The first place on my Cornwall hit list was the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The gardens were part of the seat of the Tremayne family, and in the late 19th century, they were at the height of their beauty. But not long after (partly because the men who tended them went off to war in 1914) the gardens became overgrown, and were finally ‘lost’. In 1990, a team of gardeners and garden historians and general good eggs set about restoring the gardens – and they are wonderful. When you arrive, you’re given a sepia-coloured map and a wee compass, which does set the tone for some serious exploring!
The gardens have been restored in a manner that is sympathetic to the original, but in no way does it feel like a period piece – it’s very much a contemporary garden. I suppose what they’ve done is created the garden to be as it would have been if it had never been lost, so rather than create an Edwardian garden in aspic, they’ve just skipped the intervening years as though all the 20th century head gardeners had been there, making their changes and following their fashions. It’s very clever. We couldn’t see the ‘Jungle’ and wild bits as we had wheel- and pushchairs in the party – so we’ll just have to go again! In any event, I’d love to see it in spring. And in high summer. And in deep autumn, too…
Would you like to see some pictures? I do hope so, because I took lots.
I love hydrangeas, and the Heligan ones were almost obscenely healthy and vigorous.
Some of the tree and grass planting in the ‘wilderness’ area.
The walled garden – this was magnificent. It was so productive – flowers, herbs, fruit, vegetables – and not at all sanitised. It was a working garden with compost heaps and the odd area that you could see was next to be weeded.
A lovely mixture of fruit and flowers.
A longer shot of the walled garden – you can see how huge it is!
One of the beautiful glasshouses.
These are the niches where the bee skeps were kept – and they’ve retained the skeps over the more modern hives.
I loved the orchard – or ‘poultry orchard’ as they called it – with the hens and ducks and geese as big a feature as the beautiful trees. I dream of one day restoring the derelict orchard here, and having my chickens pecking around underneath. One day – probably in time for the great-great-granddaughters of our current hens…
A traditional herbaceous border – it was just starting to go over, but it’s easy to see how brilliant it must have looked when the red hot pokers were at their hottest and the whites at their crispest.
There are lots of little nooks and niches – this is the Italian garden, complete with sunken pond. The children were most taken with the fish.
Then it was into the main walled produce garden, which was fantastic. Here’s a beautifully espaliered pear tree…
… and a lovely arch of apple trees. I imagine this is stunning at blossom time.
Some beautiful beans.
The long serried rows of beautiful veg – here some salad leaves – with the gardener off in the distance.
I loved this companion planting of flowers with the veg – I must remember this. It apparently cuts down on pests, but also means you can cut the flowers for the house without spoiling your borders, in a veg and cutting garden combined.
Finally, how’s this for planting? I love the mix of colours, tone and texture. Gorgeous.
This is a fraction of the pictures I took, and we saw a fraction of the garden. I can’t wait to go back.