Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Frost and summer thoughts

Another frost, followed by wet and windy days this week. Summer - both the one just gone and the next one I'm already looking forward to - feels a long way away. I'm already thinking nostalgically of our late September holiday in Cornwall. I didn't blog about it at the time because it was a blissful week free from the internet and even a mobile signal. 
Although Cornwall is a massive gardening destination, this time I only visited two of the many gorgeous gardens in the county. Much of our time was spent walking the clifftop paths of the northern coast, marvelling at the views and the golden beaches that match anything I've seen in Australia; and admiring the fact that anything at all can grow there, in rocky soil and perpetually buffeted by Atlantic winds. And yet, tough plants thrive - like the sea thrift pictured above, and miles of gorse and heathers that flank the coastal path network with an impenetrable blanket of vegetation. It was right-plant-right-place in all its natural glory.
It also explains why most of the great Cornish gardens are located on the more benign south coast, where it's so lush that it's hard to imagine a plant in the wrong place. I'm sorry that I didn't get to Tremenheere, as scooped by the Galloping Gardener, but that will be top of the list for next time. I stuck to the big cliched ones: Heligan and The Eden project. Partly out of duty and partly due to time available - and I felt like I couldn't miss them out again.
Heligan did not disappoint (even husband, whose garden visits I have to ration in order not to peak his enthusiasm, liked this one). The story of Tim Smit's restoration is an inspiring one and the results are quite enchanting, even on the drizzliest of days (hence v. disappointing photos, none here). Somehow it made the tree fern gulleys more atmospheric. But the vegetable and the cut flower gardens were the parts I would like to take home with me. Or rather, be able to live in one of the gardener's cottages surrounded by it all.

The Eden Project is another story. Again, a fantastic achievement by Mr Smit and a wonderful thing that people come to see plants and maybe take something back home from their holidays other than buckets and spades. But as a plant geek, I missed the labelling that most botanic gardens are so fanatical about and I felt that the slick organisation, from parking, to pathways and signposting was a bit School of Ikea - not really encouraging visitors to explore and ramble and form their own opinions. I really like some of the exterior landscaping, particularly the meadows which featured the lonely coneflower above, and the mixed borders of shrubs and perennials outside those biomes. And as for them domes, apart from my camera being unable to cope with the steamy humidity inside them, they did vaguely impress me. But give me Kew's Palm House any day.


  1. Have to agree on the Eden Project. Yes, it's impressive, but also a bit lacking in soul. I was more impressed with the structure than the actual experience.

  2. Yes, that's exactly it, IG, there was a distinct absence of soul. Strange for a place that is clearly inspired by passion for plants. And it's v. expensive.

  3. Your top pic really sums up Cornwall for me. Much as I love the gardens, its the wild beauty that tugs me back time after time. Funnily enough, due to my other half not being a fan of garden visits, I've never been to the Eden Project. Will still try to get there, but somehow now feel less of a pull...