Six on Saturday | Lost Gardens of Heligan

There is not a lot of change in my garden this week, though I have bought a couple of new perennial plants for the shady border. How could I resist when they were being offered at 50% off! Now I can’t decide whether to keep them in their pots until the spring or chance planting them now. Any thoughts?

Where did I buy these bargains from? The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Europe’s largest garden restoration project. October 31 was the last day to go there and buy a Local’s Pass which means for the price of one visit I can visit as many times as I like over the next year. I did this with the Eden Project this year and managed to get in 4 visits, however it’s not really a botanic garden despite the Biomes, more geared to education and events that I can do without.  So I figured it should be Heligan for the next 12 months, to follow it through the seasons. Still about an hour’s drive from here so if I get 4 visits in I shall be happy.

Tragically once I had arrived at the garden I discovered that my SD card was faulty and being the numbskull that I am I hadn’t brought my camera bag with me so had no spare! Luckily I did have my phone and it was fully charged, but it doesn’t take such great images so I shall just show you some of the garden areas rather than any close-ups – not that there was much flowering to take a close up of.

  1. View down to the Ravine which leads into the charming pretty Italian garden.
  2. The Italian Garden.  The Italian garden was the first of several ornamental gardens to be discovered and its clearance and restoration held potential media interest. Tim Smit enticed BBCs ‘Gardeners World’ to film an extended feature on the programme so John Nelson (1938 – 2014) Pioneer of the Restoration during 1990 – 1999 came under pressure to get the project underway. Filming was broadcast on the show in September 1991 which sparked a nationwide interest in what was going on.
  3. The Flower Garden.  This large walled garden includes several glasshouses – Citrus House, The Vinery (Paxton House) and Peach House. All are undergoing maintenance. I have yet to visit this garden and find it full of flowers, and this visit was no exception. Admittedly a little late in the year to expect much. There was a rather lovely red rose still blooming away and the remnants of Dahlias.
  4. From here you can enter the Sundial Garden which is one of my favourite areas as it is usually quite tranquil and would be a nice place to sit and read a book. Now I don’t need to rush around the garden I might do this in the spring. The garden does contain a sundial at the centre of the paths and several very large urns which I love. These were filled with a very striking Begonia.
  5. The Jungle. A fabulous area with boardwalks and paths leading down to a gully with two ponds. There is tropical planting and tree ferns, huge Gunnera and tall trees. The main attraction for adults and children alike is the ‘Burma Rope Bridge’ which swings its way over the stream below. Apparently during the summer there can be a wait of more than 30 minutes for this feature.
  6. ‘The Lost Boys’. The Heligan story is unique and I will let you read about it yourself, but briefly it was once a thriving community. At least thirteen of Heligan’s outdoor staff served in WWI with nine tragically losing their lives. Soon afterwards the owner of the estate, Jack Tremayne, left Heligan and rented it out saying that he ‘could no longer live with the ghosts’. The Gardens became… lost.

    A charming and simple remembrance of these boys/men is in the Melon Yard and close to a thunderbox room (gardeners’ toilet) where several pencil signatures were discovered during the restoration, all dated August 1914. The team restoring the garden vowed that it would be a tribute to these working men. In 2013 the Thunderbox Room was registered by the Imperial War Museum as a “Living Memory to the Gardeners of Heligan House”.

    I was quite taken by the use of the plant labels to record their names and as we approach the centenary of  the end of that dreadful war, I admit to feeling a little choked. So many ‘lost boys’.

See here for the participant’s guide.

Six on Saturday


  1. Such a fabulous garden – thanks for sharing. I love all those tropical views.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Katherine – there will be better photos in the spring 🙂

  2. Lovely post despite the lack of a camera. Sometimes not having a camera, your experience is clearer. I just added Cornwall and heligan to my bucket list. Thank you for the post.

    1. Heyjude says:

      The photos would have been better with the camera, but I did have to choose my shots carefully using the phone and knowing how quickly the battery would run out!

  3. Another lovely place on your doorstep (well kind of). I’m quite envious. P.S. I want that pond!!

    1. Heyjude says:

      I’d love to have a pond too! But that one is a bit formal for my garden, you need a nice walled courtyard for that.

      1. I agree, but it looks so peaceful. Although the last one I visited like that in Riebeeck Kasteel was Mosquito Central :-0

  4. cavershamjj says:

    You should have no regrets about a 50% bargain. It was your duty! The soil is still quite warm so you can probably plant them out now I’d say. They’ll also be fine in their pots till the spring. I visited heligan just a year or two after it opened. Fascinating place and a great story. I had forgotten about the WW1 aspect. Such a lot of young lives lost.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Prop. I think I shall leave them in the pots until spring and then I will know where the bulbs are too!

  5. Ah, one of my favourite places. How exciting to have a local’s pass. 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      I had one for the Eden Project last year so thought I’d try this one this year. Too far to do both and it will be nice to see this garden in all seasons.

      1. I think it’s a good plan. I imagine the Eden Project will be quite similar this year compared to last year, so you are probably not missing much. 🙂

        1. Heyjude says:

          Exactly my thoughts.

  6. I remember watching the Heligan programs on TV, that’s how I (and so many others) learned about them. You’re fortunate to live so close, and that locals’ pass is a great idea.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Yes, the locals’ pass is excellent. I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to some of these gardens very often if I had to pay full price each visit.

  7. Joanne Sisco says:

    These kinds of simple remembrances choke me up too. It’s a reminder that these lives lost were not just statistics but real people who were known and loved. The passage of time does not diminish the tragedy.

    If this is what Heligan looks like in late autumn, then I think you made a very wise choice in your quest for multiple visits over the next year!

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