Flower Market Road, Hong Kong

Carnations in every colour can be bought at a fraction of the UK price

Since the 1970s, Flower Market Road (花墟道) has been the go-to place for plants and flowers in Hong Kong. The term ‘market’ conjures up an image of a large open space packed with stalls, but Hong Kong’s floral focal point is made up of about fifty privately owned shops extending along two parallel streets and the short roads that connect them. Although originally the heart of the city’s wholesale flower industry, the market’s customers are now mostly local people, purchasing house plants and cut flowers for every occasion. For those with a balcony, or anyone fortunate enough to have a garden (a rarity in Hong Kong), there are pots, compost and all the usual gardening paraphernalia.

Don't go to Flower Market  Road expecting anything too fancy, but you'll enjoy the sights and scents of this busy area

Don’t go to Flower Market Road expecting anything fancy, but enjoy the sights and scents of this busy area

Whilst the flower market has become an attraction in its own right, it’s a practical affair and tourists are advised to stand back in favour of serious shoppers on a mission. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and laced with the heady perfume of lilies, carnations and jasmine. I paid an evening visit, vying with workers buying flowers on the way home from the office. The choice is fairly pedestrian by UK florists’ standards, bright and colourful but with no pretence. Bouquets are more Liberace than Liberty, featuring concentric rings of chrysanthemums around roses or lilies, all imported from China or further afield.

Carnations in every colour can be bought at a fraction of the UK price

Carnations in every colour can be bought at a fraction of the UK price

Most people in Hong Kong have busy lives and reside in compact apartments, so there are all sorts of solutions on offer for small spaces, including air plants, succulents, the ubiquitous orchid and decorative arrangements of foliage plants growing in nutrient-rich solution. It’s rare to visit a home (or showroom in my case) that doesn’t have an arrangement of Chinese ‘lucky bamboo’ (a plant entirely unrelated to bamboo, called Dracaena sanderiana), which is available in every shape and size at the market. I can’t stand the sight of it myself, but it’s popular because it survives without much natural daylight and plays an important role in Feng Shui.

Plants grown hydroponically in a nutrient rich liquid are a great solution for time-short Hongkongers

Plants grown hydroponically are a great solution for time-short Hongkongers

If you’re in Hong Kong, Flower Market Road is definitely worth a diversion and is open from 9.30am to 7.30pm every day except the first day of Chinese New Year.

Halloween is becoming more and more popular in Hong Kong, although the relationship to succulent plants isn't clear!

Halloween is becoming more popular in Hong Kong, although the relationship to succulent plants isn’t clear!


Daily Flower Candy – Cuscuta epithymum

Strawberry bootlace anyone?

If you’ve ever passed a gorse bush on a cliff top or heath and wondered why it’s covered in something resembling a blanket woven from strawberry bootlaces, then you’ve encountered one of Britain’s most curious plants, Cuscuta epithymum, otherwise known as dodder.

Dodder begins its annual lifecycle in spring when it germinates and twines around a host plant, preferably a gorse bush (Ulex europaeus), heather (Calluna vulgaris) or clover (Trifolium spp). Once the dodder has become established its lower stems wither, effectively leaving the young plant high and dry. All is not lost, because suckers on the dodder’s wandering, chlorophyll-free threads penetrate the stem of the host, allowing the dodder to live as a parasite. It then spreads rapidly, often completely smothering its unwitting victim.

Far from doddering along, this 'outbreak' of Cuscuta epithymum will spread like wildfire given the chance

Far from doddering along, this ‘outbreak’ of dodder will spread like wildfire

The whispy, red-pigmented strands are not designed to photosynthesise and become even more interesting when spangled with clusters of tiny pinkish-white flowers in summer. Dodder is one of life’s survivors, a unique energy-sapping oddity which occupies a unique place in our island’s flora.

These photographs taken in Zennor, West Cornwall, in September 2014.

Strawberry bootlace anyone?

Strawberry bootlace anyone?

