Form and Foliage - Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens near Gulval

PUBLISHED: 14:03 03 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:49 20 February 2013

Dr Neil Armstrong

Dr Neil Armstrong

Local GP, Neil Armstrong, has created Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens near Gulval, in full view of St Michael's Mount, writes Louise Danks

Form and Foliage


Local GP, Neil Armstrong, has created Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens near Gulval, in full view of St Michaels Mount, writes Louise Danks

An exciting new garden has been quietly growing away just around the corner from Gulval in full view of St Michaels Mount. Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens is the brainchild of Dr Neil Armstrong who bought the site nearly 15 years ago. As well as developing, maintaining and planting this garden, Neil is also the local GP.

This piece of land had been in the Tremenheere family for over 600 years, many of the mature trees standing today would have been planted by Seymour Tremenheere. It had been previously cultivated by monks and would have served as the vineyard for St Michaels Mount around the 1290s.

With no historic house as a focal point, the true heart of this garden belongs to the imagination. Such is the space that it gives the freedom to explore and challenges any preconceptions. The garden is defined by what it doesnt have rather than by what it does and is as a result a true free-spirit. No one creates big gardens any more, without a focus or purpose, it feels like an indulgence says Neil. Thankfully, his drive and passion has proved that some indulgences are necessary.

Great planting

Tree ferns and many other ferns, bamboo and hardy schefflera form the lower level of vegetation under the mature woodland canopy as you enter the garden. In this area, a distinct jungle feeling pervades. Meander through on raised boardwalks, pause at pertinent points hinted at by viewing platforms, benches or simply a subtle widening of the path. Neil jokes that he likes any colour as long as its green, but in this part of the garden its not far from the truth.

Emerging from the verdant lush jungle under stands of mature banana into the startling open and visitors are faced with dazzling, gravel-mulched terraces planted with cacti, succulents, agaves and over 40 different types of palm. These plants are punctuated throughout with startling orange watsonias and the sunshine yellow of aloes in flower. Neil has planted a number of Phoenix canariensis, or date palms. He explains that they thrive here, will grow quickly and will provide dramatic structure in a relatively short amount of time.

Neil talks about how he has tackled the mammoth task of landscaping and planting this garden from scratch. I avoid straight lines, working with the contours of the garden and try to create a naturalistic style with meandering paths and low walls. I stay away from variegated foliage and plant species only, no cultivars.

His interest in travel is obvious as his passion for foreign lands presents itself in an impressive plant list throughout the garden, while great planting provides a whistle stop global tour of some unusual plants and amazing stories if you happen to have Neil as your guide.

Exciting sculptures

The installations and sculptures are exciting, demanding interaction from the visitor and encouraging imagination in a beautiful environment. I wanted to make this a contemplative space, somewhere to pause for thought, to give people something to stop and think about. I hope to create space with a sense of wonder where people will stay a good little while to take the time to enjoy, explains Neil. The carefully chosen sculptures and installations live up to this dream.

Black Mound by David Nash is an organic group of figures rising out of the woodland - an ever changing foil throughout the seasons of bluebells, then dappled summer shade and then stark bare winter branches. Tactile and deliciously accessible it really is a sculpture to see. Kishio Sugas unnamed sculptures address serious subjects and are remarkable, enigmatic and multi-faceted.

Situated in the more open part of the garden, James Turrells Sky Scape is a contemplative space. Put simply, it is a room with a hole in the roof through which to view the sky. This undiluted focus on the heavens has an amazing effect on the viewer, instilling an instant sense of calm. In these tranquil surroundings time becomes irrelevant and stress seems to disappear.

The garden is defined by what it doesnt have rather than by what it does

Continuing through the garden and Billy Winters Camera Obscura presents itself among a riot of succulent plantings of aloe, agaves and palms, softened with swathes of grass. Inside this small, round building, images of the garden are projected onto a large table using mirrors - a beautiful ethereal sight.

In the cooler, shadier part of the garden, something darker nestles under the ground accompanied by the sound of constantly moving water. Aqua Oscura is housed in a disused settling tank, entered using touch alone. It takes eight minutes for the brain to adjust to the intense darkness and for the image of the canopy above to become visible. Its an exhilarating experience.

This is a garden that works on many levels - the horticulturalist, the artist, the dog walker, the curious are all welcome to visit Tremenheere and have their imagination piqued. Its impossible to leave without having absorbed some of the buzz surrounding it. n

For further information: Drs Neil Armstrong and Jane Martin, 01736 351971, tremenheere.co.uk

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