Wild heathers, Penwith

A Garden in west Penwith

For readers who don't know Cornwall well, Penwith is the district in the far west of the county, and includes some of the most exposed places in Cornwall.

As the bird flies, my garden is about a mile inland on the south coast, on the east slope of a valley running down to the sea, so is quite exposed and in the path of the prevailing south-west wind.

When we first came here the meadows were planted with daffodils, anemones and violets which were picked for the market - the meadows were small and protected by escallonia hedges. There were also some pittosporum which were mixed with the daffodils. Unfortunately the meadows being so small, they are no longer viable - modern tractors etc are too big, so we have planted trees in some of them, mixed hardwood and conifers. The latter will be thinned out as they mature, it helps to keep the brambles and gorse at bay, though we still have to cut them back.

The garden itself is in small pockets, surrounded by granite walls and outside, a steep bank and a more open area which is fairly shady, so I've planted rhododendrons and camellias as the soil is acid. Hydrangeas do very well - I prune them back very hard every spring and am rewarded by lots of very blue flowers - the bushes were here when we came and I think must be at least 60-70 years old.

Roses do reasonable well, though blackspot is a continual headache, the air being so clean - I keep the greenfly at bay by planting garlic alongside them. The old-fashioned roses such as Rosarie de la Hay are more resistant and flower well, they don't seem to mind the wind too much.

The Hydrangeas are at the back of the border and in-between I plant lillies, usually the ones I've had in pots in the patio the previous year - they seem to do well and the shrub gives them protection and support. The borders are not very wide so I fill the front with smaller plants - pinks, poppies, bunny's ears (Stachys lanata), dahlias and sometimes some annuals, so there is no room for weeds!

I love all the grey foliage, lavender and seneccio, and the variegated forms of periwinkle, ivy, holly and phormiums and even golden privet - I find the hebes and rosemary do very well - even flowering in the winter.

On the bank, I encourage heathers, some are wild and some I planted, especially the winter flowering ones - I leave the deadheads on until the spring as they provide some colour, then I strim them and lots self-seed - very rewarding.

Bulbs and corms do well, so I have daffodils and snowdrops amongst the shrubs. Unfortunately I have never been a success with croci, the mice eat them. Day lilies and agapanthus are easy to grow and make plenty of colour, also crocosmia., though they may need some support.

I wish I could be more successful with hostas. There are so many varieties, but the snails have a passion for them - and my granite walls are the perfect hiding place for them, so I have to grow hostas in pots.

I nearly forgot to mention fuchsias, which are very rewarding, easy to grow and easy to propagate.

My idea of gardening is to make it easy to look after, have lots of colour and be able to enjoy it, possibly even have time to sit in it and appreciate it!

Happy gardening!