Garden Portrait: The Lost Gardens of Heligan Part I

One of the gardens in Cornwall that I have wanted to visit for some years is The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Home to the Tremayne family for over 400  years between 1770 and 1914 four generations created a thriving, almost self-sufficient community. After the Great War the estate fell into disrepair and decades of neglect together with the storm of 1990 should have seen the end. The derelict gardens were discovered by Tim Smit and John Willis (Tremayne descendant) in 1990 and in a tiny room in one of the walled gardens the reason for it demise was found. A motto etched into the limestone walls in barely legible pencil still reads “Don’t come here to sleep or slumber” with the names of those who worked there signed under the date – August 1914.

Finally, this year, 2014 the centenary of World War 1, I managed to get there. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. This first post is of the Pleasure Grounds and Northern Gardens as I have far too many photos to put everything in one post.

Spring Notes:
Camelias, rhododendrons & magnolias. Frogs and toads mating, birds nesting. Daffodils, wallflowers & ranunculus. Peach, apple, pear & quince blossom. Rhubarb, asparagus & wild garlic. New-born Dexter calves.

Source of information: The Lost Gardens of Heligan website and leaflets.

The first thing to catch my eye were the pots of tulips at the garden entrance. There is a tearoom, a shop and garden centre as well as a farm shop which you can visit for free.

(please click on an image to scroll through a gallery)

Once through the ticket office you enter into Flora’s Green where paths wind through and around the Pleasure Grounds where intricate gardens were inspired by the Tremaynes’ passion for travel and the garden trends of the Victorian age. It is home to the National Collection of Camellias and Rhododendrons introduced to Heligan pre-1920.


Beacon path leads you past a pretty dovecote to the Northern Summerhouse with a view to the sea (and yes that is a crow sneaking into the doves’ home).

DSCF5581 DSCF5588

 A pretty cobblestone walled garden awaits, overhung with a delicate pink rhododendron with more pots of tulips and narcissus and a tranquil pond with a pretty fountain.

Continue on the Eastern Ride through ‘New Zealand’, past the Crystal Grotto and the Wishing Well to the Well Area.



Where you find another lovely dovecote. And the entrance into the walled flower garden with its Peach House, Vinery and Citrus House and beds of jewel-like ranunculus.

Go through the centre of the Flower Garden and enter the Sundial Garden which backs onto the private Heligan House.


Outside the garden is a huge Euphorbia mellifera (honey spurge) with small, honey-scented, bronze-tinted flowers.


From here enter the Melon Yard from where you can access the delightful small Italian Garden and the very large walled Northern Gardens which are restored working gardens growing over 200 varieties of mainly heritage fruit and vegetables.

Leaving the Italian Garden behind head back towards the Garden exit along the Western Ride or via the Ravine, which is rather more uneven.

Now you could leave the gardens as we have arrived back at the ticket office, but if you want to continue to explore these special gardens then you still have Heligan Wild, woodlands, lost parkland, rich pastures with herds of Dexter cattle and magical mud sculptures in the Woodland Walk. In the Lost Valley you can look for bird-life from the Shepherd’s Hut or Wildlife Centre. And there is the Sub-tropical Jungle, a steep-sided valley garden with a unique micro-climate.

We will explore further on the next walk if you want to join me. And if you enjoy walking, whether in a garden or alongside a river, or by the coast then join Jo’s Monday Walks where you are in for further treats, or where you can share your walk with us.


38 Comments Add yours

  1. nowathome says:

    What a beautiful garden!

    1. Heyjude says:

      It’s pretty special Aletta. Lots to see there! Funnily enough we got lost trying to find it, ended up on the narrowest of narrow roads in the middle of the countryside. Phew!

  2. suej says:

    Thanks for the tour, Jude….I have been meaning to visit for years, but it’s still on the ‘oh, one day!’ list… 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Worth it if you are down that way. I preferred it to the Eden Project.

      1. suej says:

        I rather suspect I would…

  3. pommepal says:

    That is absolutely stunning Jude I hope I can find and internet connection to see part 2 next week

    1. Heyjude says:

      If you can’t you’ll have to search for it when you have a good connection!

      1. pommepal says:

        Yes it will still be in your archives, that’s the beauty of the WP system.

