Getting Away From It All

Reading time 7 minutes

Like many folk, we’ve barely spent a night away from home since the New Year. I love The Watch House with all my heart, but being there is not a holiday. Everywhere I look there’s a job to be done: a plant to be watered, a bulb to be planted, a wall to be painted or papers to be sorted. It is not relaxing to be taunted by tasks wherever one’s eye settles. I cannot rest until everything has been put in order, added to which recent storms have decimated both gardens and the allotment.

There is enough work to keep us both busy for an eternity, but just for now it can wait.

Recent storms have advanced autumn by about a month

Our plan was to have a ‘proper’ holiday in September. That was then pushed half into October. As soon as it began I came down with flu; I knew it was coming the minute I boarded the train back from London on Friday night. Hence the first week was spent either sleeping, moping around, getting frustrated or over-exerting myself, delaying my recovery even further. As I improved, The Beau then developed symptoms, so all-in-all week one of our break was not a success.

Although we are on holiday we’ve enjoyed helping our hosts with their clifftop garden

Nothing other than a legal restriction was going to prevent us coming to Cornwall – we even made plans to circumvent that had the situation arisen – and now we are here we are glad we were steadfast in our resolve. After just one day we both feel happier and more relaxed; the dogs are in their element. There is nothing that must be done and just enough that could be done, which is how I like it. Where we are staying, in a croft-like space near Gunwalloe, there’s a stove, a simple kitchen, a cosy bed and enough books to keep us occupied for years. If we were not in such a beautiful spot, close to so many friends, we would not care to venture out.

Our home from home for the next few days

Today we paid a visit to Trebah, a garden about which I have always had mixed feelings. The location on the Helford River is sublime of course, and the collection of mature plants, mostly woody ones, is stupendous. However Trebah lacks two thing for me – the personality that’s bestowed on a garden by a living creator and a certain level of attention to detail. It’s perhaps rather harsh to make judgements on the latter in any open garden this season, given what a struggle it has been to keep any enterprise going through the pandemic. Nevertheless we thoroughly enjoyed our visit, even the rain showers that added to the jungly atmosphere, and will doubtless be back again soon. (I think a springtime visit may go some way to improve my impression of the place.)

Back at Chyanvounder, which translates from Cornish rather disappointingly as ‘house on the lane’, I am relishing having time to read. I finished Tim Richardson’s freshly-baked account of Sissinghurst on day one and have started Arthur Parkinson’s ‘The Pottery Gardener’. Both are excellent reads.

Enjoying endless hours in front of a roaring stove

From our host’s extensive library of vintage titles I plucked Margery Fish’s ‘Gardening on Clay and Lime’ (1970) and Stuart Dudley’s ‘Taking the Ache out of Gardening’ (1962). Frequently such elderly books become dated, not only in their language but also their advice, especially where machines or chemicals are involved. Margery Fish’s advice is expert and utterly timeless, whilst her writing style is concise, opinionated and approachable. ‘Gardening on Clay and Lime’ reads as well now as it did fifty years ago.

‘Taking the Ache out of Gardening’ might almost be considered ahead of its time, advocating the principles of ‘no-dig’ gardening within the first few pages. Mr Dudley lays out his ‘Magna Carta of streamlined cultivation’: no inversion of the soil, all fertilisers and manures in the surface layer and deep cultivation simple and seldom (if ever). This is why I enjoy rescuing old books – they are generally cheaper, better informed and less tainted by celebrity than anything one finds in a bookshop today. TFG.

Cyathea medularis (black tree fern) at Trebah, Cornwall

Categories: Book Reviews, Cornish Gardens, Cornwall, Flowers, Foliage, Large Gardens, open gardens, Photography, Plants, Trees and Shrubs

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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19 comments On "Getting Away From It All"

  1. Hello Dan. It’s great to hear you both managed to go on a well-deserved holiday. I hope you are both fine again and the flu is gone. Enjoy your stay, read a lot, relax and just be with each other. Hugs to the both of you 🙂
    Thanks for sharing the photos and beautifully written text.

  2. This looks like the perfect getaway. Simply relaxing especially with friends and places to explore nearby. Isn’t it funny how relaxing it can be to work in someone else’s garden? A pretty one too. Lots of fall interest. As to all of those hydrangeas, they make a spectacle. The bridge looks inviting too. Good to hear you and the Beau are feeling better. Enjoy the rest of your time away.

  3. “less tainted by celebrity” – oh, you so understate the situation! LOL

    I ducked outside this afternoon between showers to take a few photographs, which turned out to be mainly of hydrangeas and am not so surprised so see those you have shown to be so fresh and in good colour whereas here (Waterford, south-east Ireland) they are most certainly into that looking well in decline phase.

    The gardens of Cornwall have always appealed to me, even Trebah though I share your thoughts on it. Enjoy!

      1. And, we could add that we all lie with our cameras/photographs for we seek out the beautiful and the pretty and turn away from the less attractive features of the gardens we visit so our photographs always present an already positively censored view. Rose-tinted glasses of a sort.

  4. Hope you are not getting blown away! Funnily Trebah is one of my favourite gardens, though I do love Lanhydrock too especially in spring. I think all the places have suffered a bit this year from not having enough staff on hand. I wonder if you have visited Bonython? Not far from where you are staying on the Lizard, though I don’t know if it is still open. A very different Cornish garden. Have fun and keep warm!

  5. A perfect place to stay, and perfect guests too, to help out with the gardening! Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

  6. I love the Magna Carta of streamlined cultivation! Worth doing just to say the words to my neighbours 😊

  7. I see someone has already suggested Bonython, and I’d like to second that. It’s surprisingly ‘un-Cornish’ in many ways and deeply personal, which I love. If you haven’t been, do go to Godolphin, or go again. I love the history of the house, its architecture, and the incredible interest of that historic garden. Good dog walks too! I wonder if the church at Gunwalloe is open………?

  8. Dear frustratedgardener, thank you for your delightfull post. I always look forward to it as it helps me wonder to places I probably would never visit but would wish too. But more so, your sensitivity and creativity brings an unspoken alliance. Enjoy your holiday, grounding and enriching your soul. Take care 🙂

  9. Glad to hear that you are both back to full health. Very envious of your stay in Cornwall. I have two favourite gardens, one is Tregwainton and the other is Trewithen, both lovely woodland gardens, which are my most favourite gardens. Haven’t been to Trebah for years and then it was accompanied by two small children, so perhaps I didn’t see as much as I should have done

  10. You know, when I ‘plan’ a vacation (which I do not do often), I like to to to the Mojave Desert, because the flora is limited to much fewer species than I am accustomed to. It is easier to ignore. I even considered purchasing an winter home in Trona, which is a hellish place near Death Valley, because the soil is so saline that almost nothing survives in the ground there.

  11. I always thought Trebah missed something in relation to day Coleton Fishacre…always seemed to be a lack of cohesiveness although as you say.. seems churlish when it is such a glorious place !
    Lovely photos.. enjoyed reading with my morning cup of coffee, Louise

  12. Dear Dan. Would you mind to help me to identify the type of Hydrangeas with a little dots on the flowers and a little flowers in the middle of big flower. I have a picture, but do not know how to email it to you.

    Thank you very much for your help.

    Valeria Hall

      1. Thank you, but it is not the right one. May I send you a photo somehow? I am sure you will love this flower.

        Thank you


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