CORNISH MEMORIES GARDEN AT THE EDEN PROJECT
PUBLISHED: 16:51 19 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:32 30 August 2017
A chance meeting between landscape designer Tom Hoblyn and The Eden Project's Tim Smit led to his RHS Chelsea garden being transported onto Cornish ground
A chance meeting between landscape designer Tom Hoblyn and ’s Tim Smit led to his RHS Chelsea garden being transported onto Cornish ground – at the county’s biggest attraction. CAROL BURNS caught up with him one year on...
The Homebase Cornish Memories Garden won its designer Tom Hoblyn a Silver Gilt at RHS Chelsea in 2011, and was based on his childhood memories of Cornwall – where his family has farmed for many generations.
So where else should it go to live, but into that most Cornish of gardens - . The attraction near St Austell is best known for its biomes, but take a detour along the pathways to discover an array of stunning gardens - including the global allotment, the flower-free gardens and, of course, the latest attraction: the Cornish Memories garden.
“Tim [Smit] happened to come along to the Chelsea Show stand and say hello and I said, semi-jokingly, you should have this garden - it’s Cornish’, and he said okay’.” Tom remembers. “From my point of view when I designed it, it was all from what I remember from being in Cornwall, so naturally the plants would grow down here and not necessarily elsewhere. All the stone is Cornish and looks at home here.”
'I wanted to show off how brilliant Cornwall is: great materials, great climate, beautiful coastline – I have been all over the world but I would rather be looking at this coastline.'
“It was quite an indulgent brief,” he admits of the garden. “Homebase were my sponsors and it just so happened that someone said she had been on holiday in Cornwall and so wouldn’t it be fun to do a garden about Cornwall.”
The garden features a striking glasstopped circular pavilion with accompanying shadow pool, set amongst wild, naturalistic planting. Cornish granite edges both the natural swimming pool and pavilion shadow pool and forms a rivulet path’ to create three water channels that weaves through the garden crossing at points to create a powerful water flow that emulated the beach streams of the Cornish Coast. For younger visitors it means water play.
“What was so magical about this garden at Chelsea, was that everybody had a story of what Cornwall meant to them – it feels like everyone you speak to has got some stake in Cornwall,” says Tom. “Out of the gardens I have designed, this one was based purely on something that I wanted to do. I wanted to show off how brilliant Cornwall is: great materials, great climate, beautiful coastline – I have been all over the world but I would rather be looking at this coastline.
'I have visited Cornwall hundreds of times since but it was the old Cornwall I wanted, I was trying to distil it down to childhood things and sometimes I got it wrong.'
“Normally when I design a new garden I am given quite a strict brief, and I try and design something that meets that brief and shows my style,” he says. “This garden was based on what I remember. I have visited Cornwall hundreds of times since but it was the old Cornwall I wanted, I was trying to distil it down to childhood things and sometimes I got it wrong – for example the blue poppy, I planted a lot of those, but someone told be they were tricky to grow down here, because it’s not cold enough.”
I caught up with Tom on his return to the this autumn to see the garden in situ a year after it was transplanted, and give a talk to guests about his work.
The RHS is hot on reusing and recycling from its shows – many of the gardens are dismantled and the plants sold on for charities, but Tom has always managed to replant his gardens as they appeared at the show.
“There are no shortcuts with a Chelsea garden, you have to make them properly. Every year I have managed to get my garden into a permanent place after the show.
“Chelsea is like raising your head above the pulpit – people came and say I have seen that plant or I get what you are saying about that,” he says. “The garden had lots of ferns and lots of foxgloves - lots of plants that definitely mean Cornwall to me – it was odd standing among the crowds and seeing that people
“It was designed from the heart - the most rewarding thing is seeing children paddling in the stream as I intended.”
Chelsea gardens come in a standard format of 10m by 22m. “It’s a rather narrow oblong– it’s very small: I get the odd town garden commission but most are rural. It’s much harder to design something to fit in a small space.
“One of the best things that has happened in my career is my garden going into the Eden Project. It’s so nice – I get postcards from Cornwall and people saying they saw my garden.”
His 2012 garden won the People’s Choice award, which he says was a career highlight, while he is also involved in helping to restore a temple in India at the moment. “Probably the most fantastic and horrific project but also the most rewarding,” he says.