The Winds of Change

Still going strong, Dahlia 'Twyning's After Eight', D. 'American Dawn' and Aeonium 'Zwartkop'

I’ve just come in from the garden, where the temperature has dropped dramatically since lunchtime. A brisk, rain-laden breeze has whipped up, carrying away summer’s last whispers. I fear autumn is finally here. This means one thing – it’s time to prepare the garden for winter and spring.

Stoic dahlias are plodding on, albeit with slightly smaller flowers now, and my late planted lilies are going strong. Fat buds of Lilium ‘Tarrango’ are about to burst open to reveal shocking pink flowers – something to look forward to next weekend before I head off to China. Lilium ‘Kushi Maya’ is making great friends with Dahlia ‘Twyning’s After Eight’ and Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ in a threesome I hadn’t planned, but which works well. The blooms of Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ have been tragically short-lived; they flopped and turned brown after a warm week and won’t be seen again until next September. Following on is the lovely single crocus, C. speciosus ‘Conqueror’ which has graceful, violet-blue flowers. I think I prefer the crocus to the colchicum, although the corms need more light and greater freedom than I can offer them. On the kitchen worktop, Fuchsia arborescens is doing a great impression of a lilac, forming a 1m high shrub covered in big heads of clear pink blossom.

Dahlia 'Twyning's After Eight' combines fine bronzy foliage with sparkling white flowers, occasionally tinged pink

Dahlia ‘Twyning’s After Eight’ combines bronzy foliage with sparkling white flowers, occasionally tinged pink

I had expected Ipomoea indica to drop down a gear as the nights drew in and cooled, but not a bit of it. Ultramarine trumpets are now coming thick and fast as this vigorous climber rails against the ageing year. Likewise, Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ seems to be throwing up gigantic new leaves with abandon. It’s not known as ‘elephant ear’ for nothing. The merest sniff of frost will reduce the leaves to pulp, but I shall enjoy their water repellent darkness while they last.

A dry day tomorrow should allow for some bulb planting. A box containing Fritillaria ‘William Rex’ is stinking out our entrance hall, permeating every corner with its special blend of fox and marajuna. I can’t see Tom Ford releasing this particular fragrance any time soon. Narcissi won’t wait much longer either and need planting now. No time to waste as the winds of change blow winter ever closer.

Still going strong, Dahlia 'Twyning's After Eight', D. 'American Dawn' and Aeonium 'Zwartkop'

Still going strong, Dahlia ‘Twyning’s After Eight’, D. ‘American Dawn’ and Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’

Daily Flower Candy: Lilium ‘Kushi Maya’

Lilium 'Kushi Maya', The Watch House, October 2014

‘Lilies in October!?’ I hear you exclaim. Maybe in the southern hemisphere, but not in England, surely? Well yes actually, these wonderful, fragrant flowers are in full bloom in our coastal garden now. The reason? The bulbs were purchased at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in early July and have taken until now to grow and flower. And very welcome they are too with their fabulous scent, mingling with Cestrum nocturnum (also, rather suggestively, known as ‘Lady of the night’), filling these balmy autumn evenings with a heady concoction of sweetness and spice.

Lilium ‘Kushi Maya’ is a ground-breaking hybrid created by Dutch breeders using cutting-edge embryo recovery techniques. A flower of shy but beautiful Lilium nepalense was pollinated with pollen from an Oriental hybrid and the resulting embryos nurtured in a test tube to prevent them being aborted. All a little unromantic, but what remarkable offspring. L. ‘Kushi Maya’ retains its species parent’s fabulous apple and blackberry colouring, but gains strength and stamina from its hybrid genes. Given an acidic soil (or compost) and a year or so to get going, the bulbs produce stems up to 1.5m tall, each adorned with a number of gently nodding, backswept flowers. Planted late it makes a great companion for damson-coloured dahlias such as D. ‘Arabian Night’ or Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’. Alternatively, set against a background of plummy foliage this special lily is guaranteed to create a little bit of autumn ecstasy.

