Heligan offers over 200 acres for exploration, including Victorian Productive Gardens and Pleasure Grounds, a sub-tropical Jungle, walks through ancient woodland and beautiful Cornish countryside, and the Wildlife Project allowing visitors an intimate view of native wildlife. The Lost Gardens of Heligan are open daily all year round from 10am. Visit www.heligan.com for further information.
This lovely flower belongs to one of our signature trees, Crinodendron hookerianum, which is always popular with visitors. The Chilean Lantern Tree was introduced from that country in 1848, and gained its epithet presumably to honour Joseph Dalton Hooker, the celebrated botanist and plant hunter. It generally prefers an acidic soil type, and can be kept down to a manageable size by regular hard pruning, which will also encourage a good flush of flowers.
The gardens here are home to a wide variety of Cornus, the chinese dogwood. Here the Cornus kousa in the Jungle is putting on a great show, though the "blooms" that you see are actually leaf bracts, as the flowers themselves are tiny. A beautiful specimen tree, with striking purple/red foliage in Autumn: it is one of the edible range of Cornus'. A native of Eastern Asia, it has been in England since the 17th Century, though Chaucer makes reference to it as a dagwood in the Fourteenth Century (a reference to its finegrained dense wood used for tool handles and skewers). Now naturalised over much of the British Isles, it is well worthwhile considering if you have room for a small tree in your garden.
One of our most popular plants is the New Zealand iris, or to give it its Sunday name, Libertia grandiflora "alba". It flourishes in our warm maritime climate, but does equally well in most parts of a temperate climate. Its abundance of white flowers and delicate scent have made it a popular garden introduction and is a great addition to a variety of planting schemes.
In lots of ways, we stick to traditional techniques here in the gardens, but we can't ignore advances in horticultural technology (as our Victorian counterparts would also not have done). In the area of pest management, we take a thoroughly modern approach: bio-controls. A newly discovered control for soil and compost pests is a native beetle called Atheta coriaria which eats the eggs of the sciarid fly, thus reducing hugely the incidence of this pest in our glasshouses. It is also currently being trialled as a control for cabbage root fly and carrot fly (which can only be good news as currently management of these pests involves neo-nicotinoids that have been linked to declining bee populations). Let's hope it works!
As the pineapples approach maturity, they develop lots of small plantlets along the stem, which we remove and pot on for growing on. Despite our best tender loving care, only about 50% of the plantlets will survive (they go into a specific mix of John Innes No 3, peat free compost, grit and a handful of charcoal), in spite of being on a heated bed. As you can see, it's definitely a gloves on approach as they are truly spiky close to!
As the sun streams down, the delicate leaves of the cucumber need shading from the rays. So instead of rubbing on the sun-cream, they have delicate muslin curtains to shelter behind. The heat in the Melon House can reach over 30°C, so we can come in for shelter too!
Phew, its a scorcher! Before being planted in their dibbed holes, the leeks are carefully trimmed to size using our carefully designed leek trimming stick! This was the traditional way of planting leeks probably until the 1970's, though modern thought suggests that this is not beneficial and may actually harm the plant. Maybe it's time to conduct a controlled experiment.......
The Productive Gardens at Heligan have been restored to reflect the workings of a Victorian garden before the First World War. We remain true to this period in our cropping plan, growing only heritage varieties and cultivating the soil by hand. The garden is fully productive throughout the year and there is a constant supply of produce ready for harvest. This is taken to our restaurant on a daily basis in much the same way that it would have been given to the cook at Heligan House a hundred years ago.
Each week we will be posting an update from the heart of the Productive Gardens at Heligan. Find out what crops are being sown, planted and harvested, discover how to bring traditional practices into your own gardens and follow the growing season as it unfolds.