Bamboos, Borders and Cream Teas

PUBLISHED: 15:54 17 August 2010 | UPDATED: 16:01 20 February 2013

Carwinion House Photo: Louise Danks

Carwinion House Photo: Louise Danks

In this June issue, Cornwall Life visits Carwinion, an 18th-century manor house in Mawnan Smith with a 12-acre garden that is famous for its bamboo collection and border planting

Bamboo, Borders and Cream Teas

Louise Danks visits Carwinion, an 18th-century manor house with a 12-acre garden famous for its bamboo collection and border planting, and with a lovely B&B and tea rooms

About 30 years ago Jane Rogers was faced with a difficult decision: whether to buy a new vacuum cleaner or a strimmer. She decided that a strimmer would probably get more work and she was right. After five years and many hours strimming, the garden at her home at Carwnion was rediscovered. Since then, there has been thousands of visitors to this garden in Mawnan Smith, near Falmouth.

Carwinion is famous for its outstanding bamboo collection started by Jane's husband, Anthony, who become interested in bamboo in the 1970s. The collection at Carwinion now consists of over 200 varieties and is reputed to be one of the finest in the UK. You'll catch the gardeners tending the bamboos in June as there is a certain amount of cutting back to be done. If you look closely you'll notice the dog-guards, as it's not your usual garden pests but dogs that the young Phyllostachys edulis shoots need protection from, as they love to chew on the juicy new shoots. Despite this, dogs are very welcome to come and enjoy the garden.

But there is much more to this 12-acre garden than an impressive bamboo collection. There is the Secret Garden and the Walled Garden with its mixed borders and some real plant gems, thanks to its sheltered position and a legacy of horticultural brilliance that is rooted in Cornish Victorian plant-hunting history.

Jane describes herself as "head cook, bottle-washer and gardener", and it's easy to see why. She is best described as hands-on, running a gorgeous garden with a tea room on the terrace, and a busy B&B business. Carwinion is open seven days a week and Jane is supported by a small team. Some of her horticultural staff are volunteers but her gardeners, Chris and Alexander, work two days a week at Carwinion, and it is remarkable that such a small team achieve so much in this garden.

There is a real sense of nurture at Carwinion. The dedicated, close-knit team are obviously passionate about the garden and its plans. Jane receives regular, informal horticultural updates from her team and everyone is involved in each aspect of the garden and its development.

The mixed borders are the real stars of summer at Carwinion with much emphasis put on the sometimes underrated use of annuals and tender perennials in the border. There are always those annoying little gaps that appear in the garden where something hasn't made it through the winter, especially this year. The slugs have had a dinner party, or perhaps something just hasn't done as well as you'd hoped, and that's where these plants come to the rescue. Annuals grow from seed, flower and set seed again all in one growing season. Tender perennials can be kept going from year to year but require a little more work; they'll need protection from frost over winter and it's advisable to bring them into a greenhouse until the following spring.

Annuals and tender perennials are great gap fillers, good value and a fabulous way of trying out new colour combinations without breaking the bank. Many of them are easily grown from seed and can be scattered on prepared ground in situ. They'll give your borders or containers a real facelift and you may even discover a new favourite plant. Another plus point is that if you don't like the plant or combination you've tried, you've only spent a couple of pounds on the seeds and you haven't been tending the plants for years and years, waiting for them to flower only to discover they're the wrong shade of pink and clash horribly with your cannas!

Carwinion's mixed borders are a shining example of planting around the existing framework of perennials, shrubs and climbers. A mixture of well-known but underused annuals is used in the borders. Look out for the following: cosmos, a floppy, daisy flower in pink or white with delicate feathery foliage; nigella, known as Love-in-a-Mist, is an unusual flower that often comes in shades of blue, but pink and white varieties are available. It couldn't be easier to grow. Scatter a small handful of seeds and you'll see fluffy seedlings emerging within days and have blooms within weeks. For a contemporary twist, try growing this with bright orange calendulas. To bring a dash of sunshine, argyranthemums are also a good bet in the border.

Osteospermums are another staple at Carwinion. A cheerful South African daisy that forms soft pillows of colour and can gently creep and trail down walls and over rocks, they are officially frost tender but in Cornwall they tend to keep going through the winter unless there is a very cold snap. They are easy to propagate and will layer along the ground.

The climbing roses are a sight to behold in summer, and at Carwinion the older varieties do very well. Rosa 'Kiftsgate', is a rampant climbing rose with glossy green leaves and a mass of scented creamy-white flowers; Rosa 'Rambling Rector' is another scented climbing rose with grey-green foliage and creamy semi-double flowers; Rosa 'Jersey Beauty' is a pale lemon yellow flowering rose with long, arching stems; and Rosa banksiae, a climbing rose with clusters of violet-scented, double white flowers. These thrive at Carwinion with little or no blackspot.

When walking around this garden, it's impossible to escape the sound of running water. It is only ever drowned out by the astonishing volume of birdsong in the garden, which surely illustrates its sense of calm and serenity. The garden's streams and ponds add a further dimension to this beautifully tended, cleverly planted garden. Follow the meandering paths through the gunnera grove with its enormous, other-worldly stems and leaves stretching above you, under clumps of swaying bamboo canes and, if you're lucky, you'll even catch some late rhododendrons and camellias if you visit in early June.

Unfortunately a large sweet chestnut fell down last year but this was seen as an opportunity - sculptor Peter Boex has created a 3m-tall artwork called 'The Dancer in the Wood'. She is a beautiful carving and stands in the dappled sunlight at the bottom of the gunnera grove. The dancer is not the only female guardian of the garden, there is a charming stone lady who stands near the 18th-century manor house on a carpet of anemones.

Carwinion is equipped with its own nursery, where the plants are propagated on site, so not only can you reward yourself with a mouth-watering cream tea on the terrace at the end of a lovely walk around the garden, you can make a note of something leafy that has caught your eye along the way, pick it up from the nursery and take home a little piece of Carwinion.

For further information (01326 250258,

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