Eden Project no Garden of Eden, has world’s largest greenhouses
By Jimmy Williams
Posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 8:02 pm
Our Perennial Plant Association 14-day English garden tour at the turn of August and September had some long, gruelling days. Aug. 31 was one of them.
Our coach departed the hotel in Truro in Cornwall and stopped first at a nursery of the old school. Bodmin Nursery is a plantsman’s endeavor, with home-propagated plants. Herbs were a specialty, and though plants were the raison d’etre, there were terracotta and stone pots of excellent quality in abundance. I coveted them.
Then at Pinsla Gardens and Nursery, not far away, was a 1768 stone cottage the owners rescued from dilapidation. They then built, over a period of years, a cottage garden to fit with the house and wilder woodland and shrubberies in the outlying part of the property. Some of the garden art almost made for a Felder Rushing (southern garden writer) feel.
The nursery plants were mostly propagated from material of the site, and offerings were not the usual box store fare. The owners, like almost all gardeners, were kind, informative and patient to answer numerous questions.
At our next stop, Hidden Valley Gardens, the name says it all. Our coach found the back road on which the garden is located, but upon starting down a long (two miles) lane, our driver was ordered to park the bus and go no further. The road, though narrow, would have been no challenge for him. He had skillfully maneuvered more difficult routes in the week previously.
We piled out and started the long trudge toward the distant garden, sure enough hidden in a valley. Meanwhile, the owner drove up in some kind of fancy British car and offered a ride to five or so of our group who could squeeze in.
The garden, at only 11 years old, was a work of art. It was an unusual sight on our tour, a young garden as opposed to others we had seen dating to the Middle Ages.
The return march to the coach was worse. We were tired and it was uphill all the way. We collapsed into our comfortable seats for the ride to The Eden Project and the world’s largest greenhouses.
An abandoned kaolinite pit is the location of the center of attraction, monstrous “bionomes” consisting of inflated hexagonal and pentagonal plastic cells. The domes cover several acres. One houses a rain forest and another Mediterranean and desert environments.
The idea (I think) was to create an environment inside the greenhouses that would be more or less self-sufficient. Somewhere, along the way, I believe the tourism potential was realized and it morphed mostly into a curiosity appealing to the new age-green movement. More power to them. The Project’s spacious restaurant fit right in with a selection of “green” vittles.
At any rate, we pushed our way through the crowds, consisting mostly of younger people (everybody is younger than me), who were all agog at the bionomes. An ice cream cone was the best part of this stop for me, though somehow, somewhere there must be some redeeming virtue there. The nearest thing to it, for me, was a collection of sculptures artfully constructed from pieces of driftwood.
The last stop of the day was the best. At Kilmarth Gardens, we were greeted by vivacious ash-blonde Nutty Linn. Her nickname is self-appointed, and she is certainly, most definitely, not nutty.
This was a rare opportunity to see and hear from Nutty of her efforts, already showing astounding success, at building a garden for the future. There are precious few gardens being built, in England or anywhere else, that will take their place among the world famous others which have stood the test of time. Visitors will be flocking to Kilmarth 100 years from now.
This gal is building on the grand scale, much as Vita Sackville-West did at Sissinghurst, around an old stone house which also is being expanded.
It was late afternoon and a chill breeze had sprung up. Nutty invited us onto a south-facing terrace area backed to the north by a stone enclosure built into a hill. There, protected from the wind, was a cheery fire in an outdoor fireplace, where our group enjoyed fruit punch, quality wine and excellent home-cooked hors d’oeuvres. I am sorry we have no pictures from Kilmarth, but I understand completely the Linns’ reluctance to allow them.
Next: Tour group’s favorite garden for plant combinations.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 11.1.11