Lilium ‘Kushi Maya’ is available in spring from both Harts Nursery and H. W. Hyde and Son. It is protected by Plant Breeders Rights and remains relatively uncommon.

'Kushi Maya', a name given to female Nepalese children, can be translated as 'Happy Love'.

‘Kushi Maya’, a name given to female Nepalese children, can be translated as ‘Happy Love’


Daily Flower Candy: Colchicum ‘Waterlily’

Colchicum 'Waterlily', The Watch House, September 2014

These flowers may faintly resemble those of a Nymphaea, but here the resemblance of Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ to an aquatic plant ends. Like other colchicums, the flowers of C. ‘Waterlily’ emerge naked, buxom and blushing from fecund, cinnamon-coloured bulbs each autumn. They prefer a well-drained soil, which remains moist rather than wet in summer, and full sun or light shade. Introduced in 1928 C. ‘Waterlily’ is unusual in that it has fully double petals. This makes the flowers rather top-heavy, so it’s best to grow them through ground cover plants, such as vinca, so that the blooms don’t collapse onto the ground and get spoilt.

Growing Colchicum 'Waterlily' in pots helps to protect the blooms from slugs and rainsplashes

Growing Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ in pots helps to protect the blooms from slugs and rainsplashes

I like to grow these luscious beauties in a terracotta pot, which allows me to display them in a prominent position when flowering and hide them away in spring as soon as the ungainly leaves emerge. A top-dressing of horticultural grit gives a modicum of protection from slugs, and prevents any compost splashing onto the petals. Like other colchicums, a faint chequerboard pattern can be seen in the petals when the light is behind them. The freshness and vitality of C. ‘Waterlily’, at a time when all else is waning, is very welcome and provides a wonderful contrast to crisp, fallen, autumn leaves.

The generously double flowers of Colchicum 'Waterlily' resemble a dahlia more than a waterlily

The generously double flowers of Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ resemble a dahlia rather than a waterlily

Trebah Gardens, Cornwall

Cool waters

On the steep sides of the Helford River in Cornwall lie two famous gardens, as similar in style as the two halves of a 1920’s semi. The likeness is not so surprising when you discover that both were influenced by the same family at a crucial point in their development. The Foxes, a large, wealthy quaker dynasty, created at least six of Cornwall’s finest gardens. Being shipping agents, they were well placed to organise the transportation of thousands of new species to England. Their neighbouring gardens offered ideal conditions for plants from warm temperate regions of the world, with fine houses at their heads, warm valleys sheltered valleys in their midst and waves lapping at their feet. Their names were Glendurgan and Trebah.

The view from below the top terrace at Trebah with the Helford River in the distance

The view from the lawn path at Trebah with the Helford River in the distance

When Trebah first opened to the public in 1987 it put the National Trust’s Glendurgan in the shade. Here was a ‘new’ garden being bravely rescued from an uncertain fate. There was no visitor centre, no smart guide book and little in the way of interpretation. Trebah was The Lost Gardens of Heligan before Tim Smit had even set his sights on rescuing them. It was an exciting and brave development on an otherwise established garden scene. Back then I was still in my teens and I loved Trebah for not being as stuffy as Glendurgan, which had been open to paying visitors for many years.

An unusual hydrangea without the usual large petals

An unusual hydrangea without the usual mop-head flowers

Fast forward to 2014 and Trebah has in many ways become as prim and proper as its neighbour. It is still a fine garden, full of fine plants, but has somehow lost its magic. It is not my style to be critical of gardens, the pleasure in which is such a personal thing, but in this instance I confess to being disappointed. The visitor centre, comprising a very good cafe and less praise-worthy gift shop, feels overly extravagant for a garden of this scale. Named the Hibbert Centre after Major Tony Hibbert, who donated the house and garden to the Trebah Garden Trust, the building cost over £1M to construct. However it’s Trebah’s branding that offends me the most. The garden’s logo, fashioned in an unpleasant combination of bright purple and emerald green, has been devised in a style I could only describe as ‘provincial leisure centre chic’. It is entirely at odds with the garden and one can only imagine that the designer must have been asked to come up with something ‘trendy’. Adding insult to injury, it is repeated continually on too many irrelevant and repetitive pieces of signage and interpretation. The National Trust must be wondering what drove their neighbour to put up the graphical equivalent of stone cladding.

