PUBLISHED: 20:22 18 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:41 30 August 2017



Visit Carminowe Valley Gardens near Helston, Cornwall to discover the beautiful plants and flowers in Marion and John Stanley's garden

Having lived in Mazey Cottage near Helston since 2004, Marion and John Stanley were looking for somewhere with space for a larger garden when in 2008 they had the chance to buy a neighbour’s paddock and didn’t hesitate

Creating a garden from this south-facing valley side a mile from the sea, aiming to keep the naturalistic feel, Marion and John have not let the grass grow under their feet and apart from a slight head start of inheriting a number of trees which provide height, interest and an air of maturity to this space, everything here has been developed by the couple.

'To plant anything in the garden, you don’t take a spade, you need a pick.'

Marion is no stranger to creating gardens - growing up with parents who were keen horticulturalists with a beautiful garden set the bar high for her throughout her gardening life. Now being the National Garden Scheme Inspector for South West Cornwall, Marion continues to support and advise anyone wanting to open their own gardens for the NGS as well as tending her own three-and-a-half acre garden.

The courtyard at the front of this beautiful cottage boasts a formal parterre of box and in spring, standard roses underplanted with wallflowers and contrasting tulips jostle for position, lifting their colourful heads above the clipped box hedges. The walls are clothed in roses, Marion’s inspired choices are peppered throughout and contrast elegantly with foliage.

Cleverly chosen sambucus burst into leaf with stunning black or searing yellow, real pops of colour creating depth in the border, but foliage colour so no challenge for the rose blooms giving them their moment in the spotlight. Great ideas for a small or front garden can be taken from this part of Carminowe Valley Garden alone.

'The ancient woodland to the left carpeted by primroses, bluebells and ferns with the only real changes here being the addition of an acer glade.'

The mixture of paving and gravel not only looks effective, it also lends itself perfectly to crevice planting: in this case, it’s thyme. Following your nose out of the courtyard and to the rest of the garden the wide granite steps, flanked by wide swathes of the black grass Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens’ and then a double row of Rosa Sally Holmes’ , a cascade of apricot buds that fade to white on opening and the purple froth of Nepeta Six Hills Giant’ nestling behind. A great perennial plant that sends up long purple flower spikes continuously throughout the summer and well into autumn.

The path curves attractively around the pond, although an original feature, Marion has doubled its size and it is now complete with gunnera, zantedeschia and plenty of waterlilies and passes over a stunning hand-made bridge crossing the Carminowe River that bisects the garden.

The ancient woodland to the left carpeted by primroses, bluebells and ferns with the only real changes here being the addition of an acer glade. “The only spot in the garden that doesn’t get any wind,” explains Marion.

The stony clay soil here means difficult cultivation conditions. "To plant anything in the garden, you don’t take a spade, you need a pick,” says John and he’s not joking - the initial beds were created using a digger. Another challenge here is improving the soil and when it comes to clay, its lightening the soil if you possibly can. Spent mushroom compost has always been the ingredient of choice but that is becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of. Horse and chicken manure and copious amounts of garden compost help the plants to thrive.

Mixed island beds, each with a carefully crafted personality of their own that sparkle with originality, line the generous grass paths. Why not use soft fruit in an ornamental border? Well, there is no good reason not to and here Marion has planted blueberries, tayberries, goji, Japanese wineberries and blackberries and a kiwi in a soft-fruit walk complete with roses and more of the beautifully hand-crafted chunky trellis work. The effect is very pretty; it is a thoroughly inspiring way to grow fruit in a mixed border and just goes to show that you don’t need to give an entire area of your garden over to growing tasty berries.

John’s domain is the vegetable garden, raised beds ensure optimum cultivation conditions and the best chance of a great harvest. John explains why it can be so enjoyable: “It is satisfying and somehow more instant. If you get something wrong this year, you can put it right next year.”

A veritable florist shop’s worth of blooms abound in the nearby cutting garden blowsy and they are full of colour – agapanthus, dahlias, alstroemeria, tulips, Alchemilla mollis and lavender are some of the flowers home-grown and cut for the house. Wildlife is another of Marion’s passions, she has planted two nectar borders to encourage bees and butterflies pulmonaria, sedum, hemerocallis, phlox, buddleja, bergenia and a monster cardoon all on the menu to encourage our favourite flying friends.

Marion will be kept busy this month with the dead-heading her tulips, she recommends removing the spent flower head and the stalk but leaving the leaves behind. Dahlia staking is another essential task for May as is the regular spraying of the 120 different types of roses growing there.

This garden is crammed full of fabulous ideas, brilliantly executed to the highest of horticultural standards. Marion knows instinctively when to use large numbers of the same plant for maximum impact and also how to combine different plants subtly, boldly when called for but always intelligently using colour to its best effect.

If this is a garden in its youth, be happy to make its acquaintance now and grow old with it, it has much to offer.

Carminowe Valley Garden

01326 565868 /

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