Visiting the Lost Gardens of Heligan near St Austell in Cornwall has been on my wish list of things to see for a long time. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know I have a bit of a thing for plants – ferns in particular – and greenhouses, so I was really excited to see these magical gardens with their historic outbuildings and incredible story.
unfurling fern (by @lewesmap)
And they didn’t disappoint. I could honestly have spent a whole day there soaking up the colours, scents and peaceful atmosphere. It was the ideal place to slow down, recentre myself and really pay attention. I spotted beautifully delicate lichens, majestic ferns and stunning glasshouses.
potting greenhouse (by @lewesmap)
There was something perfect about the light in these greenhouses, filtering through the glass and the leaves of the plants to create a softness and gentleness that completely captivated my heart. I loved that these buildings were purpose-built, coming in kit form as lean-to glasshouses that were valuable places of work. Tools, pots and garden equipment tell the story of the gardens, steeped in 200 years of horticultural and social history. The greenhouses may be the only surviving working ones of their kind left in the UK. It was only the prospect of missing out on all the other beautiful sights that made me leave them and head off into the gardens.
glasshouse (by @lewesmap)
As if the greenhouses aren’t enough, Heligan also boasts walled gardens, a Pineapple Pit, Melon Yard and bee boles; as well as plenty for younger visitors, like the adventure playground, Himalayan Valley, subtropical jungle, 2.5 miles of footpaths to explore and sculptures to marvel at as you wander.
tool shed (by @lewesmap)
But the gardens haven’t always been such an abundant, luscious place. After centuries of careful tending, the two World Wars marked a decline in upkeep and Heligan’s gardens were left to go wild. They have been described as being asleep, but Nature never sleeps. Instead of the neat kitchen gardens and cutting patches, ivy, weeds and brambles crept over the whole area, hiding the bones of the garden for over 70 years. In 1990 a descendent of the estate’s owners, along with three friends, discovered a doorway into an old walled garden. They found not only the original structures but an inscription dated 1914, signed by the workers in the garden, which read: ‘Don’t come here to sleep or slumber’. It was time to wake the gardens up.
beehive (by @lewesmap)
Over the past twenty-nine years the gardens have been lovingly cleared and replanted in what is the largest restoration of its kind in Europe. Now, the Lost Gardens of Heligan are an award-winning, internationally-renowned botanical garden that has seen over 5 million visitors walk its paths. It’s the perfect place to feel connected to Nature and the past, but also to celebrate the innovation and dedication of the people who work here every day.
My Top Tips for More Gardening Inspiration
Bloom Magazine for gardening tips
Celebrating the joys of gardening and nature - Bloom is full of practical advice, thought-provoking stories about nature and a celebration of all things green.
You can buy the current and past issues of Bloom in our online shop.
Bloom Gardener's Journal
Keeping track of a year in the garden can be a challenge. It’s a test of memory to stay on top of all the seeds sown and the needs of all those plants. This journal takes the pressure off.
You can buy this beautiful journal from our online shop.
Vital Seeds for organic seeds
I buy most of our vegetable and herb seeds from Vital Seeds, which are organic and come in plastic-free and compostable packaging. I also receive their newsletter packed with lots super helpful gardening tips.
Rocket Gardens for organic plug plants
From their farm in Cornwall, Rocket Gardens sow and grow thousands of organic vegetable plug plants, herbs and potted fruits ready to be delivered to your garden gate at just the right time for planting out. I love their 'Weekly Veg Out' newsletter which is packed with lots of gardening advice.
Higgledy Garden for flower seeds
I've just bought a Sweet Pea Seed Bundle for next season from Higgledy Garden. They come in the prettiest seed packets. Benjamin Ranyard sells the best flower seeds you can find this side of Alpha Centauri. The seeds are primarily chosen for their qualities in the cut flower patch.
'Sow' by Rosanna Morris
A beautiful set of postcards featuring mini prints hand carved from original linocut and woodcut prints by Rosanna Morris. The postcard designs include 'Planting Seeds', 'Rosemary' and 'Pear'.
Grace Alexander Flowers
Grace Alexander is a consultant clinical psychologist, a writer, a flower grower and a seed merchant. She grows using biodynamic principles in partnership with her field and is in the process of becoming certified as an organic flower seed producer, as well as learning how to grow food as part of a village community. I love Grace's weekly newsletters and inspiring new book 'Grow and Gather', which is available from Waterstones.
Dahlias are one of my favourite flowers and I purchase mine from Dahlia Beach, Sarah Raven and Peter Nyssen. They flower from August through to the first frost. Dahlias are perennial and come back year after year if they're protected from frost. And the best thing is, the petals and tubers are edible :)
I hope you're feeling inspired by my journey through the Lost Gardens of Heligan and gardening tips.
Dörte x (@lewesmap)
All images by Dörte Januszewski @lewesmap