30 years in style

PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 April 2014

Rhododendrons bring jewel tones to the garden

Rhododendrons bring jewel tones to the garden


Known for its world-famous nursery, Burncoose has an enviable reputation for its garden plants. LOUISE DANKS discovers how 
this favourite Cornish garden puts others in the shade

Your garden questions

Ruth Maksymiw from Wadebridge

What should I do when my daffodils have finished flowering?

To mow or to tie that is the question… In answer, pull the spent flowers off and leave the leaves, or fold them over and tie them neatly with something like garden twine or raffia. You want every last piece of energy to go back into the bulb so that they come up stronger next spring. Mowing the leaves off when they are looking scruffy, although tempting when you get the urge to tidy the garden in spring but this could cause the bulbs to weaken and die out.

Alison Irving from Tregavethan

I had a go at growing sweet peas for the first time. I sowed them in the autumn and they haven’t come up yet.

They should have poked their heads above the compost in their pots by now. Tip a couple out and see if the seed is still there. If it is then it but it’s black, it has possibly rotted, not surprising if they’ve been outside during the winter we’ve had, or perhaps the shoot has been eaten by a slug. If the seed has disappeared it may be a mouse who is at fault. Don’t worry, it’s not too late to get sweet peas for the summer just sow them now and keep slugs and mice away!

Although it has to be said that most of us don’t have 30 acres to play around with, many of us do have a shaded or woodland area in our gardens. Whether it’s the corner of a bed shaded by next door’s sycamore or an area specifically created to make shade-loving plants feel at home: love it or loathe it, dry shade, damp shade and wet shade, dappled shade and deep, dark shade are all conditions we are likely to come across in our gardening lives. Rest assured there will be planting inspiration to be taken from this garden.

Perhaps best known for its world-famous nursery, Burncoose’s position within Cornwall’s horticultural history or its Royal Horticultural Society medals it’s name is synonymous with quality when it comes to garden plants all over the globe. Burncoose has also blazed a trail when it comes to mail order plant sales, being one of the first and most enduring nurseries to offer this service.

This year Burncoose celebrates its 30-year anniversary and as part of the celebrations, the Woodland garden is free to visitors. Halfway down the nursery - which is nestled within the existing walls of the old kitchen garden (a reminder of the estate where Burncoose now stands) - and you’ll find a gate that leads to the woodland garden: a fabulous showcase, a living museum of many of the plants bred and raised here.

Woodland gardening on a grand scale where trees and shrubs are allowed to reach their full potential - and not to mention their full size - are quite simply stunning. ‘Many people come to the nursery but don’t know we have a beautiful woodland garden,’ says Burncoose’s Stephen Dance. ‘It’s crammed full of all the things you’d expect at this time of year from a Cornish spring garden, camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias are all looking great this month.’

The opening of Burncoose Nurseries 1984. L-R David Knuckey, David Williams, Julian Williams, Charles Williams, Philip Knuckey Photo: BurncooseThe opening of Burncoose Nurseries 1984. L-R David Knuckey, David Williams, Julian Williams, Charles Williams, Philip Knuckey Photo: Burncoose

Take some time to wander through the Woodland Garden at Burncoose, not only will it help you make your plant choices back in the nursery; but being able to see a plant’s habit, size and form can also help you to make the right selection.

Wide paths cut through gently swelling raised banks, sumptuously planted with tier upon tier of flowering shrubs, trees and conifers. Cleverly raising plants to eye level increases the impact of the appearance and fragrance where there is one.

Textbook positioning of the layers in the canopy provide a very pleasing tapestry of spring flowering staples. But it’s the sense of history, the feeling that you are surrounded by horticultural royalty that really impresses here. So many of the specimens were bred here, raised from seeds, staff selecting the outstanding seedling, the one showing promise and waiting years for it to flower while watching its progress. Then more years are needed to build stock levels up ready for the species to take its place in the nursery - and perhaps even a spot in an RHS medal winning display.

Clever use of shaggy laurel hedges kept to loose lozenge shapes alternately block then reveal the view behind, a simple but effective way to provide botanical jeopardy, it works brilliantly in this large space but the same technique can be applied in a smaller garden using evergreen shrubs or a strategically placed arbour or arch planted with climbers - anything to obscure a view, drama in the garden can be a subtle and powerful commodity when executed well.

The acers burst into leaf over the pond.The acers burst into leaf over the pond.

The blooms on the menu in early spring in the Woodland Garden are what Cornish gardens excel at, the certainty of their scheduling in the gardening calendar in no way detracts from the spectacle; they are incredible. And in this setting, where hundreds of different species grow in harmony, it’s a real treat to be able to contrast and compare. Rhododendrons, azaleas, pieris and magnolias bloom in a powerful crescendo. A foil of evergreens provide the year round constant; conifers, bamboos laurel and tree heathers are the stalwarts in this garden that all others join.

After strolling under rhododendrons so large you can walk amongst their bare branches with the foliage and flowers high above your head, an adventure for children and an original viewpoint for anyone taking the time to look skywards. It’s almost as if the garden knows it’s time to take a breath, as just when the colour and texture and interesting plant combinations threaten to overwhelm there is an opening. Mature trees standing in close-mown turf. The soothing effect of brown against green; its calming simplicity allowing the visitor to process all that’s gone before. Whether it evolved or was planned, it works.

Slightly later in the year where spring blends into summer, the bluebell carpet emerges under the dappled canopy of the choice trees that have stood for decades, their spreading branches protecting these stunning bulbs from the warming sun and creating those magical shafts of light through new, fresh green leaves. Although more than enough to take in this month, return visits are essential, there is more to see and perhaps the next time you pop in with a shopping list of perennials or to pick up a shrub for a gift, you’ll allow an extra hour so that you can take in the Woodland Garden.

Burncoose Nurseries
Gwennap, Redruth TR16 6BJ

01209 860316 / burncoose.co.uk

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