Amaryllis belladonna relishes the conditions provided by Trebah's warm, sheltered, south-facing slopes.

Amaryllis belladonna relishes the conditions provided by Trebah’s warm, sheltered, south-facing slopes

Sadly, and I will be kind shortly, the garden trust’s latest project, a lofty amphitheatre, smacks of well-intentioned folly. Stark, hard-edged and miles from the carpark, one wonders how well this feature will be used and if the money might not have been more wisely employed elsewhere in the garden, or on a rebranding exercise. One hopes that appropriate planting, moss and lichen will quickly soften the granite blocks, but I still question the appeal of such a monument for the vast majority of regular visitors.

Less than impressed, friend Beth and Him Indoors vote with their expressions.

Less than impressed, friend Beth and Him Indoors vote on the new amphitheatre with their expressions.

At this point I will get back to the plants, which is what this blog is all about. Entering the garden at the foot of the top terrace, visitors are greeted by a fine collection of mediterranean shrubs, agaves, aeoniums, echiums and other tender exotics. Notable among these are Kniphofia rooperi and Grevillea victoriae. These foreign imports appreciate the more open, well drained conditions found in this part of the garden and flourish outside all year round. The path winds up, past lush clumps of hydrangea and hedychium, to a crystal-clear koi pond fed by spring water and fringed with tree ferns.

Water from a spring cascades through cool greenery into the koi pond

The pond flows over into a narrow channel which feeds Trebah’s water garden, completed in 2010. This is an altogether more appropriate feature which blazes with primulas, zantedeschia and lysichiton in spring , mellowing to shady green as the year progresses. Pops of colour are introduced for autumn in the form of golden rudbeckias and Lobelia tupa. Venerable tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) are everywhere at Trebah, some having been planted as long ago as 1880 when Charles Fox took delivery of no less that 300 trunks shipped over from New South Wales.

By early autumn, the vegetation in the Water Garden has almost obscured the complex layout of pools and cascades

By early autumn, the vegetation in the Water Garden has almost obscured the layout of pools and cascades

From the water garden a path meanders through dense thickets of tree fern, giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) and bamboos to what must be one of the greatest swathes of mop-head hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) in the country. Again, I have to admit this feature is not particularly to my taste, the bumpy landscape created by the dumpy bushes adding up to a rather ill-defined and crude scene. Most visitors appear to love it, and during late summer it’s one of Trebah’s biggest attractions. I will temper my dismissiveness of the hydrangeas by praising another new feature, a Monet-style bridge over the Mallard Pond, which greatly improves the view of the garden from where it meets the sea at The Didi, back up to the house.

The new Monet-style bridge

The new Monet-style bridge crosses the Mallard Pond amidst two acres of hydrangeas

Trebah’s diminutive beach, affectionately know as ‘Yankee Beach’, has seen more action than most. During World War II, it was used by the 29th US Infantry Division, comprising some 7,500 men, to launch an assault on Omaha Beach in Normandy. The back of the beach remains concreted over from that time, but the views out into the Helford River and to the sea beyond are beautiful at any time of year.

I have been hard on Trebah, but I mean well and would still encourage you to visit. Here is a garden which has a remarkable history and a bright future, but which needs something other than expensive amphitheatres to recapture the raw magic it possessed 25 years ago. It’s time to take the stone cladding down and invest in a can or two of Farrow and Ball … you just need to look next door to see that I’m right.

Click here to visit Trebah’s website and experience that lovely logo first hand!


