THE Rockery is the craziest bit of hard landscaping ever made anywhere, I think. It is an heroic piece of landscape creation.’ Tom Stuart-Smith is surveying the water breaking onto the stone 40 feet below Wellington Rock, the largest and most outrageous of Joseph Paxton’s gritstone creations at Chatsworth in Derbyshire.
For much of the end of the 20th and the beginning of this century, Paxton’s alpine masterpiece—constructed in the 1840s in memory of the 6th Duke of Devonshire’s visit to the Alps on his Grand Tour—has been overlooked. Overgrown Victorian yews and rhododendrons added to the fusty impression, which was then compounded by plantings that were intended to bring colour, but ended up creating a disjointed rag bag.
The only people who really seemed to understand the point of the Rockery were the children who clambered over the thrilling boulders and between the giant rock stacks playing games of hide and seek.
Now, however, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire have embarked on the biggest project at Chatsworth since Paxton finished his work more than 200 years ago, of which the fine old Rockery forms a key part.
‘A few years ago,’ the Duke recalls, ‘we asked Tom Stuart-Smith to come up with ideas for the 16 acres of wilderness in the middle of the garden now known as Arcadia. Having spent a whole day walking the area and the surrounding parts of the garden, Tom sat us down and said that, although he would be delighted to come up with a scheme for Arcadia, he felt that the rock garden was of much greater national and international interest and could he start there. Steve Porter [head gardener], Amanda [the Duchess] and I were delighted with this advice, which, of course, seemed obvious once we’d thought about it.’
Work on the three-acre Rockery is now in year three of a four-year schedule due to end in 2021. ‘The dark funereal yews’ recorded by The Gardeners’ Chronicle on June 26, 1875, have been thinned and brought back under control, as have the rhododendrons, uninteresting patches of grass have been stripped and only a few choice azaleas, maples and large sequoias remain. With two seasons’ worth of largely perennial planting settling in, the new, fresh green foliage and soft undulating plantings reveal the rocks in all their monumental glory.
The planting has been given a 21st-century naturalism, using a few key exotic plants repeated across the whole rock garden within a tapestry of 100 less dominant species. As the seasons progress, these hero plants will lend a particular and evolving character. For example, June features white azaleas with white rhododendron, Iris sibirica and Euphorbia palustris. These are followed in July by pale phloxes, rodgersia and gunnera, which, in turn, will give way in August to Hydrangea paniculata, H. aspera, Lythrum, Cimicifuga and Eupatorium.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Lost in the maze
THE world’s largest classical labyrinth is currently being constructed from traditional Cornish hedging in the heart of Bodmin Moor, a project that has unexpectedly led to the foundation of the Outdoor University of Cornish Hedging.
It takes a family to raise a village
A hangover from the days of landed gentry, there are still privately owned villages scattered throughout the UK. What is it really like to be at the helm of a community, asks Alec Marsh
My favourite painting Neil Mendoza
The Painter and his Pug
SIXTY years ago almost to the day, on March 15, when the Jaguar E-type first hit the tarmac, Frank Sinatra took one look and said ‘I want that car and I want it now’; shortly after, Enzo Ferrari dubbed it ‘the most beautiful car in the world’.
Myth and magic
Two homes in Devon offer unique insights into the county’s complex history, from witches and hounds to the village where time stood still
Black (and white) beauty
March is the month in which female hares bat away unwanted suitors, but, sadly, the sight of boxing hares is becoming ever more rare. Over the past century, a loss of habitat and predation has resulted in an 80% decrease in brown-hare numbers. Cumbrian sculptor Andrew Kay has created this 5ft-high artwork in steel, priced at £4,700, 15% of which will go to the Hare Preservation Trust. A smaller work, Life Size Hare, costs £840 (www.andrewkaysculpture.co.uk)
In pursuit of a social climber
Of wisteria, noble litter pickers, lockdown funerals and shaggy hounds
Roll me over in the clover
Finding a four-leafed example might be lucky, but, as we toast St Patrick’s Day, Ian Morton investigates why the clover (or shamrock) is so important to the Irish
Bright lights, empty city
For John McEwen, the enforced constraints of the pandemic have engendered a greater appreciation of our capital’s abundant parks and wildlife
A right basket case
From wet woodland to a warm Welsh kitchen: Nick Hammond meets the resourceful craftswoman who has woven a new career from her love for wild places
TEXAS AG SAYS PROBE TO CONTINUE DESPITE TWITTER LAWSUIT
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that a lawsuit by Twitter won’t deter his office from investigating the content moderation practices of the social media giant and four other major technology companies.
AFTER TOP STAFF EXODUS, TEXAS AG SEEKS $43M FOR GOOGLE SUIT
The mass exodus of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s top staff over accusations of bribery against their former boss has left the Republican seeking $43 million in public funds to replace some of them with outside lawyers to lead a high-profile antitrust lawsuit against Google.
‘Ridiculous? It's really off the scale'
Mark Phillips reviews the current global travel and competition challenges
Base yourself in the Peak District town for a weekend of country estates, industrial heritage and rambles through a green and pleasant land alive with creative spirit.
RESHAPING SECURITY INNOVATION
RANJITH KAIPPADA (RK), MANAGING DIRECTOR AND ROHIT BHARGAVA (RB), PRACTICE HEAD - CLOUD & SECURITY AT CLOUD BOX TECHNOLOGIES, SHED LIGHT ON THE EVOLVING CLOUD AND SECURITY REQUIREMENTS OF REGIONAL ORGANISATIONS AND DISCUSS HOW THE COMPANY’S NEWLY LAUNCHED NEW SECURITY PRACTICE CAN ENABLE ENTERPRISES TO SECURELY NAVIGATE THE NEW NORMAL.
HIDDEN SECRETS OF CHATSWORTH
Janine Sterland discovers the unique story of a very poignant and personal family collection
LET'S GET gardening
This quintessential Peak District walk is packed with snippets and features of interest
Treading The Boards Of Chatsworth
Catherine Roth discovers the unique theatre group which calls Chatsworth its home
End of an era for Lord Lieutenant
After 11 hugely successful years, Willie Tucker, Lord Lieutenant for Derbyshire, reflects on his time in office