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Parterre redesign project at Wimpole Estate

The north front of Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire and the Parterre, with the sun casting shadows
The north front of Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire and the Parterre. | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Award-winning design team is set to give historic National Trust parterre a sustainable and climate-resilient future.

We have appointed an award-winning landscape architect team to transform the traditional parterre at Wimpole in Cambridgeshire, to make it a more sustainable, climate resilient and biodiverse planting scheme that is ready for the future.

Introducing the award-winning team

Arit Anderson, garden designer and Gardeners' World presenter, Marian Boswall Landscape Architects, Davies White Landscape Architects and Nigel Dunnett, Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture – founders of the Sustainable Landscape Foundation – will work closely with Wimpole’s horticulturists and engage with visitors to re-imagine the historic garden feature.

Between them they have designed many acclaimed landscapes including The Back to Nature Garden at RHS Garden Wisley, designed with The Princess of Wales, and the Tower of London Superbloom to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

Re-designing the parterre

The 1.3-acre parterre is a formal series of box-hedged triangular beds planted with annual bedding and bulbs. But it is becoming unsustainable in its need for irrigation and regular replacement of plants.

The planting scheme is also under stress from cold winds, drought and increasingly extreme weather conditions.

The redesign will create a more environmentally sustainable, biodiverse feature at the centre of the Grade I landscape, also offering visitors a longer period of colour and interest.

History of the Parterre

Research suggests the first parterre at Wimpole was created in the 17th century but swept away when fashions changed in the 18th century and then partially revived in the 19th century before being lost again.

Today’s project is an example of the continuing innovation of gardeners and designers that has shaped our gardens through history and will continue to shape them into the future.

Andy Jasper, National Trust Director of Gardens & Parklands, said: "When the National Trust took on the care of Wimpole, the parterre had been lost for several decades. The scheme we have today was created in the 1990s to replicate what had been there in the 19th century.

“The formal design was very effective but is getting harder to maintain so it's time for a bold, pioneering new chapter.

Hope for the future

Arit Anderson, landscape architect, said: “This is such a unique opportunity to share skills and deliver an exemplar of how parterres can be redeveloped sensitively for the future.”

Marian Boswall, landscape architect, said: “It is wonderful to be asked to bring our holistic approach to historic gardens to such a well-loved National Trust property.

"By working with the ecology, the context and the stakeholders, both human and non-human, we can creatively conserve all that is best about Wimpole and its setting whilst meeting the challenges of the next century, from the soil upwards.

"We look forward to designing a garden full of delight that allows the visitor to connect with history, nature and themselves.”

Creating a garden fit for the future

Tom Fradd, Head Gardener at Wimpole Estate, said: “Wimpole is recognised for its leading climate change initiatives and sustainable estate management projects.

"We now need to create a garden that can withstand significant temperature changes, where there’s less need for watering and replacing plants and therefore a lower carbon footprint.

“The newly designed parterre will also be less susceptible to pests and disease, improve the condition of the soil and reduce the stress from the extreme weather conditions that are becoming more prevalent in East Anglia with the changing climate.

“Along with reinforcing the garden’s sustainability, we also hope the new parterre design will be more biodiverse than the current scheme.”

Adapting to a changing climate

Nigel Dunnett, a leading exponent of ecological planting in gardens and public spaces, said: “It's an exciting prospect to re-imagine the planting for the parterre at Wimpole, in the context of a changing climate and the need to become more sustainable in how we plant and manage our gardens. 

"We can create 'high-impact, low-input' plantings that are better for the wider environment, but, crucially, are still hugely beautiful and colourful, and that look good throughout the year. 

“With increasing diversity in the planting comes increasing diversity in the wildlife that it supports. 

"That's not just about pollinators – for example, we will be looking into plants that support all stages in the life of invertebrates, and that provide food for seed-eating birds, as well as considering plants that reflect, and contribute to, the wider ecology of the area.”

Have your say

A series of online and in-person stakeholder engagement workshops will take place throughout the project.

Andrée Davies, Davies White Landscape Architects partner, explained: “Stakeholder engagement is essential to help foster ownership and it begins before we even start designing the space. Stakeholders are critical to helping us identify the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of a space.”

Adam White, Davies White Landscape Architects partner, added: “This information then helps us establish a set of shared design principles which in turn inform the design as it develops.”

Work on the parterre is expected to continue over the next two years.

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