Just South of Bodmin in Cornwall is a large National Trust property called Lanhydrock. I don’t think that it is particularly well known, but we had the opportunity to visit it on holiday recently. I already had some interest in it because I knew from researching Wimpole Hall’s garden history that many of the estate records ended up at Lanhydrock. This was because both properties were owned by the Robartes family at various stages in their history before the National Trust was involved. Lanhydrock house was given to the Trust by Francis Agar-Robartes, 7th Viscount Clifden in 1953.
Lanhydrock’s story begins much earlier, with the Augustinian monks of St Petroc. The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s saw the estate pass into private hands and the original house was a four-square, grey granite manor built in 1620 by a wealthy merchant, Sir Richard Robartes. Little remains of that house, because the east wing was demolished in the 18th century and an extensive fire destroyed the south and central parts in 1881. Today, only the north wing and gatehouse can be dated to the 17th century, the rest is late Victorian, rebuilt in granite by the second Lord Robartes.
We didn’t end up going inside the house, but I had been recommended to look at the trees in the park and gardens. In fact, parts of the estate have been designated an Important Plant Area (for lichen) by the organisation Plantlife. This is due to the combination of ancient and established woodland on the estate, which makes it an ideal habitat for lichen (>100 species are to be found there, including some rarities).
In August the gardens are largely green, but leafy and lush. I’d guess the most spectacular time to visit is late spring to see the camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias. These were introduced during the 2oth century by the 7th Viscount Clifden.
Once through the gatehouse the immediate formal garden is sparsely populated, rose beds (passed their best) and imposing yew columns. However, round the corner on the church side is a surprise:
Not for me I am afraid. I hastily walked passed.
At the base of the church wall is a much more mellow perennial border, currently spilling lovely agapathus flowers across the path.
The higher garden was more interesting for plants and trees. Many of the magnolias are still making a show there, since they are now covered in large, wiggly, pink-blush seed pods (you can just make these out in the centre of the photo below). There were some great, colourful displays of ferns and astilbe:
Perhaps the most immediately enjoyable display was the circular herbaceous garden in the higher garden. This area was densely planted and colourful. It included exotic looking Angel’s fishing rods, crinum lilies and ginger lilies (Hedychium ‘Tara’ and H. forrestii are in the planting plan, but I seem to have taken a picture of neither):
The borders were contained within yew hedges and backed by plant-clad granite buildings. I love the effect of Thalictrum punching up with purple clouds, surrounded by Gladiolus papillio (new to me and just delicious) and Rodgersia podophylla.
The agapanthus and astilbe have nice contrasting forms against a rusty backdrop of rodgersia, thalictrum, ligularia and hardy fuchsias
Away from the circular borders the planting was mostly shrubbery, but this final, curved bed wound down to the church again and sported some nice large groupings of daylilies, monarda, sedum and phlox.
Overall I found the gardens slightly random (maybe quirky is a better way to describe them). I should like to see the garden in springtime ….. and to explore the parkland more. The venerable, lichen-covered trees definitely deserve a better look. Unfortunately we ran out of time.