  4. Sammy D. says:

    That’s my idea of Heaven! Your closeups of tulip petals make them look like satin. Thanks for sharing your journeys.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Those tulips were pretty spectacular! Because it was a warm day they were fully open. It was worth visiting the garden just to see those pots of tulips, and we hadn’t even entered the gardens then!

  5. debandtoby says:

    Pix are wonderful. Wish I could see it in person.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks debandtoby 🙂 More to come next week! Glad you enjoyed the photos.

  6. restlessjo says:

    Fabulous, Jude! I’ve watched the TV documentaries on this place and it certainly lives up to expectations from your photos. I especially like that first shot of the white tulips. Looking forward to more. 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      We actually got lost on the way to the gardens! We were on a narrow road in the middle of the countryside and I said to the OH, I hope this road doesn’t get any narrower, and it did! I was practically scraping both hedgerows! But worth it when we got there 😉

  7. restlessjo says:

    Meant to say, I love the look of this page too 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Jo! I thought that this particular walk belonged on the flower blog, though it probably won’t attract as much traffic as the Travel one. And actually the photos work better on this theme, especially in a gallery.

  8. Great post Jude 🙂 It does look like I’d be ok round the formal gardens and borders. Those tulips really are stunning!

    1. Heyjude says:

      You’d love it Sarah!

      1. It has to go on the visit list!!!

        1. Heyjude says:

          I preferred it to the Eden Project, which is very expensive!

        2. Eden is very expensive!! I went about 15yrs ago and I’d really like to go back to see how it’s grown. Heligan looks like it has that bit of magic that really makes a garden 🙂

        3. Heyjude says:

          I returned to Eden last October after several years and was disappointed. I thought the biomes hadn’t changed much at all and in fact the Mediterranean one was less impressive. I did use Tesco vouchers though so didn’t waste too much money!

        4. Trusty Tesco vouchers! Not a bad plan 🙂

  9. I need to go back. Your photos are soooo enticing!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Tune in next week for part II

  10. Great tour! I remember watching a TV program about the lost gardens of Heligan and how they were being uncovered / rediscovered and brought back to life, and was determined to visit in person. Your photos bring it back. 🙂 I have a photo from the Italian Garden of a metal bench with a little saying in Italian on a plaque on the back, something like (in English) “love moves the moon and also the stars”. I was going to include it in your bench challenge, but the photo is a tight crop just on the plaque — not much bench action!

    1. Heyjude says:

      I shall look out for that on my next visit! If this move takes of then I will buy an annual pass to the gardens and visit as often as possible, though it will still be an hour’s drive. Worth it though.

      1. How lovely! I had an annual pass to Kew all the years I lived in London, and certainly got more than my money’s worth from it.

  11. Heyjude says:

    Reblogged this on Under a Cornish Sky and commented:

    As the weather down here continues to be gruesome there will be no walks in gardens happening for a while. Some of you may have seen my recent night walk in the Lost Gardens of Heligan, but you might not have been around when I wrote about them back in June 2014 when I visited during the daylight hours. Some of the photos might seem familiar as it appears I took very similar shots in the dark!

    Happy Saturday 🙂

  12. Tulips! Here they only grow if forced and even then the flowers don’t last long because it is too warm for them I’m planning this year to visit Floriade in Canberra where the tulips are supposed to be excellent. Lovely post, Jude.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I have seen photos of the Floriade and it looks amazing. Of course Canberra gets the cold that most of Australia doesn’t. I hope my tulips are as successful this year, but it has been a very wet winter so far 😦

  13. A lovely walk for a warm Sunday morning on the other side of the world. So many lovely flowers, vistas and additives. You passion for gardens shines through.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I do love gardens and miss not having been to one for quite a while. Next fine day I shall go seek one which is open.

  14. Joanne Sisco says:

    A walk through a flower-filled garden is just the antidote needed on another grey January day!
    This looks like a stroll that could take hours!

    1. Heyjude says:

      It can and it does. Especially when you have a camera 🙂

  15. pommepal says:

    I see from the comments that I have been with you before for a look round Jude, but once is never enough for looking at such beautiful gardens I’m so pleased you have revisited them for us.

  16. What a riot of colours and textures! Thank you for the snapshot tour – it is so beautiful.

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