St Michael’s Mount attracts your eye wherever you are in Mounts bay, Cornwall. So it was top of the list of things to do on our family holiday. I was expecting a boat trip as the tide was in, a steep walk up to the castle and fun exploring the ramparts, but I wasn’t ready to be wowed by a garden on this windswept, sea salted island. It was a tropical paradise and we loved it, steep winding paths for boys to explore, amazing beautiful plants so well tended I can honestly say there was not a weed in sight. The Walled Gardens are a fabulous subtle and sophisticated surprise, sandwiched between the exotically planted East and West Terraces. St Michael’s Mounts Gardens have jumped right up there into my all time top ten gardens.
Trengwainton garden is just outside Penzance, and was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1961. It’s a historic garden created initially by Sir Rose Price the wealthy owner of a Jamaican Sugar plantation. He bought Trengwainton in 1814 and built a walled kitchen garden to the exact dimensions of Noah’s Ark as detailed in the bible. Built in brick (an expensive alternative to stone) it retains the days heat resulting in a kitchen garden that is virtually frost free, growing tender varieties and a wide range of early vegetables.
The abolition of slavery made the sugar plantation business a less profitable concern and in 1925 the Bolitho family bought Trengwainton. Sir Edward Bolitho sponsored plant hunting expeditions to Burma and Assam returning with Britain’s first scented Rhododendrons which still bloom in the garden in late Spring.
Trengwainton lacks the manpower and budget to truly reflect its former glory, not a wow garden however there is a wow feature. Within the kitchen garden there are raised angled west facing vegetable beds, inspired resourceful constructions that capture and make the most of the sun’s rays.
Following are pictures of our visit.
You’ll be shocked to hear that 15 years ago or so I considered dahlias to be gaudy, garish and distasteful flowers, until this year I thought the same of the fuchsia. I’m not sure if it’s been a knock on the head, or middle age looming closer (maybe even here!), but, I am falling for fuchsias. They are delicate, elegant ballerinas dressed in the most exquisite costumes. I now just need to work out how they should be presented and planted in the garden.
Below are a few stems from a fuchsia situated in an overgrown area of the garden which is waiting patiently for my attention. I think they look stunning in a vase, I am now imagining them dripping from a huge autumnal arrangement.
Fuchsia, perfect as a cut flower
I have never known a school holiday like it, we (myself, the husband and the three boys) have got a fun packed summer diary, but on the few quieter days I mentally pencil time to weed, cut hedges and generally keep some garden control. So far such plans have been blown out of the water by unexpected surprises. Some lovely surprises, friends coming to stay or popping in for coffee and lunch. Some not so lovely surprises, two emergency doctor visits within four days with my youngest (cutting his head open and being stung by a bee resulting in his hand swelling up too fast for my liking) and todays surprise, coming downstairs to hear the sound of Victoria falls. The husband managed to dash out the house to work without hearing the gushing cascades of our new water feature, which actually transpired to be a burst pipe under the boiler. After a day without water (I did have the sense to turn off the stop cock) I’m told which taps and levers to move, leaving us with cold running water for a few weeks until the issue is resolved. Thank goodness for an electric shower, kettle and summer weather!
Enough of my woes, we had a fabulous Sunday outing to Godinton Gardens near Ashford, Kent. They are beautiful, peaceful and romantic gardens set around a gorgeous Jacobean house. Although they were busy (according to the ticket lady), it felt very quiet, bumping into the odd couple or family.We skipped the house tour, a sensible move with three young boys, and wandered around the tranquil and inspiring setting.
The highlight at the end of our visit was an enormous productive walled garden, split into quadrants, intersected by wide gravel paths with a raised circular lily pool in the centre. The well tended cut flower and vegetable planting is all mixed up giving a spectacular display. I particularly liked the concept of Cannas and cabbages (well sprouts but near enough). A large glasshouse backs onto a south facing wall containing a variety of pelargoniums, specimens from warmer climes and delicious mouth watering peaches thriving against the brick wall. There is a second glasshouse which is slightly sunken, filled with alpine treasures. This splendid construction is my dream kitchen garden greenhouse, I’d cultivate two thirds of it and arrange a couple of old rattan chairs in the final third, somewhere to sip a gin and tonic after an evenings watering. This Sunday outing was a real treat, I can heartily recommend it to those visiting or living in Kent.The enormous glasshouse containing peachesA view of the entrance into the walled gardenDahlias at GodintonCanna’s and cabbages (well sprouts) an inspired planting combinationThe bug hotel Beautifully shaped quince treesApricots on a south facing wallPeaches in the glasshouseEspalier apple treesMy dream kitchen garden green house