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Hidden Valley Gardens
Award winning Garden in Cornwall (VisitCornwall 2010 and 2011)
and one of "20 UK best places to stay with gardens" (The Times, 19th May 2012)
A390 approximately 2 miles west of Lostwithiel turn left onto the B3269 signposted Fowey. After 200 yards turn right (signposted 'Treesmill'). After 1 mile turn left at the sign for Hidden Valley Gardens, and proceed to end of lane (0.5 mile) going past Colwith Farm.
O.S. map reference SX094567
Open Dates: Daily from:
20th March - 15th October
10.00am - 6.00 pm (except Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
It has always been our dream to ‘retire’ to Cornwall and develop a garden with a nursery open to the public. Eventually after much searching we moved here in November 1999 with a thousand plants and a 10ft X 10ft greenhouse in a large removal van. This had to park a mile up the lane to unload, and all our possessions were delivered in small loads.
The property is a barn conversion that needed extensive works before we could open. We had the builders in for over a year, but they just finished in time for opening at Easter 2001.
The nursery and garden have now taking shape after much hard work. The apartments and nursery are run single handed by me with some help in the garden. I specialise in cultivating perennials for sale, which can be seen growing in the garden. It is not a typical Cornish garden with rhododendrons and camellias, although I have developed a woodland garden in one area with various trees and shrubs. I propagate many of the plants for sale in the nursery from my garden and although I have limited stock it should be interesting. The garden is well labelled and visitors are welcome to walk around all areas. There is a Tea Hut next to the Sales area, where you can serve yourself tea/coffee with home made cakes. There is also a toilet and picnic tables.
Hidden Valley Gardens
After a wet summer, we are now having a very wet autumn. Even my large greenhouse has several inches of water inside and the whole garden is oozing with water. So now is the time to keep off the land and catch up on those other jobs. I am going to update my plant database, treat the sales tables and garden furniture with preservative, work out which nursery stock I need to propagate for next year, and sort out my garden photos, hopefully! The bad weather has affected the visitor numbers in our garden this year and also some of the flowers were late getting going with the lack of sunshine. However we still had a rewarding season with lots of colour, especially from the Dahlias and Agapanthus. Unsurprisingly the Alders and swamp cypress are doing really well!
Despite the weather we had lots of group visits which means I have to make lots of fairy cakes for refreshments. It’s a pity the fairies don’t make them, as baking in quantities can take up valuable time. However, they do go down really well with the garden visitors who do like their cake and cup of tea.
Recently I have been creating a new shady area at the bottom of the garden mainly to display a collection of primroses, and more ferns. I have grown some of the famous Barnhaven primroses from seed (see photo).
These seed strains are so special with an old fashioned character and diversity of subtle colouring, fragrance and hardiness. The seeds are now developed in France by a dedicated team and there are lots of different types of primrose seed from which to choose. I am looking forward to seeing the flowers. I will add some snowdrops and a few hellebores. The area, to be called the ‘Primrose Garden’, is screen off by some hazel hurdles with the entrance through two large granite posts. The posts each weight more than 2 tons and were raised from horizontal to vertical very slowly by Peter and his trusty helper using the ‘Stonehenge method’ – 100 blocks and levers. This development is part of the exciting developments in the Garden during 2013
Caroline, who works for us, has taken on the role of wildlife officer and is researching ways to make our garden even more wild life friendly. We hope to add more nest boxes and have an information leaflet available. Again we are opening for the Wild Life Trust on Tuesday 30th July 2013, please note this is a day when we are normally closed.
Our self-catering accommodation is still
popular with garden lovers and we even got a mention in the
Times newspaper under the heading of “20 UK best places to stay
with gardens”. Also there was an article about Hidden Valley in
the August edition of the R.H.S magazine ‘The Garden’ with
photos taken last June by Marianne Majerus, who recently
achieved international garden photographer of the year. Some of
the photos are also in a new book about Cornish gardens for the
German market (see photos).
Hidden Valley Gardens Summer 2012 Newsletter
It has been quiet a challenging start to early summer, with extra helpings of wind and rain. Fortunately we have a shelter belt of trees around the garden so not much damage has been done. We also have had an influx of rabbits who nibble all new shoot. We have had to net our sweet peas, runner beans, and dahlias. However we also have foxes so perhaps nature will help keep the rabbit numbers down.
Some visitors find it quite an adventure travelling down our flower filled Cornish lanes and are relieved to finally reach the last bend and see our Name sign at the beginning of our drive. We have just replaced the old wooded sign with a granite one; it fits in nicely with a country feel. We chose the granite slab from a reclamation yard, and had it carved by a monumental mason, and the lettering picked out in deep green, so look out for it next time you visit.
Despite the weather we have had lots of group visits so far, which means I have made lots of fairy cakes for their refreshments. It is a pity the fairies do not make them, as baking in quantities can take up valuable time, but they do go down well with the garden visitors, who like their cake and cup of tea.
We garden in a natural style here and let a lot of plants self-seed but it is a deceptively labour intensive way as it involves a lot of hand weeding to keep a good balance. At the moment the Linaria purpurea in mauve, white, and pink is looking good with their tall spires waving in the breeze. I just let the pink and white seed and still get some of the more dominate mauve to keep a good colour mix.
Caroline, who works for us, has taken on the role of wild life officer and is researching ways to make our garden even more wild life friendly. We hope to add more nest boxes and have an information leaflet available. We are also opening for the Wild Life Trust on Tuesday 17th July, please note this is a day when we are normally closed.
