giants.”

Tom Stuart-Smith: “When I first came to talk to the Duke and Duchess and the garden team at Chatsworth I 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.”

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