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. beetleypete says:

    Lovely gardens and photos, Jude. As I opened your post to read it, the sun came out here! A good omen. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Heyjude says:

      The sun was glorious as I drove to the gardens on Wednesday, but once there it clouded over and there was a few spots of rain. Today it is windy and mizzly, expected, but not liked!

  2. Tish Farrell says:

    I think these general views work really well – a fine sense of place and season and also an inkling of those sad garden ghosts. I would think you could plant the perennials now as long as it’s not in a place that doesn’t drain very well, or is an obvious frost pocket. After all, this is the season of sowing broad beans and planting out asparagus and fruit canes and bushes. Am just about to go outside and plant a lavender plant.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I might wait until it stops raining Tish! They are going into a raised bed/wall so should be OK drainage wise. Both like moist soil anyway. One problem: Where did I plant those bulbs?

      1. Tish Farrell says:

        Ah the bulbs. A little shunt around might be called for.

        1. Heyjude says:

          I need to find some method of indicating where they are planted next spring. I already sliced a few crocuses in half whilst planting more of them!

  3. Sue says:

    I had always intended to get to Heligan….i remember a newspaper article y ears ago when the gardens were still ‘lost’, and the ideas for bringing them back to life… But not sure I’ll ever get there now

    1. Heyjude says:

      Well if you do you will be able to get around the main garden areas, not the jungle though as that is quite steep. I shall try and get over there every couple of months to build up a picture of how it changes over a year.

      1. Sue says:

        Alas, the jungle is what I would love to see! I shall enjoy a Virtual tour through your images, Jude!

        1. Heyjude says:

          I’d offer you a piggy-back Sue, but I have a bad back and to be honest those steep bits do make me puff a bit 😉

        2. Sue says:

          A Virtual stroll will be fine, Jude!! 😀😀

        3. Heyjude says:

          Heehee… OK!

  4. On my things to do when I go down to Cornwall next year. I didn’t have time his year.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Try and make it during the spring. That is when most of the Cornish gardens are at their best. April, May, June even.

  5. janesmudgeegarden says:

    This is a UK garden I have actually visited, Jude. It was in 1998 though, and I can tell it has changed lot since then. I enjoyed revisiting via your post and remembering how much we loved our time there on a glorious Spring day.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I imagine in 1998 it must have been a quite different place.

  6. Beautiful photos of a beautiful place! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Well I wouldn’t call these photos particularly beautiful, but I thank you for your comment 🙂
      There are a couple more posts about the garden in detail on this blog if you click on the heligan tag.

  7. One Man And His Garden Trowel says:

    Brings back some fond memories of the first time my wife and I visited the Lost Gardens Of Heligan a few years ago. I think the Italian garden was my favourite – I seem to remember you had to go through a building and up some steps to get to it and it was a surprise when you walked out into it.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Yes, that entrance is from the Melon Yard and past the thunder box. I was entranced too on my first visit. This is where the war memorial is.

  8. Ali says:

    That is so sad about the garden ghosts. But a really poignant and appropriate way to remember them. I look forward to reading more posts over the next year. I’ve been once to The Lost Garden of Helligan, but nearly twenty years ago, before I was interested in gardening. I would love to go back.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I’m interested to see how it changes throughout the year. Spring is very beautiful as I remember.

  9. The veins on those begonias are very striking. Looks like a good visit.

    1. Heyjude says:

      It would have been better with my camera! But not a wasted morning. I’ll probably return in early spring.

      1. Bit rude not to with the year pass.

  10. fredgardener says:

    This garden looks gorgeous, no matter if you didn’t have your camera. Your phone did the job perfectly. The Burma Rope Bridge puzzles me and I will visit their website to look at that.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Rope Bridge link

      For some odd reason I cannot add the photo here!

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