Fifteen years ago a Penzance GP called Neil Armstrong bought an overgrown valley in Cornwall. The first five yeas were spent clearing old plastic bags and debris, the next ten laying down the bones of a rather remarkable garden. The first part is a woodland, first laid out by the Tremenheere family in the late nineteenth century. There are towering beech and ash living out a graceful old age while beneath them Dr Armstrong has been very busy turning the place into an exotic jungle. He has planted tree ferns of every description, Scheffleras, huge leaved Magnolias, bamboos and the better class of Rhododendron. You then pop out into Cornwallâ€™s equivalent of the veldt meets the Mediterranean with retsios-a-go-go and racks of Kniphofias and Eryngiums cavorting alongside Palms, Agaves and pouting cacti.
It is pretty impressive.
There is also Art with a capital â€˜Aâ€™. There is no house to anchor this garden so instead there is an installation by James Turrel. He is known for his Skyscapes (there is also one in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park): it is a big elliptical room with a hole in the ceiling through which you see a little patch of sky. It sounds mundane but is completely mesmerising. There is another work by Turrel in the garden which is an old water tank into whose inky darkness the trees and leaves are projected. Difficult to describe but unforgettable to experience.
Young planting in places in particular the area as soon as you emerge onto the dry garden. It will fill in in time and is a good enough reason to keep coming back. I don’t mind that much but if you are desperate to know a plant name you may be out of luck as there is no labelling.
It’s Cornwall there is loads of stuff. St Ives round the corner, surfing, ice cream, more gardens and Crab sandwiches .St Michael’s Mount is less than a mile way and forms the central focus to many of the views from the garden.