Heartlands Diaspora Gardens, Pool. Photographs: Charles Francis
My roots in the Cornish soil run deep — but my family were miners, not gardeners. I doubt if my father’s forebears, who came from the mid-Cornwall mining village of Polgooth, ever visited the glorious gardens at Heligan, less than four miles away. And my mother’s ancestors probably never strolled through the beautiful bluebell wood at Godolphin, even though it is within walking distance of their native village of Breage, in the west of the county. Yet I have visited both Heligan and Godolphin not just once, but many times.
I’ve been enchanted and inspired by many other gardens all over Cornwall — from the formal gardens at Cotehele, a 16th century manor house on the banks of the Tamar, to Tremenheere, a 21st century sculpture garden overlooking Mount’s Bay. I’ve explored the magnificent gardens of grand Cornish estates like Trewithen and Tregothnan, and enjoyed tea and cake on the lawns of exquisite cottage gardens tucked away in pretty villages.
Every garden has its own style, mood and atmosphere, thanks to the horticultural visionary who created it, and the dedicated gardener who now looks after it. Sometimes, of course, this is the same person.
It’s always a pleasure to meet gardeners, as they’re such an enthusiastic bunch. Of course, they have much to be enthusiastic about when they live in a county with an international reputation as a horticultural hotspot. As a gardener who moved to St Ives Bay from Cheshire once told me: “The good thing about Cornwall is that if you poke a stick in the ground, it will grow. And where else could you get a view like this?”
I always look forward to discovering a garden I’ve never visited before — but it is also a joy to return to one I have known for many years. As any expert horticulturalist will tell you, a garden is always a work in progress: it is never finished.