When wondering through one of our Cornish garden’s in spring head up looking at spectacular magnolia and camellia blooms against a perfect blue sky (well one can dream) you could be forgiven for not noticing the less blousy show offs whether plant or feature.
So I would recommend slowing down, taking a good look around and try and take it all in. To help you on the way I will share some of my favourite but lesser known stories and facts from our great gardens.
Starting on the balmy banks of the Helford sits Glendurgan. What was it that attracted Alfred Fox in the 1820s to take up residence and start of this truly spectacular valley garden? Perhaps it was the orchards that benefited from the sheltered climate of the valley, something the team at Glendurgan had been long keen to re-establish and so in 2009 planted a new orchard just above the maze.
Moving further west to Trengwainton, perhaps lesser known is that one of the earliest ever aircraft landed in the field near the garden terrace and was piloted by Gustav Hamel, the son of a German born royal physician. Hamel was a pioneering aviator and the exploit for which he is best known is flying a Bleriot aircraft on September 9th 1911, covering the 21 miles between Hendon and Windsor in 10 minutes to deliver the first official airmail to the Postmaster General.
When he was at Trengwainton the Bolitho family built a canvas hangar for the plane while he stayed there as a guest. This all caused quite a stir in West Cornwall, no one was thinking of carbon footprints or claiming air miles in those days!
Ok, but what about the plants I hear you cry… the reason the enormous Magnolia cambellii has such a vast spreading canopy at Trengwainton is because of pure greed…. Well greed for flowers, pruning the non flowering straight shoots every year has caused the tree to keep growing out whilst putting all of its energy into flowering at its best not producing more suckers.
Just West of Bodmin Moor sits Lanhydrock; if you have visited before did something catch your eye? Eye catchers were often used in gardens to draw attention whilst walking, at Lanhydrock If you stand in the circular herbaceous border look at the building to the North, its not quite what it seems. Actually it’s a functional barn but given an Ornamental Gothic façade in the early 19th century to make it stand out and catch your eye from the garden.
Climb to the top of the garden and enjoy the view and a rest in the small thatched summer house. It was built to commemorate two things; all the work the National Trust gardeners did to repair the enormous damage caused by the great storm in 1990 and the 27 years of work Head Gardener Peter Borlaise BEM did at Lanhydrock.
Just before you get to the Tamar, drop into Cotehele where recent changes have seen the planting of a Mother Orchard. Filled with old Tamar varieties of apples, some which are at risk of being lost from cultivation.
But Cotehele has a long rich past, a hint of which might be gained by sitting in the small summer house at the head of the valley garden where you overlook the ornamental pond, which started life as a medieval stew pond where fish were kept for food and the 15th century Dovecot, both which helped stock the larder in those days!
I must finish by saying there is lots more to discover so go and find out for yourself, and what a perfect time of year in which to do so.
National Trust Garden’s Advisor