Sunday, 15 September 2013

Tremenheere, Cornwall - is this the new Garden of Eden?

Tremenheere has fantastic views over Mounts Bay and St Michael's Mount
With views like this over St Michael's Mount (above); a hillside plot above Mounts Bay; and a tract of land that includes hills, streams and thick woodland areas, Tremenheere in Cornwall is about as close as you'll get to a blank canvas on which to paint a visionary garden. The artist behind the scenes is  local doctor Neil Armstrong, who purchased 11 acres here in 1997, and is now creating a masterpiece that promises to be a great British green space of the future. This garden is already unique because of its position and unusual climate - but give it another half century as the plants mature - and you'll have a genuine Garden of Eden.
Neil Armstrong shares William Robinson's vision that gardens should be "wild"
Tremenheere (pronounced Tre-men-ear) is about two miles from Penzance and nestles between the villages of Gulval and Ludgvan. You won't find a great Cornish mansion at the heart of this garden, because there's no house here at all, just a wonderful landscape. And it was this that attracted owner, Neil Armstrong, to this unusual hillside plot. He is a great admirer of Victorian garden designer and writer, William Robinson, who lived at Gravetye Manor in Sussex. Both share the vision that gardens should be "wild", and Armstrong believes that "form and foliage should be king"; with "drama and poise arising from line and foliage alone".
There's glorious greenery everywhere at Tremenheere
The site is perfect - the climate is sub-tropical and the structure of the land provides good protection from the sea winds - and thanks to Armstrong's planning, you'll encounter many unusual plants here including cacti, agaves, palms and striking architectural plants - perfect for the contours of the plot. When I first visited this garden in 2010 I didn't get the chance to meet the owner, but on my return last week, I was lucky enough to have a private tour. He's certainly on the right track with this garden and there's something about Tremenheere that spells serenity, even though it's still a masterpiece in the making. He has already installed several unique sculptures on site - works by British sculptor, David Nash and Japanese artist, Kishio Suga - although in reality, the main artist here is the owner.

There are just two buildings here - the oval skyscaper building (right), designed by James Turrell, and originally commissioned for viewing the solar eclipse in 1999, with its fantastic hilltop position, and the new cafe and office building at the entrance to the garden. Both have been conceived to blend in with the remarkable landscape. 

Don't go to Tremenheere and expect to find manicured borders or ideas for your plot at home - this is a garden where you have to think for yourself - it's about walking unfettered in a magnificent landscape, absorbing the atmosphere and being at one with the environment. Just three years after my first visit, this garden is already showing signs of change and Neil now has plans to extend the garden further at the rear and create a prairie planting scheme for next season.
Tremenheere is open daily throughout  the summer season, from the end of March through to the beginning of November. Winter hours are more restricted, but check the garden website for full details. Indeed, part of its charm for me when I first visited in 2010 was that it was so rarely accessible to outsiders. But secrets such as this should be shared and I'm glad this garden is now firmly on the map for visitors.                
David Nash sculpture at Tremenheere
                                                      For more garden visit ideas click here.

16 comments:

  1. Hi Charlotte - couldn't help but notice this posting especially about a garden down in Cornwall that I@ve not discovered!! How exciting - my family are down there so will have to make a point of visiting when i'm next there. Still raining in France... I wanted rain but not this much! Miranda

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  2. thanks for showing us this garden. I do find it strange to have a garden with no house as for me I like to look out at the garden when the weather is bad, or have a waunder first thing or at the end of the day. Does the owner live far away?

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  3. Hi Charlotte, i love st michaels mount area and i am very intrigued by this garden, i must make it down to cornwall next year to see this garden and all the others you have brilliantly described...

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  4. Dear Charlotte - I will not make it this time round but definitely going on my iist for next year. Thank you - interesting post!

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  5. Such a beautiful place! You're real lucky being abel to see all those places. Thanks for charing them all with us! / gittan

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  6. Interesting and unusual in that there is no house. The house normally is the living heart of a garden. I do like the idea of outdoor sculpture, a favourite of mine. It certainly looks worth a visit

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  7. This really is a stunning garden in the making. The location seems to gently guide the character of the place. It is somewhat odd not to have the gardener living there, it becomes very park-like in that respect.Thanks for the tour.

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  8. To create an unfettered paradise with sweeping vistas and wandering paths through lush and exotic plantings - that's a challenge for a true artist! It sounds like a place i would love to get lost in.

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  9. Your photographs almost look like paintings Charlotte. I love the various blue greens with yellow greens... what a paradise. ;>)

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  10. I will have to add this garden to my ever growing wish list. The fact that it is "wild" really appeals to me. How interestingly beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. I thought people with great garden landscape visions and the will and means to create them had died out in the last century (or in the century-before-last). How wonderful that that great British tradition is still alive.

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  12. What a fabulous site for such a beautiful garden. Not many gardens can boast a view of an island, replete with Castle! I must admit though, it's a little odd seeing so many palms so close to Penzance. I never would have expected to see them in the gardens there.

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  13. Thank you for answering my question... and giving more information. Beautiful!

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  14. I love the sudden appearance of agaves and palms. So unexpected.

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  15. What a pleasure it must have been for you Charlotte, to be shown around this wonderful garden by the owner, and be able to get into the mind of the man behind the garden. It is certainly a fascinating place with such a variety of interesting plants. I imagine the cafe would be a pretty nice spot to relax with a cuppa too!

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  16. What a spectacular property! "Garden of Eden" is the perfect description.

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