A cornucopia of blooms
A midsummer annual event in the Duke of Devonshire’s Derbyshire seat gloriously brought together the floral excellence of the garden and this year’s tercentenary of the landscape architect Capability Brown, reports Jacky Hobbs
The annual Florabundance event brings the excellence of Chatsworth House’s gardens inside, reports Jacky Hobbs
Florabundance at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Bearing in mind the tercentenary of Capability Brown and the majestic landscape scenes he enhanced and created at Chatsworth (an estate that is duly celebrating the anniversary in style), one could be forgiven for wondering where a summer festival of flowers could fit in. However, floral designer Jonathan Moseley (www. jonathan-moseley.com) has successfully created bold and abundant floral arrangements befitting the opulence of Chatsworth House, while subtly revering Brown’s definitive imprint on the surrounding english-landscaped gardens. (Brown was engaged at Chatsworth for several years between about 1758 and 1766.)
Brown’s pastoral design influence was significant, but not solitary; flowers have crept into the gardens over time, without detracting from the quintessentially english landscape. These photographs record Chatsworth’s ninth Florabundance, an annual five-day event that showcases many of the flowers and foliage grown and gathered from the estate. To furnish it, boughs were clipped from ancient trees planted by Brown; grasses and wildflowers were gathered
from the meadows he created. They have been embellished with English-grown flowers from the estate’s dedicated Cutting and Kitchen Garden, with contributions from local growers in Derbyshire and Yorkshire.
Bearing in mind the tercentenary, Mr Moseley embraced Brown’s design aesthetic, creating numerous arrangements in stone vases reminiscent of those out in the gardens and strategically placing each vessel in its wider setting, creating focal points and using architectural niches to frame arrangements.
Some of Mr Moseley’s installations represent countryside elements of the Brown landscape, such as the ‘field of poppies’, and others are deliberately positioned on deep window sills, drawing the eye to connect with the outdoor scene beyond the glass. An abundance of trees and shrubs throughout the 105-acre arboretum and gardens provided branch and bough, notably, weeping silver birch, pine, fir, maple and beech. Some flowers came from the shady ravine, among them candelabra primulas, foxgloves, ferns and Solomon’s seal and the kitchen garden yielded artichokes, mint and sage.
Mr Moseley collaborated with Chatsworth’s cut-flower grower, Becky Crowley, to ensure
that quantities of perennial flowers could be gathered for the event from the dedicated Cutting Garden. They include Russell lupins, purple and white alliums, unnamed but abundant black-bearded irises and sky-blue delphiniums. The peonies were harvested from a 100-strong avenue of stock plants, their flowers ranging in colour from White Wings to Crimson Glory, with vibrant-pink Duke of Devonshire in between.
Likewise, thousands of annuals were raised in the first half of the year by Miss Crowley, including the cow-parsley-like bishop’s flower ( Ammi majus), fragrant Spencer sweet peas, marigolds, Iceland poppies, tender gerberas and zinnias.
Some 25,000 stems were sown, grown, cut and conditioned on the estate, advises Miss Crowley. After three full days of incessant cutting, the blooms were handed to Mr Moseley and his team of 40 local florists, who, together with an abundance of foliage, transformed the material into majestic and meaningful arrangements through the house. For next year’s Florabundance dates— it’s usually held around midsummer— visit www.chatsworth.org in the New Year
Facing page: The Painted Hall, decorated in 1687–94, further ornamented with bold and dramatic arrangements in huge stone vases, elevated on pillars and plinths. They include boughs from Chatsworth’s trees, such as fir, beech, box and acer. In the foreground, starbursts of green angelica and feathery wands of Stipa gigantea are ‘underplanted’ with green-tinged, un-ripened lilies and a rash of magenta peonies. Above: A tiered floral trough skirted with succulent Echeveria is filled with roses, hydrangeas, euphorbia and gladioli, complementing the floral artworks
Above: ‘A field of poppies’: Papaver nudicaule Champagne Bubbles, raised under glass, interlaced with coral Heuchera Brandon Pink and tangerine candelabra primulas from the ravine. Facing page: In the Painted Hall, Jonathan Moseley incorporated materials typical of the Vanitas theme, depicting the cycle of Nature through to death and decay. Emerging rhododendrons join blowsy peonies, Cornus kousa, martagon lilies, Allium cristophii and Solomon’s seal, bolstered by artichokes, gourds, grapes and exotic pineapples, the latter a nod to historic pineapple cultivation at Chatsworth
Above: Beauty in simplicity: flared vases erupt with delphiniums, Stipa gigantea and vibrant Crocosmia foliage. The colours symbolise Capability Brown’s use of water, the youthful green of saplings and the golden opulence of Chatsworth. Facing page: The bunched blooms in repetition suggest arrangements of a bygone era. The vases hold Russell lupins, astrantia, campanula, pale foxgloves, mint and foxtail millet. In the sentry stone vases are hosta and fatsia leaves, poppy seedheads with alliums cristophii and Globemaster, pale pink peonies and ribbons of Miscanthus x giganteus grass