Even Trebah’s garden plan can’t avoid looking like a map of a zoo

Getting Noticed

Frustrated Gardener, The Gazette, September 2014

It’s always nice to be noticed, and even nicer to be appreciated. Today I am walking tall and smiling like the Cheshire Cat as not one, not two, but three organisations have good things to say about The Frustrated Gardener.

First off, my company magazine ‘The Gazette’ has written a lovely profile about me and my hobby and passion, gardening. This involved a two hour photoshoot in our London garden which was terrific fun and the nearest I’ll come to being a supermodel. David Gandy need not watch his back!

Gazette article, The Frustrated Gardener, September 2014

Secondly, the team at Notcutts Garden Centres have nominated The Frustrated Gardener for their 2014 ‘Notcutts Loves’ blog awards in the category ‘urban gardening’. I hadn’t really considered myself an urban gardener before, but I guess it’s fitting for someone who tends two town gardens. If you’d like to cast a vote in my favour, or eye up the competition, click here.

And, last but not least, the website UK Doors Direct has included The Frustrated Gardener in their Top 10 gardening blogs. I had no idea about the accolade until I started to spot visitors coming from their website, but I am delighted to find myself in the company of so many great blogs. If you are a new visitor and like what you find, why not follow me?

The Big Time? Maybe not, but it makes for one very happy Frustrated Gardener.

Our Favourite Gardening Blogs

Daily Flower Candy: Kniphofia rooperi

Kniphofia rooperi, Trebah, Cornwall, September 2014

Before the Second World War kniphofias, better known as red hot pokers, were one of Britain’s most popular garden plants. They sustained gardeners’ Victorian fascination with the exotic, whilst enduring our less than alluring weather. The Dig for Victory campaign saw flower gardens ploughed up from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, making way for vegetable plots. With them went many old varieties which were never returned to cultivation.

One of the most impressive red hot pokers, and one which survived the war years, is Kniphofia rooperi. Flowering through the autumn, it is much less less widely grown than common-or-garden summer flowering cultivars. This is a pity, as K. rooperi has sufficient charm, stature and staying-power to make it a garden mainstay.

Kniphofia rooperi, Trebah, Cornwall, September 2014

To begin with K. rooperi is evergreen, with robust, arching, dark green leaves that build into a dense, architectural clump. Then there are the flowers – chunky, bottle-brushes that start out a soft tangerine and eventually fade to lemon yellow at the tips. In low autumn light they glow and fizz like Roman candles, rising 4ft or more above the ground in close succession.

Kniphofia rooperi, Trebah, Cornwall, September 2014

A native of South Africa, K. rooperi was was once considered doubtfully hardy, however experience now reassures garderners that it can survive unscathed in pretty much any garden in the country. Of course, like most garden plants this red hot poker likes a well drained soil and consistent moisture, plus protection from the worst of the elements. Drought may inhibit flowering. These simple conditions satisfied, feel free to light the blue touch paper and stand back for an explosive autumn display.

Kniphofia rooperi, Trengwainton, Cornwall, September 2014

Photographs taken at Trebah Gardens and Trengwainton, Cornwall, in mid September.

Lost for words

Ipomea indica, The Watch House, September 2014

Rarely do I find myself lost for words but tonight, as I consider my return to work and the inevitability of autumn, I feel a little subdued. This is a far cry from my elation earlier today when Ipomoea indica AGM (blue dawn flower) finally deigned to produce a pair of its short-lived flowers on a day when we were in residence. This rampant tropical rambler has been producing enormous ultramarine trumpets for the last six weeks, unfurling from buds as tight as a gent’s umbrella, teasing us at weekends when we return home to find spent blooms littering the front doorstep. It was worth the wait …. the snapshots say it all.

