CORNWALL GARDENS: PINETUM PARK
PUBLISHED: 14:33 26 January 2016 | UPDATED: 12:43 30 August 2017
Visit 30 acres of stunning garden at any time of year at Pine Lodge Gardens near St Austell in Cornwall
Louise Danks heads gets her garden fix at Pine Lodge Gardens where spring is already on its way
If you are missing your botanical fix as the New Year begins, there is somewhere you can visit where winter doesn’t mean dormant. There is no need to wait patiently for the start of spring because at Pine Lodge Gardens at Pinetum Park the horticultural pace has not slowed as the winter as progressed.
30 acres of gardens and parkland teeming with rare and unusual plant specimens, 23 Champion trees, fascinating collections and 10 beautifully cultivated smaller themed gardens. Pine Lodge Gardens at Pinetum Park is a delightful space situated just outside of St Austell on the main A390 towards Lostwithiel.
Created in the 1970s with an ethos that continues today of collecting rare and unusual plants, Pinetum Park and Pine Lodge Gardens boasts an eclectic mix of those plants you’ll recognise and those that are so unusual, they have been sourced direct from the collector and are as yet unnamed. The entire effect is fascinating - comforting to recognise old favourites yet piquing the interest at every turn with those more unusual specimens. It’s remarkable to come across a garden that can hold the interest of a complete novice and the more experienced plants person but Pine Lodge Gardens fits the bill.
Owner Chang Li talks about Pine Lodge Gardens’ design philosophy; In a small garden the picturesque view is what’s important but in a large garden, it’s the moving view that is more important; the journey between the smaller gardens. You wouldn’t enjoy reading a book where nothing happened on many of the pages, the story has to grab you. It’s the same in a garden.’
One of the small gardens is The Zen Garden, it has at its heart a pond reflecting the canopy and a small hut. The planting is a cool, restrained palette of greens – a lawn of liriope, bamboo and acers. Crossing the pool via a zig-zag granite bridge carries visitors over the pond where a perfect view of the borrowed landscape can be appreciated.
You’ll find the regular stalwarts of the spring garden at Pine Lodge but so much more. Those magnolias, camellias and rhododendrons give way to the bustling herbaceous borders in the Courtyard Garden and Gertrude Jekyll border which provide plenty of colour until the first frosts when The Winter Garden begins to awaken.
The Winter Garden
Having reached its 10th birthday, the 2.2 acre Winter Garden is maturing well. Embraced by a crescent of young silver birch, with slender naked trunks displaying the best of the stark white bark and a streak of flaming dog wood planted so that their stems glow crimson against the stunning white papery bark heighten the drama of this striking contrast.
Foliage, stems, bark, flowers and berries provide as much interest in the winter garden as any border at its summer peak The colder it gets the better it looks!’ says Chang. A garden is about more than just plants. The weather, seasons, time of day, sounds, animals and birds all contribute to creating a garden.’
Witnessing this level of interest is an unexpected treat at this time of year and beautifully demonstrates exactly what can be achieved with a strong focus on which plants are at their best when the days are at their shortest and the temperatures are traditionally at their lowest not to mention the temporary glittering transformation the frost can bring.
Looking great from mid-November through to the end of March, the Winter Garden boasts a splendid collection of plants. Daphne, mahonia, hellebore, sarcococca and heather bring their floral attributes to the winter party. Blooms in midwinter are an exciting commodity and here, in the Winter Garden where they are concentrated it is an overwhelming experience.
Scented plants have to work that little bit harder in order to get their fragrance noticed in the still winter air, that’s what makes daphne, witch hazel, winter honeysuckle and Christmas box so surprising and valuable in the January garden.
Evergreen foliage is the constant skeleton of this area, texture being its party-piece. Phormium and ophiopogon have sword and grass like foliage, whereas the smaller leaved pittosporum, cotoneaster and pieris contribute to the multi-faceted textured greens in the Winter Garden. Cloud-pruned heathers, grasses with their seed heads left intact until spring add all important movement and a variety of texture and form.
The stems and bark of the dogwoods, salix and acer in fiery hues add an extra dimension, only presenting themselves as the leaves drop and Sorbus, pyracantha and holly are permitted in the winter garden for their jewel-like berries in those traditional hot reds and oranges but also pink berries of the Sorbus hupehensis Pink Pagoda’ are as unexpected as they are spectacular.
Evergreen plants feature heavily at Pine Lodge. From the yew pillars in the Courtyard Gardens to the low growing bamboo in the Zen garden, they are a key part of the winter planting scheme providing colour and form. An area where there is a concentration of those essential evergreens is the Pinetum (pronounced pi-neet-um) where they take centre stage. The Pinetum is a group of conifers, each given enough space to grow and reach maturity displaying its unique colour, form and characteristics. Viewing each specimen in this way allows the visitor to fully appreciate its individuality. You normally see conifers in a group all crammed together in a smudge of green. Here they have deliberately been given enough room to shine.’
Collections of trees planted in grass are a simply breath taking way to view large plants and provide the garden with an important pause, an area of calmer planting and a change of pace.
On entering the gardens from the car park, a welcoming carpet of snowdrops flanks the path and hints at what is to come for those galanthophiles in search of the ultimate snowdrop sighting. The Snowdrop Spectacular at Pine Lodge Gardens runs for the entire month of February with 60 different cultivars of this enigmatic little bulb exciting snowdrop lovers from far and wide.
Something else to look forward to throughout the spring and summer of 2016 is the Pine Lodge Gardens’ theme; The Hidden Gardeners; it highlights those creatures who contribute so much to the garden by way of pollinators, composters, natural pest control and who work closely with the more visible human gardeners who keep the gardens looking so good. It hopes to get younger visitors excited about nature and inspire them to spend more time out of doors.
This well-considered, impeccably maintained garden is brim-full of interest even in the depths of winter. There is a reason why Pine Lodge Garden is open all year round and that’s because there is so much to see.
This article first appeared in January 2016 Cornwall Life