A month in Cornwall


The last month has been a whirlwind of travel, gardening and shopping! After three months  working in Italy I took a slight detour and headed to Cornwall before coming back to France.  Kate and I have decided to settle here for a while and see if we can make a go of gardening in the Minervois.  We also hope to start building a garden that reflects some of the ideas and the places that we’ve visited over the last year on our quest to learn more about water-wise gardening. This mixed in with our own style of planting which is usually quite wild, sustainable, natural and colourful, it should keep us occupied for a while!

My mission in Cornwall was to help a friend with a new border, to dig up and divide plants from her garden partly for the new border and partly to bring back to France to see if they can cope with the climate over here (hot, dry summers and cooler,wet winters) Also to collect seeds, bulbs and any other plants that might work here and of course to visit the odd garden for inspiration (and cake)

Some of the gardens we visited..

The Garden House, Devon

The Garden House, Buckland Monachorum, Devon http://www.thegardenhouse.org.uk/. Great inspiration for wild, mixed plantings in banked-up free draining borders.

Tremenheere Sculpture Garden, Cornwall

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Penzance http://www.tremenheere.co.uk/. A fairly new garden that has lush planting typical of a Cornish valley garden (Tree Ferns, Palms, Bamboos) mixed with some large terraced gravel areas containing more drought tolerant species. One section called ‘Little Fynbos’ contains plants associated with Western Cape in South Africa.

National Dahlia Collection, Cornwall

 A treat for the eyes, the National Dahlia Collection at Penzance http://www.national-dahlia-collection.co.uk/en/.

On to the project…helping friends start building the first of four gardens to surround yurts and cabins for a future ‘glampsite’. The first border is a raised bed with plenty of drainage to grow plants that generally prefer a slightly less damp environment than the typical Cornish one!

The blank canvas…

Blank canvas

Collecting stones from the existing gardens to line the border, aiming for good drainage.
Collecting rocks for border drainageDigging up plants to make divisions for the new border and also to bring to France. Not so easy when it’s a rather vigorous Miscanthus ‘Malepartus’.

Miscanthus malepartus

We collected bulbs too, these are Allium nigrum and Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ that have bulked up in the ground, both cope fairly well with well drained soil.

Last years bulbs have increased

Large rocks for wall building, topsoil and most importantly a digger arrived all at the same time.

Grading rocks for wall building or drainage

Dogs keeping an eye on the activities.

Border in progress

Rocks, gravel, soil, more rocks, gravel, soil.

Rocks, gravel, topsoil, water

Forget wall building, planting’s much more fun!

Planting up divisions from the garden

We raided the garden for Sedums, Asters, Echinops, Eryngiums, Salvias, Euphorbias, Geraniums, Echinaceas, Lavandulas, Nepetas, grasses (Molinia ‘Transparent’, Miscanthus ‘Flamingo’, Stipa gigantea and a backdrop of M. ‘Malepartus’) and threw in some Alliums ‘Purple Sensation’ and sphaerocephalon. Obviously it’s not the best time to be moving plants but we’ve chopped their heads off (!) given them a good soak and they should come back looking pretty good in the spring.

All plants in, time to chop them down!

The cut flower heads have made some gorgeous bouquets as you don’t usually chop off quite so many blooms in one go!

Plenty of material for a fine bouquet

A covering of gravel and the first bed has been started (watch this space for updates on future glamping in Cornwall surrounded by beautiful gardens)

Border covered in gravel

Time for last minute digging up of some of my favourite plants to bring back with me. This little selection of Aster umbellatus, Vernonia ‘Mammuth’, Actaea and Eupatorium are used to growing in fairly dry conditions as I originally brought them down from Norfolk several years ago. Kate and I are hoping to develop a garden that we can grow these in providing suitable shelter from the sun, so they may survive if the plan works!

Selection of plants on their way to FranceLittle last minute trip to the lovely Old Withy Nursery http://www.theoldwithygardennursery.co.uk/ too, shame not to when we were so nearby.

A little last minute shopping

One crammed suitcase and a day later the plants have been split up and potted on in their new home in France.



Kate went to her garden in the UK and also dug up and divided into small pieces some Veronicastrum, Digitalis ferruginea, Actaea, and lots of bulbs. We both cut the plants right down to just roots, washed the soil off and packed them in damp newspaper ready for the plane journey.


Fingers crossed, the plants we brought from England will cope alongside the Mediterranean plants we will be propagating for our new garden!

Divisions and cuttings in France


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