The secret garden and other adventures

PUBLISHED: 14:48 04 June 2013 | UPDATED: 22:25 13 June 2013


Entering the garden at the side of the house through a low wooden door hardly prepares you for what is to come, this space is cleverly packaged up in to smaller areas, using the characterful hedges, each paddock with its own distinct personality. Creating a garden around an existing feature like the hedges; full of history and age gives the garden a relaxed, rambling feel that truly sets the tone. You’ll find no contrivances at Primrose Farm; a 3½ acre former smallholding just outside Skinners Bottom near Redruth.

Although Barbara and Peter Simmons inherited a number of mature conifers, a few trees and a handful of camellias, when they moved here 11 years ago there was nothing else of note growing here.

Barbara and Peter have certainly changed this. ‘There was not a single perennial plant in the garden when we arrived.’ Says Barbara ‘I moved here from a suburban garden in Hertfordshire, having this amazing space I thought I really need to know what’s going on so I went to college.’ Now mixed herbaceous borders abound, choice shrubs are discovered at every turn with the area of the garden directly behind the house being the most cultivated.

Barbara is a fan of roses, using them throughout the garden. In a particularly pretty border by the house where a stunning orange azalea is underplanted with Euphorbia griffithii ‘Dixter’ both glowing with fiery hues you’ll find Rosa ‘Alan Titchmarsh’ and Rosa ‘Princess Anne’ ‘I’ve no idea what they think of each other’ jokes Barbara ’But I do always try to splash out on David Austen roses, I find them strong and disease resistant.’

Away from the house through a rustic gate and the atmosphere changes, cooler, shadier, more intimate – the woodland garden has everything you’d hope for including a life-size giraffe sculpture which Barbara explains ‘I bought Gertie at the Malvern show and they told me they could deliver him. I’d had my eye on him for quite a while. What I didn’t realise was that he’d be delivered on the roof rack of a very small car!’

Gertie looks quite at home with the dappled canopy above and meandering paths cut through the ground cover planting of Luzula sylvatica which is actually very effective edging the paths with its grass-like foliage providing movement and its delicate airy flowers bring an ethereal quality to the low-level planting.

The Secret Garden is Barbara’s latest renovation project, having removed a large quantity of rubble and even the rusted carcasses of two wheelbarrows another planting opportunity was revealed. Standing in the place of a former rubbish tip is now a small area with gravelled paths and beautifully chosen plants. A range of delicate epimediums hold their coy, nodding blooms high above their leaves on carefully spaced, slight stems.

Being a series of small paddocks in a rural setting sounds idyllic and Primrose Farm is situated in a beautiful spot but the down side is the weed seeds blowing in from the surrounding fields, that and the rabbits which Barbara and Peter have done a great job of keeping out of the most plant-filled areas of the garden with fencing that is hardly noticeable, a time-consuming job but well worth doing!

The modest greenhouse works hard, packed full of annuals; antirrhinum, calendula, cleome and cosmos primed and ready to be dispatched to all corners of the garden to fill gaps and provide bursts of colour. Barbara is an expert in using the different types of plants available to her and crafting them carefully to the garden’s advantage.

Beautifully chosen shrubs add to the year-round interest at Primrose Farm, enkianthus with its late-spring clusters of creamy-white bell flowers, two different cotinus, one golden and one purple stand boldly side-by-side until the cooler months when they blaze with incandescent vibrancy, their autumn colour unmatched. Ceratostigma willmotianum or plumbago is one of those plants with true blue flowers that always draw attention in late summer. Choice plants skilfully placed.

Further evidence of Barbara’s enthusiasm for all things botanical can be found in what she does in her spare time, she even finds time to volunteer in the garden at Trelissick ‘After completing my RHS qualification at Duchy College, Rosewarne followed by a garden design course, I wanted to keep learning. Working at Trelissick I do, it keeps my skills up to date and continues to inspire me.’

Barbara’s passion for plants is infectious and plain to see when visiting Primrose Farm, sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm generously and freely admitting to an affliction affecting many of us. ‘I suppose I am a plantaholic! If I see something I like, I’ve got to have it, in fact if I come home from a garden without a plant my husband worries that I’m coming down with something!’ n

Primrose Farm, Skinners Bottom,

Redruth, Cornwall, TR16 5EA

01209 890 350

Open Saturday 22nd June 1-5pm

Groups by appointment throughout the year.

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