PUBLISHED: 20:40 10 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:46 30 August 2017

Winter may be closing in, but Cornwall’s best gardens still have plenty to offer visitors, writes Louise Danks witnesses autumn at Trerice...

Winter may be closing in, but Cornwall’s best gardens still have plenty to offer visitors, writes Louise Danks as she witnesses autumn at Trerice...

With autumn in full flow and the year hurtling towards winter you could be forgiven for wanting to venture out into the garden a little less. Visiting a garden and a house could be the answer, get the botanical fix and then head inside, step back in time and warm up. Trerice, a National Trust property and garden near Newquay offers plenty of interest inside and out throughout these cooler months.

Gardener-in-charge Jen Pina-Trengove and her team of staff and volunteers garden four of the seven acres on the Trerice estate, this informal Tudor garden surrounding an Elizabethan Manor house is one of the Trust’s smaller properties however there is more than enough interest for a visit at this time of year.

One of the newest additions to the garden can be found at the entrance to the house and garden. The Knot Garden takes its inspiration from the intricate plasterwork ceilings found throughout the property and is impressive in its size and the way in which it has established so quickly having only been planted for three years.

Yew edges the beds and a fantastic, long-flowering, tall-growing Origanum Herrenhousen’ in combination with Lavandula Silver Mist’ and the white rose, Rosa Sweet Child of Mine’. The deliberately restrained planting palette takes nothing away from the elaborate paths laid in silver gravel.

Jen talks about the choice of hedging. We chose yew over box because of box blight. Although the yew is slightly slower growing, the thought of planting box and it dying would be heart breaking!’

Tulips and alliums will make an appearance come spring in the Knot Garden, with many hundreds of daffodils having been planted in the old orchard over the autumn, they’ll go a long way to extend the season of interest. The pheasant eye daffodil Narcissus poeticus is a great choice for late spring colour, it will flower well into May here.

It’s likely that there would have been this style of planting on this site originally but over the years, the use of this area has changed. Most recently an orchard of endangered Cornish apple varieties grew here and there are still a number remaining.

Providing a perfect spot from which to see The Knot Garden is the Blue Border, it runs parallel and is slightly raised so a full view of The Knot Garden is revealed. The Blue Border is a long turf walkway flanked by a pair of generous herbaceous borders planted using hues of blue, purple and white, asters, Japanese anemones, nepeta, agapanthus and aconitum fill the beds late into the year in style.

The challenge here is keeping it looking good for as long as we can, we have none of your traditional Cornish spring plants, no camellias, azaleas or rhododedrons so we rely bulbs and herbaceous planting to extend the season starting with impact from March to the first frosts,’ explains Jen.

We’ll cut back the perennials and then mulch in January, it makes such a difference to the soil here. We buy mulch in, it’s the only way we can get enough on site as we mulch every year and we know that it has been sterilised.’

The front of the house is guarded by a pair of once fierce lions that are now softened by the strokes of thousands of visitors. They sit in the garden surrounded by the purple and gold borders in The Front Court. This is the most formal part of the garden and is predominantly planted with shrubs, a scheme installed in the 1970s which is deliberately subdued although full of year-round interest that does not compete with the stunning view of the house.

The architecture of the house is allowed to take centre stage supported by the deep plum and bright gold foliage of Cotinus coggygria Royal Purple’, berberis and euonymus, a drift of Japanese anemones dance in the breeze bringing a glorious dark pink frothy highlight to the plum and gold foliage.

The yew columns and bare branches in the borders through the winter, provide structure and form along with the evergreen foliage. Mature yew columns and warm, stone walls bring the maturity of the house right into the garden, those permanent, unchanging features are key to its authenticity.

Gardening at Trerice, putting the garden in context with the house is interesting for me,’ says Jen. This prominent area of planting is a great example where anything we plant must not compete with the grand frontage of the house, we can’t put anything too exotic here, it just wouldn’t work, the planting must be in keeping with the style and period of the house, finding the balance between the borders looking good all year round but not being too flamboyant is so important.’

A clematis tangutica Bill Mackenzie’ clothes one of the walls, its nodding yellow heads an unexpected flash of colour at this time of year. An informal touch in a most formal space. Someting that we are trying in this part of the garden is to plant more climbing plants through the existing evergreens,’ says Jen. I’m hoping it’ll add an extra dimension and create more interest.’

The Long Walk, an elevated grass path lined by two mixed borders taking the form of a terrace, has a step up on one side and a step down to the Front Court on the other. It’s a lovely vantage point from which to view the house.

Jen and her team have planted a colourful scheme and by a process of elimination, have discovered a number of rabbit-proof plants that thrive. Accents of purple Aster Little Carlow’ contrast with the vibrant orange calendula which are allowed to gently self-seed along the front of the borders beside Viola cornuta Broughton Blue’, a pretty, low-growing, perennial viola that the rabbits don’t touch.

The edible borders reflect the Tudor heritage of the house and garden where the majority of plants would have been chosen because they could have been eaten or used in some way.

The vegetable garden at Trerice has been carefully planted to look and taste great, purple kale, rainbow chard and borlotti beans grow well and the beds are edged with alpine strawberry.

The planting at the back of the house uses herbs in abundance: many of which would have been used in historically. It adds to the informal feel of the garden.

Jen has plenty of plans for the garden, winter sees the regular tasks like mulching and cutting back of the borders, the re-gravelling of the paths, choices to be made around the fruit and vegetable seeds for the following year and any necessary tree work will be completed over the winter.

This intriguing house and magical garden has much to offer in the months and years to come, exciting planting and new developments within a historical landscape will guarantee a return visit or two.

Trerice, Kestle Mill, near Newquay TR8 4PG

Open all weekends through November.

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