Online Open Garden Series - Playing Place

Online Open Garden Series - Playing Place

Due to the coronavirus lockdown, the Open Garden events for 2020 have been cancelled. In this online Open Gardens series, we will be speaking with the owners of the gardens we would have opened for our fundraiser so you can 'visit' digitally!
an array of colour at playing place

 We were incredibly excited to announce our first ever garden safari, thanks to the members of Kea Garden Society. A selection of gardens were due to open on the 5th July to raise money for Cornwall Wildlife Trust as part of our annual Open Gardens series but due to coronavirus, has been unable to do so. 

In this week's blog, we ask some of the garden owners "How have you used your garden in lockdown? Has it helped and, if so, how?"  and organiser, Sue, discusses her garden in bloom.

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How have you used your garden in lockdown? Has it helped and, if so, how?

The outstanding pleasure of our garden during lockdown has been the wonderful peace and quiet. The background noise has been the quiet buzz of the bees and the melodic bird song instead of traffic drone and builders machines. A reminder perhaps of how nature was in years long gone by...
We've had immense pleasure from the water trough located on the outer garden wall of the cottage. The RSPCA donated the trough to be placed at the bottom of Arch Hill for cart horses to drink from before they hauled heavy loads up the steep hill; it was moved to the Alms Cottages when the road was widened and is now home to newts, tadpoles, frogs, water-boatmen and snails. Passing families have watched with excitement as the tadpoles developed into frogs, we've formed new friendships and everyone has learnt a lot about the trough's inhabitants.
Watching the magnolia trees blossom and discovering all the colours and different varieties there are in the garden. Enjoying spring every single day in the garden with our family, something that would never have been possible without lock down.
During ‘lockdown’ we have felt less pressure to get gardening jobs done quickly, more time to ‘stand and stare’, watching the wildlife of the garden. So many birds nesting and varieties of insect, the odd deer and hours spent pond dipping with grandchildren, newts, baby frogs, dragonfly larvae and much more.
Realising how lucky we are to have a beautiful and safe outside space where we can work all day if we want to, or just sit and read..and because there was no garden safari I let the foxgloves grow wherever they’d seeded!

We spoke to organiser, Sue, about what's blooming in her own garden.


How long have you lived in the house?

We bought the house because of the garden 10 years ago.  We came from Buckinghamshire which is pure chalk so could not be more different.  We had a lot to learn as of course we’d never grown a Camellia!

What have you done to the garden since living there?

The garden was beautifully planted with mature shrubs (mostly camellias and hydrangeas) and is surrounded by Cornish hedges and tall trees to give shelter so it provided a wonderful starting point and structure.  However many of the shrubs have grown huge and dominant so in the last 2 years we’ve had to do a lot of renovation pruning to let light and air back in.

Mostly, over the years we’ve added new beds to the garden to bring our own style to the fore.  Firstly, a greenhouse and vegetable garden were added, with an area for cut flowers.  A small dry garden with a terracotta coloured wall was inspired by our visits to Spain, and the first 2 herbaceous borders with a rope swag for climbing roses – all in the first year!

A fenced off area of brambles was opened up and planted with woodland plants – wonderful in spring with hellebores and bluebells. Another area that was overgrown with laurel was cleared.  We started to find bits of metal under it and spent days excavating it with trowels to reveal a graveyard of old horse-drawn plough bits.  That’s now replanted with a mix of shrubs like acers, azaleas, drimys, forsythia for form and leaf colour.

In the lower part of the garden we’ve replanted the bottom hedge with 30m of native hedging for wildlife and there’s a grassy area we’ve seeded with wildflowers to try to get a wild meadow – work in progress.  We’ve also added several fruit trees and there are several large island beds for summer colour, as well as a pergola for roses and a wisteria. Oh and not forgetting that we’ve built 4 huge compost bays.

How did / do you decide what plants to grow in your garden?

For the big projects I did sit down with paper and plan the borders.  I had in mind a style / effect I wanted and a season to focus on. Each border has its own theme based on  colours, season and style, and I spent many happy hours with lots of books for inspiration and drawing up plant lists – plants I have, plants I want, plants that would suit etc as a starting point.

Otherwise I’ll see a new plant and then find a spot for it, and if I’m honest it’s rarely just one plant – I will try to get 2  or 3 more with it to create a pleasing group to fill a space.

What plants are currently blooming?

There are some very pretty shrubby salvias, agapanthus are just breaking their buds and a Madeiran Black Parsley looking very impressive.The hydrangeas are adding their massed colour to the show and the Watsonia is sparkling.

Playing Place garden

Have you seen any wildlife recently? 

Foxes often pass through.  There are pheasants here every day and a few white and also a black pheasant have visited. The birds include Heron, Buzzard, Woodpeckers, Jays and many tits and finches. The wildflower meadow area, though still developing, is doing its job attracting butterflies.

Garden at Playing Place

What plants in your garden are doing particularly well? What tips do you have for others growing these plants?

I don’t know about what’s doing especially well, but what I would say is to let the plants talk to you.  The books are very generic in advising, but gardens vary and plants can be very specific.   If they’re not happy find them a new position,  the Black Parsley is a good example as in one position it is huge and flowered early, but just 10 meters away it’s all about the foliage!

What are your favourite plants in your garden and why?

I’m not sure I have favourite individual plants, I love them all!!  There are areas that create a mood or are especially good at a particular time of year.  My style is to let the plants do what they want – very relaxed and overflowing.  I let a lot of them self-seed and give me a surprise next year!

The shady path is lovely to wander down at any time between the large camellias and hydrangeas – it’s very lush.  I’m very fond of all the ferns. The woodland for the springtime show from the hellebores. The largest of the island beds is vibrant in summer and I love the stipa giganteas and other grasses that give it movement.

Why did you agree to be part of Open Gardens 2020?

We’ve opened the garden several times as part of Kea Garden Society Open Gardens in aid of charity. It’s very much an important community event now.   This year CWT was our chosen charity and we were delighted that we could partner with CWT and its volunteers to make it even better.

How have you used your garden in the current crisis? Has it helped? If so, how?

The garden has been essential for us in the lockdown in many ways. You have to garden with hope and a long term vision and it provides a sense of peace, safety and continuity during an otherwise anxious time. Plus, there is always something to do, even in bad weather I can potter in the greenhouse or my shed.  We had a big holiday planned for April so I hadn't expected to do much in the vegetable garden.  Instead I’ve probably done more than ever!

blue, purple and pink hydrangeas flower from one shrub in a beautiful display of colour

Please help protect Cornwall’s wildlife and wild places

Thanks to the commitment of volunteers and garden hosts, Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Open Gardens series raises much needed funds for our work, securing over £20,000 in 2018 alone. Due to the pandemic, these funds are unlikely to be raised in 2020, putting the future of our work at risk.