Ince Castle

Photographs: Charles Francis

March 2011: A conversation with owner Alice Boyd

How long has the garden been here? 

The castle dates back to the mid-17th century, but until the First World War, before the bridge and drive were built here, everything had to be brought by boat. There wasn’t much of a garden before my mother and father-in-law came to live here in the early 1960s, so it was really my mother-in-law who started it. She had lived in Surrey and Norfolk, and she had always wanted to garden in a favourable climate. The site here turned out to be everything she had hoped for — even though there’s very little topsoil, and it’s quite windy. It is the opposite of the traditional Cornish valley garden. She gardened here for 40 years.

What was your mother-in-law’s vision for the garden? 

Her plan was to make a woodland garden to the north-east of the house, and a more formal garden on the south-west side, with beds and a sundial. She was always trying to extend the seasons, and not just have a garden which was looking good in the spring. We have continued that, especially with the late summer garden which goes on flowering into October.

When did you become involved?

My husband and I moved to Ince in 1994. My mother-in-law was still living here, so we overlapped a bit, but we had very clear demarcation areas, and it worked well: we never had a cross word about the garden. By then it was a semi-mature garden, so we had the pleasure of building on what she had started. The areas we took on were ones my mother-in-law had already developed; the wood was one of them. She was pleased to hand them over, as she was getting less mobile, but she retained the area near the house.

Have you changed things since you took on the whole garden?

We’ve added to it, especially on the edge of the woodland. We have more rough grass, in an attempt to be labour-saving. One of the main things we did was to scoop out the area in the front of the house, so we could see the views of the River Lynher from the downstairs rooms. This has created a mound – it used to be a flat lawn.

What are the good and bad points about gardening here?

It‘s very windy, because it‘s close to the sea, and it’s also very dry. When it rains, the water goes through very quickly — the soil isn’t water retentive. But the great thing is it’s got this wonderful view. In Cornwall, if you have a view, you have to put up with the wind.

Do you have any favourite plants?

I am very fond of bulbs. There’s a huge variety here. They grow very well in Cornwall, and my great indulgence is to plant as many as I can in the autumn, both in the garden and in pots. I am also fond of daffodils. They are incredibly long-lasting, little trouble, and very elegant.

Alice Boyd

Alice Boyd with Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’