PUBLISHED: 10:41 07 October 2015 | UPDATED: 12:57 30 August 2017



Louise Danks leads us up a secret garden path near Helston in Cornwall to discover a garden with breathtaking views and show-stopping plants

Louise Danks leads us up a secret garden path near Helston to discover a garden with breathtaking views and show-stopping plants

Tucked away in the lee of Tregonning hill between the villages of Carleen and Godolphin Cross on the western side of Helston, up a lane that’s easier to miss than it is to find is Tregonning, the home of Andrew and Kathryn Eaton, Andrew’s mother, Emily, and Duke the dog. The garden extends to an acre and a half and the adjoining field – an extra two acres with the house sitting in the heart of the garden. No opportunity is missed here to plant and add colour, the house is clothed in climbers; honeysuckle, clematis and jasmine provide fragrance and interest as well as a beautiful softening effect.

Being 300 feet above sea level provides breath-taking panoramic views but also a certain amount of exposure.

Storm force winds batter the garden at times,’ explains Andrew. We have tried hard to put wind breaks in place and these help.’

The elements are the biggest challenge to growing plants here. We tend to plant small’ and let things establish. This gives them a better chance and also saves money in a big garden,’ says Kathryn.

An evergreen or semi-evergreen hedge encircles the garden, mostly mixed screening for variety, beech, Rosa rugosa, holly and privet which Andrew clips into a sinuous topiary shape, a hint of formality either side of the five-bar-gate leading out to the field framing the view with a striking touch of originality.

This size of garden is somewhat of a departure from the Eaton’s previous garden which by their own admission, was an average suburban garden which grew with the family and beyond. Work on the garden began in earnest in late 2009 and the transformation over the last six years is very impressive.

The vegetable garden in their previous garden was the same size as the hard standing for the greenhouse in their generous patch now. Obviously high-yielding with generous beds full of edible crops, brassicas, salads, soft fruit, beans, peas and sugar snaps planted in succession to guarantee fresh peas throughout the season, the vegetable garden is situated in the most sheltered spot in this exposed and often wind-beaten garden.

Kathryn’s cutting garden provides the house with show-stopping gladioli and sweet peas for every room. Well-stocked nursery beds full of cuttings and herbaceous divisions being carefully nurtured We grow an awful lot from seed and propagate wherever possible. It’s a big space and producing plants like this is a more cost effective way of filling the borders,’ says Kate.

Through the centre of the main lawn is an exciting design element, a series of borders cut out the turf in the shape of an intricate flower complete with stem, leaves, bulb and roots each individually planted with its own theme and impeccably maintained.

A series of living arches positioned through the top part of the garden and out to the field were planted by Kathryn and began life as cuttings, she has been amazed at the rate of growth: They already meet in the middle, it’s fantastic as they add height and interest to this part of the garden.’

A stylish narrow rill appears to spring up and flow along a granite lined stream of its own accord but in fact Andrew has created this sophisticated water feature and waterfall, a stream was one of the only things he felt was missing from Tregonning.

A central copse along with the pond were two of the only original features in the garden that Kathryn and Andrew had to work with. Now well-grown, the small patch of woodland is under planted with primroses and bluebells earlier in the year; in late summer long grass moves in the breeze and neat, short-mown paths guide the way through the dappled shade under the trees.

A rare flourish of early spring interest takes the shape of a camellia hedge running around the far side of the woodland, an extension of Kathryn and Andrew’s sense of fun the hedge is alternate red and white flowering and can be seen from the house in early spring. An evergreen barrier and a fleeting flash of colour.

The Spring Garden, a small area against the house and screened from the prevailing winds where acers are protected and as such, thrive without threat of wind burn. Another example of how Kathryn and Andrew have created a number of convincing and very different garden areas changing the pace and planting depending on the micro climate and what they know will thrive under certain conditions.

The pond, although an inherited feature, is today unrecognisable because the planting around the pond screens it so effectively that it is not revealed until the final moments on approach; dense foliage obscures the water. The planting is deliberately extended right down to the water’s edge. It’s great for wildlife, we have so many frogs and it means that they can get safely out of the pond,’ explains Andrew.

The gunnera, phormium and bamboo create drama in contrast to the calm elegance of the waterlilies. But it isn’t all large scale plantings and bold textures, terrestrial orchids are known to flourish here adding to the naturalistic quality. Andrew’s bridge over the pond is obviously man-made but the dense planting and seclusion create a fantastic and undisturbed habitat.

It’s no surprise that Tregonning is a haven for wildlife, the tranquil setting and different habitats provide shelter and food for creatures happy in the air, on the ground or in the water. This is a priority for Kathryn and Andrew, they enjoy watching the nest boxes being used and helping to protect the amphibians who make the pond their home.

This comparably new garden opened in September for the first time, Tregonning has achieved what so many Cornish gardens struggle to, that holy grail of late-season interest. Dahlias, crocosmia and hydrangeas ensure that this garden takes its colour and impact deep into the autumn and beyond. It’s packed full of personality, reflecting Andrew and Kate’s energy and individuality.

There are plenty of ideas to take away from this garden if only to have the confidence to personalise your garden with style.

Andrew and Kathryn Eaton

Tregonning, Carleen, Breage Helston TR13 9QU

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