PUBLISHED: 13:22 19 September 2014 | UPDATED: 13:13 30 August 2017



Ethnevas Cottage near Constantine, Falmouth in Cornwall was four derelict walls with no running water or electricity and has become a fantastic open garden

After a chance discovery on a walk from Port Navas where Lyn Watson and her family had moored their boat, they came across Ethnevas Cottage, simply four derelict walls with no running water or electricity and fell in love. That was the mid-1960s. Although the cottage had a garden, an opportunity to buy some more land arose in 1990 and a further acre and a half brought the total size of the garden here to two acres. Little more was done to the land other than planting around 30 young trees at that time, the garden development began in essence in 1999.

Head down the winding hill between Constantine and Port Navas, turn left at the lowest point and drive up the valley until you reach the cheerful entrance of Ethnevas Cottage. The front garden is welcoming and pretty, burgeoning borders packed with lilies, cosmos, cleome and crocosmia framed by a mature Berberis darwinii a Kerria japonica Plenaflora’, two shrubs with citrus-hued flowers, vibrant orange and striking yellow are a zesty pairing.

The level of detail crafted by Lyn means time should be taken to experience this garden, to drink in and enjoy the multi-faceted planting

We didn’t work from a plan; the garden just grew and grew. I had a basic idea that it would have a space in the middle from which to fashion vistas leading away giving different views and discoveries.’ Says Lyn. Often a garden reflects the owner’s preferences, a penchant for perennials or a leaning towards lilies can give away a particular obsession.

The garden at Ethnevas Cottage is a conundrum; crammed full of choice bulbs, interesting herbaceous, fantastic species shrubs, trees including conifers, fruit and veg as well as a pond and bog garden and a wildflower meadow! This exciting variety reveals only one thing, that the person gardening here loves plants. All plants.

Lyn admits I’ve become a plantaholic, I like anything that’s looking good at a particular time. I’ll visit a garden centre and see something nice and wonder where I can put it! I’m getting quite interested in bulbs at the moment as it’s all I have room for!’ And they are used to great effect at Ethnevas Cottage. Most notably perhaps the impressive glade of snakes head fritillaries.

Growing much of her stock from cuttings and seeds it’s evident that Lyn has truly green fingers and enjoys propagation. I have a cutting bed where I start many of my cuttings off. It’s moist and in partial shade which is important. They seem to take very well here, I’ll then pot them up and sell them on my open days.’ Walking around the garden Lyn points out many of the specimens started off as cuttings highlighting the importance of regenerating favourite plants in this way. After all, free plants are always welcome!

Water features heavily in this garden, countless springs pop up throughout and are gently directed with the help of strategically placed drains and channels many feeding the sizeable bog garden and pond.

Gunnera forms a majestic foil from mid-spring to the first frosts in The Bog Garden, giant willow herb with its pink spires towers above the fluffy creamy-white filipendula, architectural Cyperus papyrus and dancing candelabra primula in candy colours thrive on the periphery.

Swathes of astilbe, hemerocallis, lysimachia and ligularia with its yellow blooms and palm-shaped foliage is a fantastic addition to a damp spot, the underside of the leaves, a deep purple and in the breeze it ripples against the green, another aspect to this moist planting scheme. As summer turns to autumn, the Michaelmas daisies create quite a spectacle along the length of the bog garden, thriving where their feet are wet and extending the season of interest by an extra few weeks.

The pond bulging with frog spawn and water lilies is also home to the sunshine-yellow Caltha palustris and stately arum lilies it’s framed by a stand of bamboo and set off by a bridge that runs alongside the pond, the perfect vantage point to view the garden from the bottom up across the water. The bridge was built, like many of the other structures in the garden by Ken Watson, Lyn’s late husband.

It’s not just floral colour that brings vibrancy to the borders here, I love different types of foliage and this is a year-round garden.’ Explains Lyn, the value of foliage colours and textures in this garden is arguably more obvious in the autumn and winter months but the way in which conifers and evergreen shrubs are used in the overall planting scheme is inspired.

Valuable contrast is created in the borders using a mix of conifers, evergreen shrubs and stems whether they be as Lyn has planted together - the deliberately ornamental coloured stems of fiery cornus and salix against the cool, ice bark of a mature birch or the standard naked deciduous form of any plant in the border. The balance orchestrated by Lyn is clever, there truly is something to see at every turn at any time of the year and during this month you’ll catch her getting ahead with the weeding and staking her perennials before they become too unruly.

In this garden you are surrounded by plants, coupled with the low walls edging the borders, the over-flowing beds the constant sound of running water all help to create a sense of intimacy. Even the deliberate open space at the top of the garden that flourishes into a wildflower meadow with shrub-lined walkways leading to the other parts of the garden feels secluded thanks to the mature trees planted as whips.

The pergola, another of Ken’s creations is clothed in a variety of climbers marks the exit at the very top of the garden. Wisteria and two climbing roses, Rosa Kiftsgate’ and one taken as a cutting that is now blooming above head height with scented buttercream-coloured flowers mingle with Clematis armandii the evergreen early flowering twining climber and a later flowering variety, Clematis Bill Mackenzie’ brilliantly showcase how to mix climbers for a long season of vertical interest. Further testament to Lyn’s passion for plants and the ability to utilise all available space! The level of detail crafted by Lyn means time should be taken to experience this garden, to drink in and enjoy the multi-faceted planting.

Ethnevas Cottage



TR11 5PY

01326 340076

Open throughout September 2014

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest from the Cornwall Life