Hogus House

Photographs: Charles Francis

Hogus House

May 2013:  A conversation with owners Terry and Delia Ash and gardener David Reynolds

How long has there been a garden here?

Terry: The garden was set out by Dr William Borlase, an antiquarian and naturalist, soon after he came here as rector of Ludgvan in 1722. Nothing is really known about the garden he created, except that he planned to establish exotic species. We don’t know much else until Arthur Boscawen arrived in 1893. Boscawen had a brother in the New Zealand Forestry Service who sent back seeds, so he was able to build up a fine collection of exotic plants and shrubs.

What was Boscawen’s garden like?

Delia: We have no planting plans or drawings, but we do have a card index of everything planted here from 1900 to 1938. Soon after we came here, an estate agent knocked on the door and gave me a suitcase which he had rescued when it was about to be put on a skip. It had the card index in it, and other material relating to the garden. On Christmas Day 1908, Boscawen recorded 136 plants in flower. We know he created a shelterbelt of trees at the bottom of the garden, which unfortunately are no longer here, but a clump of five Trachycarpus fortunei palms which he planted still survives.

Giant palms

David: We’ve put in five new trachycarpusses which in time will replace these five. A lot of Boscawen’s tender plantings were short-lived — the kind of plants that need a lot of care and attention. There was an extensive collection of New Zealand plants like pseudopanax, leptospermum and Knightia excelsa — New Zealand honeysuckle — metrosideros and a range of podocarpusses. A lot of nurseries have these things now, but they wouldn’t have had them then.

What happened after Boscawen’s time?

Terry: He died in 1939, and a lot of the tender plants didn’t survive for long after that: there were several bad winters at around that time. The Church sold the rectory in 1979, and it was re-named Hogus House. The garden was divided, with Hogus House retaining one and a half acres, and the rest was sold off separately, or retained for the new rectory. Before the Hon Piers St Aubyn came to live here in the 1980s, the garden had deteriorated quite considerably. Piers set about reclaiming it. We have his planting plans: not all of the plants and trees were actually planted, but he did set up a framework for the restoration of the garden.

What condition was Hogus House in when you arrived?

Delia: The house had been empty for some time, and the garden had become overgrown. Terry and I came to Cornwall from Surrey to be near our children and grandchildren, rather than to restore a garden, but Hogus House presented us with a massive challenge — and we thrive on challenges. We want to build on Piers’ work and continue the tradition of gardening which was started here by Dr Borlase in the 18th century.  This was a great garden, and we feel we have a duty, as current custodians, to restore it for future generations in Ludgvan.

What have you done so far?

Terry: We’ve put in more than 1,000 plants, and reclaimed an area in the lower part of the garden. We plan to put in a water garden in the future. We now we have a sight line from the terrace in front of the house, through the trees, all the way to St Michael’s Mount: the view is tremendous.

View of St Michael's Mount

David: We’re planting more rhododendrons, particularly scented ones like loderi ‘King George’ and ‘Fragrantissimum’, which flower in June, and ‘Polar Bear’ which will flower throughout the summer. We want scent to be a big feature in the garden, so we also have witch hazels and daphnes. There are some interesting fruit trees, including a lovely mature medlar — every year it is smothered in fruit — and we now have a quince to accompany it. We’ve put in Azara microphylla and Clerodendrum trichotomum, two beautiful small trees with lovely scented flowers. We’re also putting in a lot of tree ferns, which with the planting of other ferns, work well with the Victorian feel of the house.

What can visitors see in May?

David: It’s tricky to know for sure, because everything is about a month behind this year. There should still be some rhododendrons and grevilleas, and things like Geranium maderense, gazania and cistus. There’s Crinodendron ‘Ada Hoffman’, and a lovely Viburnum plicatum. Some interesting saxifrages will also be popping their heads up.