Photographs: Charles Francis
December 2013: A conversation with garden manager John Lanyon
Visitors to Trerice can see the outline of a new Tudor-style knot garden. How did this project come about?
The National Trust is trying to ensure that the whole garden is relevant to the history of the house. We discovered that there was once a formal garden here, and that is what we’re working on. It’s in a distinctive Dutch style, which is exactly right for Trerice, as the house has a Dutch façade — one of its most significant features. We know there was an area called the Ladies Garden, so we took that name for the new knot garden.
How did you go about creating the Ladies Garden?
We looked at different knot gardens around the country — but then we noticed the floral pattern on the ceiling of the Great Chamber here and decided to copy that design. Knot gardens are designed to be viewed from a window, and the link works really well.
We did the groundwork this summer, and planted some bay trees; but rabbits jumped over the fence into the Ladies Garden and attacked the bark — it was a complete nightmare. We managed to save the trees, and we’re going to put in a higher fence. We’ll use blood, fish and bone to get nutrients into the soil before we start planting in the spring. We’re having yew hedging, with lavender and roses, and the bay trees will add drama. We chose a variety of lavender with really lovely silver leaves, and the rose is a modern cultivar of the Tudor ‘Alba Maxima’. We’ll plant tulips when the garden is established, to suit the Dutch style.
How much is known about the history of Trerice?
Trerice is so old it disappears into time. We have very few records or plans, and the earliest map we have of the estate is from 1823. But we know that the house was rebuilt as a fashionable Elizabethan manor house in 1573 by the Arundells, a hugely significant family in Cornwall. It was a working estate, and the gardens were very modest. The terraces, although they have changed a bit over time, are classic Tudor features. Some landscaping was done over the years, but there is little of it left. By the Victorian era, the house was being used as a farmhouse. There was a sunken path where you could come in off the road with cows or sheep, and go straight through to the farm. This is now the long walk, an ornamental area where we have planted rosemary, lavender and tulips, followed by asters to give late colour.
In what other ways has the trust maintained the Tudor style of the garden?
Trerice is completely different in style from Trelissick and Glendurgan. There aren’t any camellias and rhododendrons here: it’s not the place for them. We don’t know what was in the front court originally, so we’ve used classic Graham Stuart Thomas planting to provide a backdrop to the house, with roses, herbaceous perennials and colourful foliage.
Because Trerice was a farm, we’ve planted functional plants like herbs and fruit, and a Tudor vegetable garden, as well as ornamental shrubs and cut flowers, and we’ve dug up an area of mown grass and put in a box hedge and fruit trees.
Plants don’t have to be Tudor cultivars, if there is a better modern equivalent, but we have restored the Tudor Kayling lawn. Kayling is a traditional Cornish game, like skittles, which is over 500 years old. Visitors can try it, and learn how the Tudors used to entertain themselves. It helps bring Trerice to life.
As well as planting the Ladies Garden, what plans do you have for 2014?
The Ladies Garden is in the far end of the orchard, and we had to take some trees down, but we’re planting different varieties of locally-grown daffodils there, along with Iris latifolia, so there will be flowers from February to June. Above the Kayling lawn is a viewing mound, which dates back many years, with a vista of most of the garden and beyond, to St Newlyn East Church on the skyline. We had already thought it would be nice to reinstate a summerhouse elsewhere in the garden, and we’ve decided to complement it with another one on this spot, which will draw the eye to key places in the landscape. We’re also having some new ornamental gates to replace the present ones, which are not in the style of a Tudor manor house.