Cornwall had gardens before the Romans came, they still flower each August. Its Dark Age saints had holy gardens for baptism, 150 years ago the county staged a sub-tropical renaissance and in the Eden Project it has achieved the greatest biosphere of the modern age.
When England was experiencing the Tudors and the Jacobeans, Cornwall was experimenting with Quattrocentro garden loggias, while the Hall Walk, high above Fowey harbour, anticipated Romantic visuals by two centuries. At Lord St German’s Port Eliot, by calm inland seas, Humphry Repton achieved his Claudeian masterpiece. Only in Cornwall at Trebah, Glendurgan and Caerhays did our gardens fully exploit the warm embrace of the Gulf Stream and near perpetual rain. Agapanthus and aeoniums flower over raging breakers in a cliff garden on the hidden side of St Michael’s Mount.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan may have been found, more poetic by far is the still sleeping wilderness of Enys. At Whiteford the delicate Coade stone reliefs on a Regency temple served as Braille markings for a blind East India merchant. In the twentieth century the clear light of St Ives drew Barbara Hepworth to burn herself out like a great pheonix in her own sculpture garden of scented palms, and around the headland at Zennor it inspired Patrick Heron to paint in his bonsai garden among giant boulders at Eagles Nest.
This 192pp book is copiously illustrated with 86 black-and-white photographs and 28 colour plates
Tempus Publishing, 2005 Paperback £17.99
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