Our self-catering accommodation is still popular with garden lovers and we even got a mention in the Times newspaper under the heading of “20 UK best places to stay with gardens”. Also there will be an article about Hidden Valley in the August edition of the R.H.S magazine ‘The Garden’ with photos taken last June by Marianne Majerus, recently achieved international garden photographer of the year. Some of the photos will also be in a book about Cornish gardens for the German market coming out in the autumn,
Unfortunately as the bee keeper has retired, the bee hives which we had in the bottom corner of our garden have gone, they have been relocated to a good home nearby. I think a lot of the bees still return to the garden. This has created an opportunity to develop some new planting. As it is a shady corner we are going to extend the fern collection and also plant many different types of primroses which do so well in Cornwall. I am at the moment pricking out some Barnhaven primrose seedlings I have grown. These seed strains are so special with an old fashioned character and diversity of subtle colouring, fragrance, and hardiness. They are grown in France by a dedicated team and there are lots of different types of primrose seed from which to choose. To screen this area from the compost heaps we are putting up some hazel hurdle fence and have purchased two rugged granite posts to have as an entrance way. We just need to find someone to help us move them!
This year the Cornwall Tourism Board have added short videos to their “VisitCornwall” web site. The short video of gardens to Heligan and Hidden Valley Gardens – you can also see this using the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yadF9dJLkFMTricia Howard July 2012
Hidden Valley Gardens Newsletter, Christmas 2011
It has been a good growing season here in Cornwall. Apart from April, when it was hot and dry, we had just enough rain for the plants to thrive and not too much to keep the visitors away.
It was also a bumper year for fruit and berries after the hard winter, but mild spring with no frost in April. Our fruit trees really got into their stride and presented us with loads of gages, plums and apples. Some of the excess apples have gone away to make us some apple juice and cider. But we only had a few cherries despite thousands on the trees – we had some very fat birds in the garden! We have a eight year old walnut tree. Last year we were thinking of giving it the ‘cut’ but it heard about it and produced one walnut. This year we had well over 100 walnuts! We tried pumpkins for the first time and put two plants on top of an old compost heap and left them to their own devices - we were rewarded with 21 large pumpkins and we are still eating pumpkin soup! Even the holly trees in the surrounding countryside are covered in berries for Christmas and the bryony berries are like orange necklaces hanging in the hedge rows.
We were both 65yrs in November and, although we are getting a bit creaky, we hope to keep gardening for a number of years with support from our helpers. In my case with help from my osteopath!
Now my husband Peter has finally retired he does my marketing and public relations in an enthusiastic way, which has made a real difference to the visitor numbers and plant sales both of which have increased. This year the garden won the Cornwall Tourism ‘Bronze’ award for the “Small Tourist Attraction” category (there are no ‘garden’ only category). As we were away on our winter break some of our ‘helpers’ went to the award ceremony at St Mellion International Hotel and Golf Club to collect it for us (see photo above)
Last winter, I started a new bed for early spring interest by clearing some old shrubs away (see photo). We have put in several Acer palmatums, under-planted with small bulbs including many named snowdrops, which I have been collecting. There are also hellebores and different forms of primroses and pulmonaria. I am greatly looking forward to seeing all the flowers this spring.
Another project this year has been to make a water feature at the end of the plant sales area for shade loving plants. We had to get rid of some ugly redundant plastic water tanks first and enlarge the wooden shade canopy. A semi circular raised pond was then constructed with a back wall containing a gargoyle which spouts water with the help of a solar pump. All the water initially comes from the house roof. I hope to display some water iris here and perhaps sell some water plants.
In addition to the plant variety and colour from the various themed gardens within the garden, the display/propagation collection rows again produced a mass of colour through the summer and into the autumn. The dahlia collection has become a firm favourite with the visitors with many studying them in great detail.
We have a lot of German visitors in Cornwall and at our garden because of the popularity of the Rosamunde Pilcher novels, which are romantic stories set in Cornwall. There are film versions of the novels on German television. While in Cornwall the German tourists like to visit gardens and a Cornwall garden guide is now being written in German and we hope to be featured in this. Marianne Majerus (International Garden Photographer of the Year, 2010) stayed with us overnight in the summer to take some photographs of the garden in the early morning for this book. We may have more German visitors in the future! We also had some filming commissioned by Visit Cornwall under the theme ‘Big & Small’ – the garden section part of the film is Heligan and us. One of our regular visitors was particularly excited to become a ‘film star’. Look out for the results, coming soon on www.visitcornwall.co.uk
As well as our perennials, we always grow some annuals as fillers. This year we grew mallow (Lavatera trimestris) in white, it really is easy and makes a lovely show, the pink form ‘Silver Cup’ is also very good. Another annual we would not be without is Cosmos bipinnatus, which has fine ferny leaves and dainty open flowers in many shades of pink or white. Both these annuals flower for a very long season.
Unfortunately our neighbours Escallonia hedge along our entrance drive has died and it looks such a mess, also full of bind weed and ivy. Escallonia can be short lived, especially in wet soil, so, as a joint effort with our neighbours; it is being replaced with beech over the winter. It will look great in the future, but it is quite a job as it is 150ft long.
We were lucky with the weather for our National Garden Scheme three open days in August and raised more than a thousand pounds. The visitors kept me very busy making and serving cream teas and cakes. Because we had so many people on the Sunday, we have decided to open on Monday 13th, Tue 14th, and Wed 15th August 2012 in the hope this will spread the visitors out more evenly. Another busy time was the Daphne du Maurier Festival in May. In 2012 (10 days from 10th to 19th May) we will also serve cream teas. (At other times we still have our self service tea hut with home-made cakes but remember, apart from the special events, we close on Tues/Weds so we can go out!!)
I hope you have a great 2012, and happy gardening.
Tricia Howard Dec 2011