The Sky's The Limit!
Words Geoff Hodge Photos Neil Hepworth
Informality and lush planting is evident everywhere in this garden and it looks fabulous. “There’s height and fullness, masses of summer colour, plus big ferns and bamboos to give it a ‘jungley’ look,” says owner Charlie Pridham. “Liz has the great ideas and I’m the muscle that puts them into action.”
The current layout and planting of the garden is totally due to the plantsmanship of the Pridhams. Although there has been a garden there since the late 1790s, it was destroyed in the 1940s as part of the Dig for Victory Campaign. When they moved to the house in 1983, they inherited an acre of long grass and weeds!
The slope was also quite severe, but they didn’t want to break it up with lots of steps. Instead the path layout runs down in a series of bends and bays with raised beds made from another problem they had inherited – masses of loose stone and building rubble hidden everywhere in the garden. “People often comment on the features of the stone-built raised beds and walls, which I guess do give the garden a certain look,” says Charlie. “But we built them to perform a function, to raise up and deepen the good growing soil, so we don’t tend to think of them as garden features. The topsoil layer is very thin, it’s only 7.5-10cm (3-4in) on top of the subsoil, and is an unusual sandy, but humus-rich, dark soil. We’ve added to that with the beds.”
Height is an obvious feature of this colourful, scented haven, as it boasts numerous superb collections of fragrant climbing plants. And, unlike many of the other fine Cornish gardens, which are a spectacle in spring, this is very much a summer garden. June starts with a colour explosion of wonderful roses, especially the wichurana ramblers of which the Pridhams have a large number.
Then there’s the early summer-flowering lonicera (honeysuckles), which overlap with the spring-flowering species, all of which help fill the garden with a heady perfume. By July, the roses are still in full flower, and are now joined by the numerous Clematis viticellavarieties, which continue to bloom for the next three months. “We hold the Plant Heritage
National Collection of Clematis viticella,” says Charlie, “so, as you can imagine, there are lots of them around the garden!”
The Pridhams also own the National Collection of another climber, Lapageria rosea or Chilean bellflower, with large, pretty drooping flower skirts of pink and white. Further honeysuckles continue to flower over the summer months, from the large collection in the garden. The scent from all these plants mingles with extra fragrance from summer jasmines.
This preponderance of climbers is no accident. Charlie explains: “When we moved here our priorities were different. We had young children, so half the garden was set aside for them and their play equipment. We kept hens and I went to sea fora living, so the garden had to be ultra-low maintenance. We gravitated toward growing climbing plants, because they could live around the edges and be safely up out of the way of children and dogs.”
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