Jane B (knally) wrote,
Jane B

Yesterday (Wednesday) I went to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I'd planned to go to one of the gardens in Cornwall since there are so many great ones around, but it is a little early yet for the best spring show. I had thought about going to Heligan, and my sister suggested that it would be the most interesting one to go to if the flowers weren't out much. And she was right! Not that there weren't any flowers, there were daffodils and primroses, hellebores, anemones (a whole plot of them in the flower garden). A few very early rhododendrons and some lovely camelias like this one.

What Heligan has in plenty is interest. All the grounds and outhouses were derelict when they started, and there have been tv programmes showing how they restored things. Within the gardens themselves they have pictures next to each section so you can see what it looked like before, and sometimes what it looked like originally if they were able to find old photos. There are summerhouses like this one, which was dilapidated when they took on the gardens. (This photo is a little out of true in the small version, so click on it to get the best view.)
Or glasshouses like this one, which was full of geraniums, some flowering but all with attractive leaves (which reminds me, I want to see if they have any of those at the Malvern Spring Show this year). They often had to replace the glass in the houses, and in some of them (not any I have pictures of) they had what is called 'beaver tail panes' which are panes that are straight on 3 sides and have a curve on the bottom. This curve makes the rain run down the centre of the glass and stops the water rotting the surrounding wood.
In another greenhouse, built against a wall for warmth, blossoms are already appearing. They used a lot of the greenhouses for fruit. One had vines, which were able to grow without heat. In another they'd successfully grown pineapples using farmhouse manure for heat - a notice gave details of what consistency they had to get the manure to for success. A banana plant grew in a small house of its own. They also had fruit growing outside, wonderful cordonned trees in the huge kitchen garden, apples, pears, plums, cherries. The kitchen garden was a large walled expanse, and so neat it made me want to go and dig on my allotment :-)
They haven't tried to tidy everything away. Sometimes this is because of the antiquity of the plants. The trunks below are from rhododendrons which are over a 150 years old. They're beginning to get to the end of their life, and some are rare species, so instead of being ruthlessly cleared away they're left to create weird and haunting groves. They have created some new areas, this is the top of the Jungle which is a series of water features leading down a steep valley. Because the valley is so sheltered by its abrupt drop, there is a microclimate where they can grow sub-tropical plants. The latest ones they're trying are protea from South Africa. Another modern building they've built is a hide which looks out on bird-feeders and a pond. So even on an overcast day like today, you can look at all the bright colours of the tits (including Long Tailed Tits) and finches; and in the pond were frogs, and no doubt other amphibians if you had binoculars.
Apart from the main gardens, there is a larger estate surrounding the house where you can walk along old lanes and carriage ways. A lot of it is very steep, but usually in short stretches, so it's not like hill-walking. At the bottom of the estate, there was a man getting wood ready for charcoal burning, and on the way I passed their saw mill and another man working on wood-turning. As I said at the beginning there is masses of interest for a visit (an quite a reasonable price at £8.50) although I would like to come again when there are more flowers. One final feature of the garden are sculptures that have been integrated into the landscape. The Mud Maid and the Giant's Head are their most famous, but they have a new one which is very subtle. Can you see the Grey Lady here?

Tags: travel

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