A garden inspired by foreign holidays creates a lush and colourful space nurtured by the gentler climes of Cornwall
It really was a question of 'Home or Away' for Kathleen Ward when she retired from her teaching post in the North of England 10 years ago. She thought about heading for warmer climes in the Mediterranean, inspired by holidays in Crete and Italy. However, she finally settled on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall, one of the mildest areas of England.
Once there, she set about creating her own Mediterranean paradise on a sheltered site close to the River Fal. It’s a five minute drive from the Cornish coast and, as a result, she’s able to grow lots of tender plants most of us can only dream of.
Although she has always been a keen gardener, finding out what would grow in Cornwall was a sharp learning curve. She began by visiting garden centres and local gardens to see what they were selling and growing. Trelissick, Glendurgan and Trebah were all inspirational, and encouraged Kathleen to come up with an adventurous, Mediterranean-style planting scheme, inspired by those foreign holidays that nearly lured her away from her home soil.
Kathleen spends time in the garden most days and in the summer she’s pruning and retraining her Mediterranean foliage plants to keep them in shape. Her main pruning and shaping is done in January, because winters are generally mild here and the growth spurt starts in February. She has planted 12 olive trees in the ground and “they’re all different shapes and sizes. One’s being trained into a weeping bush,” Kathleen adds. “Another has a large trunk and is about 50 years old. So far, there’s only been the odd fruit, though.” She also has a lemon, an orange and a clementine growing in pots near her kitchen door. “I’ve only had them for four years, but they’re quite large and they all fruit. Last winter I only had to cover them once.”
There’s a touch of the Orient in this garden, too, and Kathleen is delighted with her weeping pagoda tree (Sophora japonica ‘Pendula’), a Japanese tree often planted close to temples. It does well in this warm garden, and in winter the multi-stemmed contours are very architectural. The contorted black locust tree, named Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Twisty Baby’, is also sensational in winter light once the dark green foliage, which ripples over the almost stunted branches, has fallen.
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