Visiting professional gardens can be completely inspiring or totally depressing. I go home either wanting to concrete over the lot and take up golf or feeling highly motivated, with bucket loads of new ideas and a desire to get stuck in. My recent visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan certainly had the latter effect.
The day was dull and drizzly. Not good for taking photos but great for keeping the crowds away. So, selfishly I almost had the gardens to myself. And what splendid gardens. Not pristine and highly managed but natural, productive and workable. I even spotted a few weeds.
I’m sure you already know the history of Heligan so, interesting though it is, I won’t bore you. Suffice it to say that the wonderful idyll of Heligan was lost in 1914/18 as a result of more than half of the team of young gardeners dying on Flanders’ fields. Over the following years the garden gently went to sleep.
The gardens were thankfully rediscovered in 1990 by a wonderful team of enthusiasts who set to reawaken and restore them. Not to an imagined former glory but to an authentic “personal garden on a human scale”.
The Flower Garden
This is where the garden was first glimpsed back in 1990. Today the garden is bursting with flowers grown for cutting but also with vegetables, herbs and even fruit trees. Full advantage being taken of the fact that the high walls make this the most protected area. Proof also that this was always a productive garden, not one created just for show.
Those of us with far smaller gardens can also mix flower, fruit and veg in our borders. Dill and fennel sway beautifully amongst globe artichokes, cosmos and rudbeckia and what better boundary then step-over fruit trees?
The Vegetable Garden
This 1.8 acre garden was tasked with producing food for the family in the big house and their guests but also their 40+ staff and their families! And this was required for 12 months of the year.
On the day of my visit rows of Runner Bean Scarlet Emperor were in full flower. The broad beans had sadly succumbed to black fly but the onions were swelling up nicely. The centre path was sheltered by a continuing arch. Not of something beautiful but useless like a laburnum but instead giving support to apple tree after apple tree. All being British heritage varieties.
I recognised many varieties of veg as being included in our own Suttons Heritage Vegetable Seed Range.
There are many other individual gardens within Heligan plus fascinating buildings and even a jungle! If you haven’t yet visited then I urge you to do so. If you have already visited then do so again! My hope being that, like me, you will go home inspired and with no plans to cover your garden with concrete.