I’m just back from a little break in Cornwall, where gardening is a religion. The result is some of the most beautiful gardens in Britain, and I had a fantastic week sampling some of the best.
Top of the list for me was the Lost Gardens of Heligan, a valley a little way inland from the coast at the fishing town of Mevagissey, “discovered” by entrepreneur Tim Smit who put his considerable talents into making it happen and then ensuring everyone knew about it. The best thing about him is that it’s not just hot air – the projects he gets involved with are genuinely worthwhile and something to get really excited about.
The Lost Gardens are no exception. This is a truly magical place that has such atmosphere: you can do the technical gardening thing in the extraordinary, and beautiful, walled vegetable garden, or wander gently through the northern gardens or along the valley bottom and lose yourself watching tadpoles wriggling in the shallows of the necklace of pools that runs along it. Or you can marvel – and I really mean marvel – at the jewel in the crown, the fabulous jungle ravine where tree ferns jostle each other among Californian redwoods and unbelievably massive rhododendrons. If you haven’t been yet – you’re really missing something. It’ll change the way you think about gardens forever.
The flower garden was spangled with ranunculus for cutting while we were there – and just look at those glasshouses.
We were lucky enough to catch the rhododendrons in full flower. I’m not usually that keen on them – but this was a breathtaking sight.
… and here’s a single flower close-up. Amazing colour.
Rhododendrons were also a feature of the jungle garden – this one is a single plant, 75 feet across, and over 100 years old.
Gunneras were just unfurling their prehistoric leaves just below the rhododendron pool.
And here’s a view down that fantastic jungle ravine.
You can’t talk about Heligan without mentioning tree ferns. This was the garden that made them fashionable: and these are among the first tree ferns ever imported into the country, at the beginning of last century.
And last but not least – the beautiful natural mud sculptures by Cornish artist Sue Hill, seemingly carved from the earth, and just adding to the fantasy feel of the place. For me this just sums up Heligan: natural, as old as the hills, and so, so beautiful.