The 12th Duke and Duchess, working with the Chatsworth Garden team and celebrated garden designers Tom Stuart Smith, Dan Pearson and James Hitchmough, oversaw the biggest transformation of the garden for 200 years. The 25-acre project included a remodelled Rockery, the Maze borders, the Ravine, and Dan Pearson’s redevelopment of the Trout Stream and the Jack Pond. 

Central to the redesign was Arcadia; a 15 acre area at the heart of the garden that lay undeveloped until work began in 2018. Created in-house by the Chatsworth Garden team, to a plan by Tom Stuart Smith, Arcadia is made up of peaceful meadow-like glades connected by woodland walks and featuring site-specific sculpture installation. 

Arcadia’s elevated situation provides views out across the park, and its configuration creates new routes between 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.

The area is made up of four glades, each with its own characteristics.

In the rabbit glade, Davidias, Viburnum and Hydrangea frame the sloping site with views onto the maze garden, while Geraniums, Heuchera, Euphorbia and Galium, amongst many other genus and species, cover the planting beds. Drifts of Primula, violets and bulbs emerge first in spring with grasses and seed heads hanging on into autumn and winter.

The wet glade makes use of moisture that is already in the area from nearby streams and harnesses pre-existing features such as the Emperor main that runs underneath the glade for irrigation. Swamp Cypress, Rhododendrons and Magnolia give structure with thousands of Primulas in Spring giving way to Rodgersia, Gunnera, ferns and Darmera for foliage, and many varieties of Iris, Persicaria and Aster for colour. 

The meadow glade area was sown with a cultivated perennial meadow developed by Professor James Hitchmough from the Landscape Architecture Department, at Sheffield University. James’s scientifically designed seed mix contains over 70 different species of plant that will flower between March and the end of July each year. 

The 100 Steps Glade runs up the hillside from The Maze, and lead to the monumental, contemporary sculpture at the top, Chaos Meteoro by Jedd Novatt. The stone flue which snakes either side of the steps is a remnant of the heating system from Joseph Paxton’s Great Conservatory. The planting was designed by Tom Stuart Smith to enhance the views over the formal garden out across to the wider landscape, and features perennials and grasses including Aster, Geranium, Iris, Phlox, Molinia and Pennisetum as well as Rhododendron, Kalmia, Hydrangea and Euonymus. 

Sustainability was a big factor in the design and execution of the entire Arcadia project. 95% of the planting was peat free and was either grown in the open ground and transported bare root, or was in biodegradable pots that was made from remoulded husks which is by-product of the rice industry.

In addition to the myriad of plants, a new sculpture titled ‘Natural Course’ has been built within Arcadia. Designed to appear as if seeping from the ground and flowing down a woodland slope, the monumental piece has been created from more than 100 tonnes of local stone and sits in woodland between two of the glades. The area is punctuated with newly planted Davidia or ‘Ghost Tree’ as well as flowering perennials including Epimedium, Hellebore and Iris, allowing the sculpture to sit with ease within the surrounding landscape. 

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