It’s impossible not to fall for the charms of St Michael’s Mount – it looks atmospheric from afar, and romantic from within. The garden is ever so pretty, filled with exotic plants (the granite rock acts as a giant heat store) that can withstand salt-laden winds. Succulents abounded,which made me very happy – my favourites are below.
The garden is a tad precarious – the garden was crowded when we visited, and when there was a bottleneck on the paths, it wasn’t hard to imagine someone toppling off one of the terraces. While we were visiting, a woman had to be airlifted off the castle path by a Royal Navy helicopter – a private drama made public. Her rescue seemed to take ages, the helicopter whirring rather menacingly above our heads. It made me feel fortunate to be eating ice cream, admiring succulents and enjoying my holiday. I hope she was ok.
This is Gymnocladus dioicus, the Kentucky coffeetree. There’s a line of them at the Piet Oudolf garden at the Hauser + Wirth Gallery in Somerset. Apparently they come into leaf late and drop their leaves early, so presumably Mr Oudolf chose them for their architectural quality. The seeds can be roasted to make a coffee substitute, apparently.
Much excitement has been surrounding Piet Oudolf’s new garden at the new Hauser + Wirth Gallery in Somerset. I was one of the people who was excited about it, so I was very pleased to get the chance to visit.
The gallery and restaurant is extremely swanky – some challenging art, neon lights spelling ‘Everything Will Be OK’ on one of the building walls, throbbing music in the exceedingly cool bar area and lots of trendy people. It’s what you’d expect to find in a capital city, which isn’t surprising as the other Hauser + Wirth galleries are in New York, London and Zurich. To be honest, it made me feel a bit uneasy – it just didn’t seem to sit comfortably in deepest Somerset.
As for the garden, there are some beautiful planting combinations (my favourite is below), and quite a few plants that I didn’t recognise, which is always interesting. The place was positively buzzing with bees and butterflies.
Interestingly, the non-gardeners in our group didn’t ‘get’ the garden at all. I tried to explain the naturalistic style, the planting in drifts, the fact that it’s all very new and will take a while to establish. But they still didn’t get it, or even like it very much. And I must admit it didn’t quite do it for me, either. Maybe it was the simple fact that the garden isn’t established – the perennials are dominating at the moment, and the grasses need to mature to give more structure. Or maybe it was the clock sculpture, which dominates somewhat (and ticks annoyingly). Maybe it was the bright green grass paths which look a bit odd, the lack of structure, or the lack of a sense of enclosure. I’ve been wowed by Piet Oudolf’s planting in the past, especially at Pensthorpe a few years ago, but this time I was surprised to find myself thinking that I’ve seen it all before.
By the time you read this, I may be sitting once more on the Rock Pool Cafe’s terrace, admiring the view. I took this picture back in June, when the British summer was shaping up nicely, and Cornwall looked like (and was as hot as) Greece. The red geraniums were giving the place a Mediterranean air. I’m going there this week, and I’m hoping that the sun will still be shining.
It’s well worth taking a wander around Mells after visiting the Walled Garden. St Andrew’s Church has an interesting history, and Siegfried Sassoon is buried in the churchyard. Edwin Lutyens had an association with the village, and his work (including a war memorial) is dotted about.
When I spotted a sign pointing the way to the Pelargonium House at Stourhead, I made an immediate beeline for it. It’s a beautiful old glasshouse that contains around 100 varieties of pelargonium, some of which look nothing like a pelargonium. The smell in there is divine.
Several of the varieties are sold in the shop, and I brought home three with me. The most successful plants in my conservatory this year* have been pelargoniums, so I’m going to turn it into a mini pelargonium house.