Garden and summerhouse

Photographs: Charles Francis

July 2011: A conversation with owner Marion Stanley

This has the feel of an established garden, and yet it is only three years old. What did the site look like when you came to live here?

It was a field, which was once pasture, but specimen trees had been plonked everywhere. The grass was mown, and there was a small pond, but there was no structure, no pathways and no beds. The rest of the garden is woodland with ancient hazel and lovely old oaks, and a river snakes through and flows into Loe Pool.

What was your plan for the garden?

I wanted a happy marriage between structure and nature: to give shape, form and design to the mowed arboretum, but also have a wild area to blend in with the woodland. I couldn’t possibly have fountains or formal beds.

How did you begin? 

I enlarged the pond, and created island beds between the trees.

Reflecting pool

There were white rocks everywhere — bullies, as they are called around here. There are still some of them in the spring bed: they complement the azaleas. I inherited some plants, which I have kept, as I don’t like to rip anything out. There were a lot of tree ferns, and I put something with them which imitates their shape and form — hostas.

Hostas and primulas

There was a circle of spireas, and people said: “You don’t need seven spireas”, but the circle is a froth of white in the spring.

How did the garden grow?

I created a wild meadow for the bees, and a nectar bed, which has things like verbascum, buddleia, phlox, echinacea, helianthus and Verbena bonariensis, with a large cardoon in the centre. We have a summerhouse at the top of the garden from where there are beautiful views of the mature trees in the woodland. My cutting beds are here — they will be full of colour in July, with sweet peas, lupins, delphiniums, roses and lots of dahlias — along with my husband Peter’s veg plot, and the hot, dry beds, where I have planted lampranthus and agapanthus from the Isles of Scilly, lavender, aeoniums, bronze grasses, and orange arctotis, which opens in the sun.

Vegetable garden

Was it always part of the plan to have plenty of colour?

I like to have colours firing off each other: a yellow rose with black Sambucus nigra; grey-green pittosporum with coral heuchera. I also have Robinia pseudoacacia, a tree with lovely yellow leaves which contrasts with the copper beech.

Rhododendron and Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia'

Rhododendron with Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ 

 What are the latest projects to come to fruition?

Last year, we created the orchard walk, which has a double border. It’s full of tulips in the spring, and I’ve also planted alliums, forget-me-notes, delphiniums and old-fashioned rugosa roses.

Orchard avenue

We did the rose walk this year: it has specialist roses and violas — a traditional combination. The colour gradation goes from quite bright to very pale and quite dark. There are climbers at the back with clematis going up through them.

 Rosa 'Aloha' and Clematis 'Rebecca'

Rosa ‘Aloha’ with Clematis ‘Rebecca’ 

 Roses grow very well here, and I have more than 50 varieties, which go through the whole colour spectrum. I really like single roses, which are simple and lovely: like ‘Sally Holmes’, which grows all the way up the steps by the house. My other favourites are ‘Rose de Rescht’, which is cerise pink, ‘Souvenir du Dr Jamain’ — very dark purple, almost black — and the yellow ‘Teasing Georgia’.

Then there are the chickens …

I started with bantams; they are so beautiful with their fluffy legs. I have a handsome bird called Bertie who promenades up the paths.  Then I went to a farm sale and bought a henhouse: I didn’t fully realise it came with four inmates.  I also have my wanderers – three hens who walk around the garden together – and a cockerel called Spartacus.


How does gardening here compare with gardening at your previous home near the foot of the Lizard Peninsula? 

This part of Cornwall is a hidden secret and a naturalist’s paradise. Although we’re only a mile from RNAS Culdrose, we see very few helicopters.

Green and yellow shrubs

However, this is quite a difficult site, as it’s a frost pocket and the soil is thick clay. I can’t leave succulents out as much as I could at Landewednack. I have a climbing geranium which came from a farmhouse on Tresco, and I took cuttings with me to every house we have lived in. I had it climbing up my wall here, but it hasn’t survived the last three hard winters. But fortunately, I’d already taken more cuttings.