Our daughter recently visited Chatsworth House where she met up with some friends and it has reminded me that we haven't been in the gardens there for a while although we often spend time in the parkland on the estate. May and June is the season when the azaleas and rhododendrons are at their best and the photos for this post were taken during the last time we visited.
The Rockery was considered one of the most ambitious garden design projects of its time. The 6th Duke of Devonshire went on the Grand Tour of Europe with his head gardener and life-long friend, Joseph Paxton, who had been appointed to design and supervise the creation of many of the features on the estate, including the Great Conservatory and the Emperor Fountain in the Canal Pond, and subsequently the Rockery was built as a reminder of the journey through the Alps. Paxton invented a steam-powered machine to lift the locally quarried gritstone rocks into position. Queen Victoria visited Chatsworth with Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington in 1843 and the 6th Duke named three rocks after them.
The 6th Duke had a passion for collecting plant and tree specimens and his gardeners were sent all over the world to find and collect seeds and even fully grown trees. His collection of trees in the Pinetum, one of the first in England, include the monkey puzzle, Japanese white pine, the giant redwood and a rare Hinoki cypress from Japan. The flowering trees, shrubs and plants that ramble over the rocks, grow beside the pathways and water channels and ponds have softened the hard landscaping over the years so that the Rockery looks very natural and is an enjoyable part of the gardens to explore. Beyond is the woodland, the Canal Pond, the glasshouses and the formal gardens by the house.