Tag Archive: sub tropical


Our second recent Devon garden trip was to the beautifully located Overbecks- a house full of curiosity and a garden of sub tropical exoticism. The house itself is perhaps nothing special , but it contains a panoply of collected items and interesting artefacts accumulated by the original owner, a German inventor called Otto Beck. A room of dolls houses (witha lowered door opening to make the point that this is a room for youngsters), and dispays of bird eggs, stuffed anumials rocks and so on, make this a house of wonder.

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The gardens- another example of a Devon valley being used to great effect in creating a sub tropical microclimate- is wonderful, with a winding path taking you around the wide range of interesting plants , and the occasional view across Salcombe Bay. It was a sunny day and we had a delicious meal on the terrace.

Further information: National Trust website

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IMG_6850Very much a garden for the plant enthusiast, I think, particularly if you’re into sub tropical ferns and sun loving agaves. When we visited in mid August the three valleys that make up this garden were bathed in warm sunshine and there was the sound of children’s laughter from the Maze and play spots. The valleys tip out into the Helford river where the hamlet of Durgan (now a series of holiday lets run by the National Trust), looks across the wide, slow running estuary that leads to Falmouth a little further up stream.

There’s also much of interest here for those that love inspiring landscapes, featuring variations in foliage shape, size and tint coupled with the different masses and forms of the many exotic trees and shrubs. This is a well crafted garden that makes the most of its situation, with breathtaking valley-side paths that give glimpses of interesting trees, features and of course that maze.

Despite being busy when we visited, the garden’s enclosed volume seemed to capture sound and, rather like a cathedral, gave back softened echoes that settle the soul.

Glendurgan Garden was laid out by Alfred Fox in the 1820s and 1830s, with the famous Cherry Laurel Maze being created in 1833. In 1962 Glendurgan Garden was given to the National Trust by Cuthbert and Philip Fox. Key features are the giant rhubarb plants in the jungle-like lower valley and spiky arid plants basking in the sunny upper slopes. There’s also a seat made out of an upturend boat, several tulip-trees and ponds. I gather that the Trust have introduced some colour into the gardens, where spaces naturally fall between the more major planting, but this is principally of spring and early summer wild flowers, long gone by the time of our visit. We must return at another season…

Further Information: National Trust Website

Old School Gardener

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This Rocky island crowned by a medieval church and castle was another of my West Country garden visits – or rather ir wasn’t. Access to the gardens was restricted to certain days during the summer (as a a conservation measure) and yes, we chose one of the closed days! So my visit was confined to aerial views from castle ramparts, glimpses through gates and over hedges. Still, I managed to get a good idea of what the gardens are like and I’ve tried to convey this in the photo montage below.

The island – a ‘twin’ with Mont St. Michel in Normandy on the other side of the English Channel – has some buildings dating from the 12th century. It’s sub-tropical Gardens feature exotic plants clinging to steep granite cliffs and terraces laid out with a mixture of formal and informal borders. These terraces are tiered close to the rocky water’s edge.

I witnessed an ‘abseiling gardener’ carrying out some ‘extreme strimming’ on the grassy slopes!

Plants that are natives of Mexico, the Canary Islands and South Africa thrive in the mild micro-climate created by the sun-warmed cliffs. As we found in many other parts of West Cornwall plants like Agapanthus, Fuchsia, Crocosmia ‘Montbretia’ and Hydrangea thrive here as well as along road – sides and more modest domestic gardens in the area.

I will revisit at some point to get the ‘up close and personal’ experience of actually being in the gardens, but from the views I managed they do seem mightily impressive.

Further information:

National Trust website

St. Michael’s Mount Garden Itinerary

Wikipedia- St. Michael’s Mount

Old School Gardener

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On my recent West Country holiday I had the pleasure or revisiting the Minack Open Air Theatre, perched on a clifftop on the Cornish coast. It must be thirty years since I was last here and it’s certainly been developed, with new visitor facilities and altogether a more organised feel to things.

The play, which told the tale of 19th century Australian convicts acting out a play, was entertaining, but of greater impact were the sub tropical gardens that weave themselves in and out of the amphitheatre planned, financed and created between 1931 and 1983 by one determined woman – Rowena Cade. And of course, the setting. This overlooks the English Channel, and as we were there for an evening performance, one of the fullest moons ever came to dominate the scene as darkness fell.

Oh, and towards the end a large, speeding helicopter suddenly emerged from behind the bluff on which the theatre sits – congratulations to the actors who seemed unmoved by this sudden intrusion!

Here are a few shots of the evening to give you a sense of the gardens, setting and the occasion.

Further information:

Minack theatre website

Old School Gardener

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PicPost: Great Garden @ Abbotsbury

Early History
Established in 1765 by the first Countess of Ilchester as a kitchen garden for her nearby castle. Developed since then into a magnificent 20 acre garden filled with rare and exotic plants from all over the world. Many of these plants were first introductions to this country, discovered by the plant hunting descendants of the Countess.

The Garden Today
After the great storm of 1990, a major restoration project has been underway. many new exotic and unusual flowers have been introduced to this fabulous Dorset Garden.

The Garden is a mixture of formal and informal flowers, world famous for it’s Camellia groves and magnolias. Noted in Dorset for its Rhododendron and Hydrangea collections and the charming Victorian Garden’

Source : Abbotsbury website

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