Ipomea indica, The Watch House, September 2014

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Cornwall

Agave and Stipa, Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Cornwall, September 2014

Cornwall’s great gardens are, by and large, gardens that were created over 100 years ago and that have developed organically ever since. A handful have been rescued from the edge of oblivion in recent years but, with the obvious exception of The Eden Project, newly imagined gardens are a rarity. This is surprising given Cornwall’s exceptional climate and incredible horticultural heritage. Tremenheere is one of those special exceptions, an emerging garden which offers visitors some insight into how those older gardens must have appeared in the early stages of their development, as well as providing a setting for its own specialism: modern sculpture.

Roaming in the gloaming, Tim Shaw's 'Minotaur'

Roaming in the gloaming, Tim Shaw’s ‘Minotaur’

The Sculpture Gardens at Tremenheere in West Cornwall have been open for just 2 years and are already making their mark in both garden design and art circles. They are the work of Penzance GP Dr Neil Armstrong, who bought the sloping site from a local farmer in 1997. Having cleared the scrubby woodland, brambles and wild rhododendrons which had taken possession of the main valley, the infant garden revealed its potential. Dr Armstrong, who’s mother was a landscape gardener, set out to combine his passions for contemporary art and ‘green exotics’ in a garden he describes as a ‘contemplative Arcadian retreat’. The site faces south / south-east with unrivalled views towards Mounts Bay and the mighty citadel of St Michael’s Mount itself. Frosts are extremely unusual in this part of the county, which is why, earlier in its history, this same location was used to cultivate grapes for the monastery on the mount, and strawberries for export to Newfoundland.

A summerhouse provides welcome shade at the top of the garden

A summerhouse provides welcome shade and fabulous views down the garden and out to sea

The open spaces that have been created in the upper part of the garden have been developed for plants that thrive in dry, exposed conditions. Here can be found curious Mexico natives the dasylirions, with narrow serrated leaves splayed like a 1970’s fibre-optic lamp. Tremenheere boasts no less than 6 species. Rarely have I seen restios looking better than here, added to which the ground has been prepared specially for leucadendrons and proteas which dislike the phosphates associated with agricultural fertilisers. Desirable South African Fynbos plants rise above wave after wave of golden Stipa tenuissima, like exotic flotsam and jetsam adrift in a sea of grasses.

Puyas and proteas, broken free from their granite mooring, emerge from foaming waves of Stipa tenuissima and Stipa gigantea

Puyas and proteas, broken free from their granite mooring, are tossed about in foaming waves of Stipa tenuissima and Stipa gigantea

It would be fair to say that the garden does not entirely hang together at this early stage in its development. There are some nice transitions between the sunny, arid slopes and shady exotic woodland, but other areas feel disconnected and immature. This is to be expected in a garden that’s in its infancy and it will be fascinating to see how it matures.

Beautifully crafted benches offer visitors the opportunity to rest a while and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the garden

Beautifully crafted benches offer visitors the opportunity to rest and contemplate the future of the garden

What’s for sure is that there is a fine range of plants to be seen, including a mouthwatering collection of tree ferns and Blechnum species. (A full list of all the garden’s plants can be found here.) Stand-outs for me were the Cyatheas (C. australis, C. brownii, C. cooperi, C. dealbata, C. lunulata, C. medullaris and C. smithii): hard to tell apart unless you’re a tree fern aficionado, but essential in creating the wonderfully Jurassic feel on the wooded stream-side. So balmy is the microclimate beneath the canopy of oaks, hollies and beeches that aspidistras and even some bromeliads can be found growing unprotected.

Tremenheere’s Top Plants:

  1. Cyathea medullaris (black tree fern)
  2. Blechnum magellanicum (costilla de vaca (Chilean Spanish for cow’s rib))
  3. Cannomois virgata (bell reed)
  4. Colocasia esculenta ‘Burgundy Stem’ (elephant’s ears)
  5. Dasylirion quadrangulatum (bear grass)
Tender cyatheas grow tall and luxuriant in the dappled shelter of Tremenheere's exotic woodland

Tender cyatheas grow tall and luxuriant in the dappled shelter of Tremenheere’s exotic woodland

