Ian Weightman

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Take Another Look at Trentham Gardens

The gardens on the Trentham Estate, in Stoke-on-Trent, have not simply marked their seventh birthday. They have also "come of age".

Visitor numbers to the garden have risen each year - with Trentham now placed to join this elite collection of the countries finest and most visited garden attractions.

Kew (1,141,973), The Eden Project (1,000,511), RHS Wisley (803,986) and Wakehurst Place (402,180) were named by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) as being the nation's four most-visited gardens during 2010. With Waddesdon Manor weighing in fifth, with 323,450 visitors.

Paying visitors to Trentham Gardens, meanwhile, have grown dramatically over the seven years - since it was reopened to the public - from 15,496 in the first year, through to 315,949 last year (plus around another 75,000 attending a broad range of garden based events not included within this figure).

Visitor figures to the gardens have also risen this year by 29.63% when compared with December-to-June in 2010.

Trentham's Gardens and Estate Manager, Michael Walker notes: "I believe we are doing things differently to a number of other gardens. In particular, we continue to push the garden forward and make the garden relevant to all our different visitors."

He continues: "The garden has fantastic perennial plantings and rose borders, which are all in full flower and showing no adverse effect of last winter or the early season drought. Our show gardens, too, are a developing story here at Trentham – and will emerge as another major reason for people to visit us."

Trentham's dramatic resurrection was initially led by renowned garden designers and Chelsea gold-medal winners Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Oudolf who, along with Michael Walker, have revitalised the Italianate grandeur with a stylish modern interpretation – to create one of the largest examples of contemporary naturalistic perennial planting in Europe.

Stuart-Smith and Oudolf, however, were simply the latest in a long line of renowned landscape designers and architects to be associated with the Estate and Gardens, once one of the Dukes of Sutherland's Estates, who transformed it from a medieval monastery to grand country estate over decades of ownership from 1540 to 1979.

Lancelot "Capability" Brown created the Lake and Parklands in 1760-1780; and Trentham's famous Italian Gardens were designed in the 1830's by Sir Charles Barry – the architect of the Houses of Parliament, at the same time as he extensively remodelled Trentham Hall in the Italianate style.

The dramatic contrast between the new planting and Barry's formal framework is particularly strong in high summer, when the living material of the planting almost bursts through the constraining geometry of the beds. Piet Oudolf designed two flanking borders in the Italian garden and the magnificent perennial meadows along the banks of the river. His Rivers of Grass and Floral Labyrinth are a highlight of any visit.

It has taken just seven years for the gardens to mature into some of the finest in Britain. And last year, they were named by Alan Titchmarsh as one of the nation's "must-see gardens".

The European Garden Heritage Network also recognised the achievements at Trentham last year when it bestowed one of its greatest honours on the gardens: "The 2010 European Award for Garden Restoration".

The Italian Gardens, Rivers of Grass, Floral Labyrinth, and numerous new show gardens are all set against the dramatic backdrop of Capability Browns picturesque woodlands and Lake.

The Garden has established itself both locally and to the increasing number of coach groups who see Trentham as one of the UK's new "must see" destinations.

Ticket prices range from £7.75 per adult, to £26.50 for a family of two adults and up to three children. Annual tickets are also available, priced £47.50 per adult, and £99.50 for the family.

For further details about the gardens, including the full range of admission prices, and complete events programme, visit http://www.trentham.co.uk/trentham-gardens.

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