Chatsworth teams begin transforming garden area with 80,000 new plants

Steve Porter, head of gardens and landscape, is overseeing the first phase of the Arcadia transformation project which will see 80,000 new plants bedded in to the Chatsworth gardens before spring 2020.
Steve Porter, head of gardens and landscape, is overseeing the first phase of the Arcadia transformation project which will see 80,000 new plants bedded in to the Chatsworth gardens before spring 2020.

Behind the scenes at Chatsworth, work has now begun on a huge new planting scheme which will eventually see more than 250,000 flowering perennials, shrubs and trees transform a previously undeveloped 15-acre area now named Arcadia.

More than 80,000 plants will be used during the first phase of the project, which started in September and will continue through into spring 2020.

Phoebe Chambers, assistant gardener, gets her hands dirty.

Phoebe Chambers, assistant gardener, gets her hands dirty.

The Duke of Devonshire said: “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 estate’s team of 25 staff, four trainees, and 70 volunteers is working to a plan created by acclaimed garden designer Tom Stuart Smith, with additional backing from fashion brand Gucci.

Arcadia, which lies in the heart of the gardens, its redesign is intended to make the most of views out across the park, and its positioning at the junction of several routes through the gardens.

The project is part of a 25-acre masterplan which 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.

Tom said: “Arcadia is a huge part of the project and while some of the changes will be immediately obvious, I’m confident that, thanks to the long-term thinking here, the whole area will get better and better as the years go by and the planting and other work beds-in.

“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 will include the creation of new, meadow-like glades connected by woodland walks and a major new sculpture installation.

Following the initial clearance of the land, hundreds of new trees have already been planted and some 1,000 tonnes of mulch is being laid to help with weed suppression and water retention.

The project is being supported by the estate's 70 garden volunteers.

The project is being supported by the estate's 70 garden volunteers.

Many different plant and flower types will be used to extend interest across the seasons and give each glade a unique character.

For instance, a wet glade will feature Gunnera, swamp cypress (Taxodium) and royal ferns while other sections will mix of native and exotic vegetation with shrub plantings on the peripheries including Rhododendron, Eucryphia, Viburnum and Hydrangea.

One of the Duke of Devonshire’s favourite shrubs, Daphne, will feature strongly, placed particularly around seating areas because of its scent.

A variety of colourful Helleborus and Primula will be particular highlights in winter and spring respectively.

The woodland areas will have a consistent planting throughout of shade tolerant species, designed to enhance these spaces.

The 105-acre garden is a product of nearly 500 years of cultivation. The foundations of what visitors see now were laid by star designers of their day such as William Kent, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and Joseph Paxton in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Arcadia project is part of a �32million masterplan to revitalise the gardens over the next three years.

The Arcadia project is part of a �32million masterplan to revitalise the gardens over the next three years.