And the sculpture? Well, like all art, its beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A polished stainless-steel skip by Ian Penna, entitled ‘Skip of Light’, elicited mixed emotions from me and my companions, but we were all suitably impressed with the garden’s piéce de rèsistance, ‘Twilight in Cornwall’ by James Turrell. Situated at the highest point in the garden this monumental, elliptical chamber is approached through a gladiatorial passage, conveying visitors into a space so white and ethereal one could almost imagine it were heaven’s waiting room. Perched on a bench seat which runs around the chamber, one can look up through an elliptical opening to see clouds scudding through the sky. As a sculpture ‘Twilight in Cornwall’ is wondrous and thought provoking, but in a garden that’s without a pivotal dwelling it’s also an important destination and anchor point.

James Turrell describes his piece 'Twilight in Cornwall' as a temple-like 'skyspace'

American sculptor James Turrell describes his piece ‘Twilight in Cornwall’ as a temple-like ‘skyspace’

Lurking menacingly in the natural woodland, Tim Shaw’s ‘Minotaur’ was full of force and presence, whilst I found the detail of David Nash’s ‘Black Mound’, a huddle of charred oak shapes, more pleasing in the detail than in the whole.

The detail remains in the charred oak pieces used by David Nash for his sculpture 'Black Mound'

All the detail remains in the charred oak pieces used by David Nash for his sculpture ‘Black Mound’

I love the way the light catches the ridged profile of the oak

I love the way the light catches the rough-sawn surface of the burned oak

Representing ‘repressed energy in a modern society’ (which is where, I am afraid, some of the pieces started to lose us), Kishio Suga’s scaffold cage enclosing a bouquet of giant bamboo stems was attractive, but left us unmoved. Suga’s work is inspired by a phenomenon in Japanese society where a million young men take to their bedrooms, finding modern society too daunting to venture out. Perhaps our lack of cultural empathy with this situation is why we didn’t find the piece more thought-provoking.

I regret not taking the time to contemplate Billy Wynter’s ‘Camera Obscura’ which, once accustomed to the low light, creates for the viewer a 360 degree moving view of the surrounding garden.

Symbolic of repressed energy, or asking to be used as a giant game of pick-up sticks? 'Untitled' by Kishio Suga

Symbolic of repressed energy, or asking to be used as a giant game of pick-up sticks? ‘Untitled’ by Kishio Suga

If neither gardens nor sculpture are your thing, Tremenheere is still worthy of a visit for its light, airy, modern restaurant, the Lime Tree Cafe, and shop selling carefully edited artworks, crafts, books and fresh local flowers. Adjacent to the carpark, Tremenheere Nursery offers a tempting range of succulents and other exotic, interesting plants. The roof of the sales office is planted up with a colourful tapestry of drought-tolerant plants, star of which is bulbine (Bulbine frutescens), an evergreen succulent with fleshy bright green leaves and spiky clusters of yellowy-orange flowers. Alas there were no bulbine plants for sale, which is just as well as I can’t offer them accommodation they’d find acceptable in either of our gardens.

Not just a green roof, but a pretty one, topping off the plant sales area at Tremenheere Nursery

Not just a green roof, but a pretty one, topping off the plant sales area at Tremenheere Nursery

Cornwall, with its highly favoured climate and significant tourist numbers deserves more innovative new gardens like Tremenheere. It’s to be hoped that Dr Armstrong’s vision and tenacity will inspire others to follow suit, creating modern, vibrant, stimulating gardens that will cement Cornwall’s position at the leading edge of adventurous garden making.

Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens are open 5 days a week, Wednesday to Saturday 10am-5pm / Sunday 10am-4pm. Parts of the sculpture garden are tricky to access if you are a wheelchair user or pushing a push chair. For more details, visit Tremenheere’s website

Friend Beth and Him Indoors make up their minds about David Nash's 'Black Mound'.

Friend Beth and Him Indoors make up their minds about David Nash’s ‘Black Mound’