A garden has many different meanings. It can be a place for wildlife to thrive, a scene of great beauty, a cosy spot to lie in the sun reading a book, somewhere to entertain and share with loved ones, or simply a place of peace. Each of us has our own idea of the perfect garden, but how do we get there? What inspires us and continues to do so as the garden evolves through the years? With this in mind, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to the people who have had a direct impact on the garden and have helped shape it from the wilderness it was 30 years ago, to the impressive subtropical garden that it is today. And to ask them, what are their influences? And more importantly, what is their idea of a dream garden? Read on for playful planting ideas, a more intimate insight into the building of Lamorran, and for some helpful hints on designing your garden.
Jack’s Giant Wonderland
Imagine a sea of huge umbels (Melanoselinum decipiens) and Echium pininana towering above you as you walk through our head gardener Jack’s idea of his dream garden. The ground hosts drifts of Isoplexis canariensis (Canary Island foxgloves) whilst Geranium maderense ‘album’ catches your eye with it’s distinct form and the ornamental grasses rustle in the gentle breeze. A scene where the gracefulness of a meadow meets the untameable nature of the jungle and you are completely immersed in plant life way over your head in all sort of wacky shapes and sizes. A pretty display of blue, white, and orange flowers with plenty of sculptural foliage as well as a focus on the textures, shape and size of the plants. This idea is designed to evoke your inner child, making you feel small and left staring in amazement at this giant wonderland surrounding you.
Jack thinks of a garden as a place to unwind, but also a spot to play and experiment! When I asked him why he thought visitors found Lamorran so special he said, ‘It’s like a labyrinth, a place you want to explore, you get drawn into all these different spots you didn’t notice before as you zig zag down the hillside. I know I’ve been here for 2 years now & I still get excited finding hidden views looking out onto the sea!’
The backbone behind successful planting is to remember the well known saying ‘right plant, right place’ but it is just as important to have fun with it. ‘If you’re stuck for ideas investigate other gardens with similar conditions and get to know your local nurseries. Ultimately do what please you, because you never know what you might get away with! If not, fail spectacularly and try again!’
Maria’s Memories of the Mediterranean
Maria’s dream garden is a space where she can sit and admire the rewarding beauty of nature, listen to the birds and be at peace. However, it is also a place to entertain! ‘For me, being Italian, sharing food is everything!’ This is evident from the pizza oven (which is certainly on my garden wish list) found inside the Walled Garden. While we spoke about the Mediterranean influence behind the garden she informed me that in Italy the gardens are generally more structured, but here the inspiration is found in the combination of plants and the use of terracotta pots that add to the distinct style and makes the space. When asking Maria if there was anything that in particular inspired a sense of nostalgia, she mentioned how the olive trees and palms here were reminiscent of Italy and recounted a fond memory with a smile. ‘I remember visiting my grandmother, and in her garden was a small bench, and either side of it these tiny Phoenix canariensis palms. The children would always race to get there first! That was the favourite spot…’
For Maria, Lamorran has a special place in her heart because together with her husband Robert, they carved it out from scratch from the jungle it was start to finish. I asked why she thought visitors found it endearing, to this she responded that ‘it is the culmination of lots of people’s hard work and imagination. Some people have kindly commented that it’s like heaven or a paradise. I think it’s the variety, it’s different everywhere you look.’ Happy couples who have said their vows underneath the shelter of the cupola have said ‘If I didn’t marry here I would’ve gone abroad!’ So for these reasons I like to see Lamorran Gardens as a bridge between the UK and foreign lands, a place that is reminiscent of romantic, idyllic, getaways in the sun, for everyone to enjoy.
Robert – Architect of the garden
Robert not only imagined his dream garden, he built it. To him, a garden should represent rest and serenity. A setting which can heal the soul by restoring the senses, not just through sight by gazing at the beauty of life, but by hearing the babbling of a nearby stream, the hum of the bees, or by the smell of potent rhododendron blossom. A garden evokes a very special feeling through the whole experience, what your senses acknowledge, including the combination of the weather and your own inner mood can allow you interpret the scene differently every time and never tire of it. Favoured childhood visits to his grandmother’s garden are memories that he has always carried with him, helping to establish his need for a space of tranquillity and quiet reflection in life. After travelling and developing a love for warmer climates, Robert found the Mediterranean beckoned. And so he would bring back elements from his trips to southern France, Italy, South Africa, & adapt it to merge with an English garden. The search for peace and desire for diverse beauty from other countries served as an excellent source of inspiration. In his view, visitors find it captivating due to its sense of intimacy, it is a place of serenity which others can relate to for a short time of respite.
Key aspects throughout his design involve the inclusion of water, variation in levels, no straight lines, dense planting with a variety of foliage, and a sense of enclosure from the noise of the outside world. When dealing with obstacles during the planning process, he expressed that the hardest part was within the nature of creativity, finding that ‘forming an abstract concept and then trying to superimpose it onto reality was not always possible and some ideas had to be compromised.’ On the bright side, sometimes not getting what you want is a blessing in disguise, and new better ideas arise from creative problem solving, so there’s no need to mourn old concepts.
This image is the spot where the spirit of Lamorran is captured in Robert’s eyes. This wonderful vista encompasses important elements such as having a grotto water feature and changes in level. The tall bamboo thriving in the distance, screening the scene amongst the backdrop of other established trees and shrubs that provide foliage interest all year round, as well as a sense of enclosure without feeling closed in. The strength here is that the garden is evergreen, so the scene remains picturesque throughout the year, with added beauty in the warmer months as additional flowers bloom and the sunlight glistens on the ripples of the water as you walk by…
Lamorran is based on the premise of peace and serenity; influenced by cultures and plant life from across the world. Made in matter by the imagination and hard work of the Dudley-Cooke family, several gardeners, and the talented hands of many craftsmen from the community. It is a melting pot of creative minds inspired by past nostalgia which will surely inspire the next generation in turn also.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little about the inspiration behind the design of Lamorran gardens, and I hope it encourages you to try creating the garden of YOUR dreams. (Go on – gardening is good for you!) Don’t let any failures dissuade you, embrace imperfections, have fun, grow and learn from your mistakes just as your garden grows with you.
Keep planting and keep posted,
*Special thanks to the individuals featured in this blog, Jack Clutterbuck, Maria & Robert Dudley-Cooke for their time and insight. Please note that quotes have been slightly edited for the purpose of the article.