Spring is the time when traditionally the South West’s gardens are at their best. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic seeing the closure of all gardens, this year it’ll just be a handful of owners and gardeners who will enjoy these beautiful spaces.
One of the reasons we love to visit gardens is the inspiration and escapism they bring. If there was ever a time we needed that more, it’s now. I’ve been looking back at my photos of family visits to some of our favorite gardens and I thought I’d share them.
There are plenty of well known gardens in Cornwall and the South West. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, The Eden Project, Trebah to name but a few. I love and admire these gardens and we often visit as a family, but it’s the gardens that are privately owned that I mainly want to feature. There’s something more humble, more individual about these gardens.
Tregothnan, Truro – Cornwall
Tregothnan has been privately owned by the same family for over seven hundred years. As residence to Lord Falmouth, this garden can be viewed by pre-arranged garden tour. The only exception is in spring when Tregothnan open their gates for their annual charity weekend.
The Estate is argued to have one of the UK’s best botanical gardens, with rare specimens collected from all over the world. Our personal highlight are the towering rhododendrons which carpet the paths with wonderful pinks and purples.
Bonython, Helston – Cornwall
A privately owned gardens that opens week days to the public. This is a garden which has been restored and improved over the past decade with plenty still in the pipeline for the future. In spring the woodlands are filled with wild garlic and azaleas, and in summer the wonderful potager garden and water gardens look splendid. There’s also a tree fern gully, bamboozle, yew church (yes a full size topiary church!) and some really interesting and unusual plants. This is a really fantastic garden that has some personality. The current owners have restored what should be restored while putting their own stamp on the place, just as it should be.
Forde Abbey, Chard – Somerset
Perhaps my favorite garden to date! It ticks every box as far as I’m concerned. The most amazing traditional walled vegetable garden where you can imagine the abbey monks growing their produce, the most beautifully planted flower gardens, fabulous bog garden, arboretum, wild flower meadows and the largest fountain under pump in England. It’s family friendly, romantic, photogenic and full of imagination.
Enys, Falmouth – Cornwall
If you like bluebells, Enys has some of the best you’ll ever see. As you turn the corner and see the field of blue, its enough to take your breath away. But for me Enys is special for more than just bluebells. It feels like it’s right out of the pages of a novel, the ‘Secret Garden’ perhaps. One of Cornwall’s oldest gardens, it has slipped into a state of dilapidation along with the house. The gardening team is small but with visitor numbers increasing during the bluebell and summer season, investment in the garden is growing. I hope they will keep the balance right and manage to keep some of the gardens current romantic whimsical feel.
Hanbury Hall, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire
Despite trying to compile a list of hidden gem, privately owned gardens, I wanted to mention the National Trust owned Hanbury Hall which we visited as a family for the first time last year. It was designed by George London, the man who in the late seventeenth century brought us an English twist on the formal Dutch and French gardens. His gardens contained a more natural feel to those you’d find in Versailles. They contained tree lined avenues and ‘wild’ gardens of manicured trees. He designed gardens for Longleat, Chatsworth, Burghley and Castle Howard, but as the work of Capability Brown grew in popularity, fashions for England’s great gardens changed and many of London’s designs were lost. The garden at Hanbury Hall remains the only George London garden in England.
There’s plenty to see in the garden. An ice house, orangery, wild gardens, formal flower gardens, orchard, wonderful vegetable gardens, and of course the house is open to the public. As with all National Trust properties, it’s very family friendly and perfect for a picnic!