If you garden you soon come to realise that you are trying to keep control of a force far greater than you, or any number of gardeners, turn your back on your plot and it will revert to a path of its own. Nature will reclaim.
In the benign climate of Cornwall the gardens of Heligan, went there own way, like so many gardens of the ‘big house’ after WWI, when the carnage of war wiped out a generation of men, who worked the pleasure grounds and productive gardens. Heligan house was sold, but the land was not. This has resulted in a time capsule.
Heligan, seat of the Tremayne family for more than 400 years, is one of the most mysterious and romantic estates in England. A genuine secret garden, it was lost for decades; its history consigned to overgrowth.
Hop on over to the website for the story of how this magical place was rediscovered, or better still read Tim Smit’s book, I really enjoyed it, Smit, Rob Poole and John Nelson’s drive and determination to restore the gardens was both epic and obsessive! You can only start to imagine how overgrown it must have been.
We were there before the crowds, Spud the dog was welcome on a lead, we headed down into the jungle. Full of tree ferns, palms and tropical plants, gathered with such vigour by the Victorian plant hunters; we swung by the Burmese rope bridge. Spud wasn’t allowed on here ( and we know just how much a dogs leg can cost to repair). Spud had to sit on the bank and admire his masters aura, from afar.
Cornwall’s gardens are famed for their camellia and azalea.
There were beautiful woodland walks, listen to the birdsong
As well as the time capsule of the old, their was the new, with sculpture and art, you can’t keep a good plant down.
My favourite part was the productive gardens, there you can really get a feel for the people who worked here. I just love the anemones in this image, got to be one of my favourite flowers.
But it wasn’t just fruit veg and flowers, these are bee boles
I had plant pot envy.
The head gardeners bothy
The curved shadow are from the distinctively shaped panes of glass
The magnificent pineapple frames, heated by horse muck.
Rare, exotic and hard to grow, Pineapples were a symbol of great status and wealth in Victorian times. A pineapple on your dining table meant you were a person of discernment, style and affluence.
We believe that we have the only working, manure-heated pineapple pit in Britain today. It was unearthed in 1991 and architectural and horticultural historians spent many months researching the history of its construction and technology. The first structure here was probably built in the eighteenth century.
I loved this green house, its light, warmth and scent, and because it reminded me of the painting by Eric Ravilious
The poignancy of the effects of WWI on the Heligan gardens if perhaps best capture, by the Thunderbox room (the toilet) written on its white washed walls ‘Do not come here to sleep or slumber’ and a list of signatures and a date 1914.
When the guns fell silent so did the gardens.
Take a tour of the lost gardens of Heligan