The Walled Garden is the 2 acre core of the garden created by the Fortescues.
Within the walls there are a number of garden areas.
The iconic medieval tower is all that remains of a three-storied building. Stone built with a slate roof, it had a oak-panelled parlour on the ground floor, a hall, buttery, beer-house and cellar. On the first floor were four bedrooms and a study; above were three more bedrooms and another room. Today the tower acts as the flight of stairs connecting the Lower Terrace and Tennis Court Terrace. It is also a wonderful viewing platform.
Across from the tower is a thatched barn which, in medieval times served as kitchen to the main house – separated due to the risk of fire. The thatch was replaced in the spring of 2017.
This part of the garden is another ‘show-stopper’ coming into its own from June right through to mid autumn (depending on frosts for dahlias). On either side of the grass path is a narrow serpentine hedge of Phillyrea angustifolia, which cleverly divides border areas, leads the eye along and provides a backdrop to colourful planting. The scheme features deep purple foliage of Actaea simplex ‘Black Negligee’, architectural Angelica gigas, and bronze fennel. These dark colours contrast with bright dahlia, phlox, potentillas and astilbes. High summer sees the arching spires of Lilium henryi, its chocolate spots echoed in Dahlia ‘Dark Desire’. The warmth of the scheme is tempered by long-blooming Nepeta grandiflora ‘Bramdean’ and Geranium ‘Rosanne’.
The small sunken garden beyond the barn is reached by a curving path around a nineteenth century granite turn-table base for the horse-drawn railway in the former local mining industry. This is the hottest section within the walls, previously the site for a peach house. The choice of plants for this suntrap includes fuchsia, crocosmia and dark Agapanthus inapertus ‘Graskop’ contrasting with exotic eryngiums and melianthus.
Tennis Court Terrace
There is an incredible range of shades on offer from our shrubs, all the way from the gold of the rare Quercus robur ‘Concordia’ to the contrasting red and green of Photinia x fraserii ‘Red robin’ and deep purple of Cotinus ‘Grace’. A fine display of hostas (the variegated ‘Frances Williams’ notable among them) interplanted with a splendid Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’. Over-hanging this bed is the bee-attracting Hoheria ‘Glory of Amlwch’.
Look for signs of the medieval vicarage; including the staircase with its newel post and the terrace stonework where horizontal remains give way to vertical stonework.
Bowling Green Terrace
The summer house overlooking the Ovals Garden is on The Bowling Green Terrace. We have letters from Sir Francis Drakes’ sister when she lived in the original vicarage so we like to think that Drake (who lived at the nearby Buckland Abbey – well worth a visit) may have had a practice for his game on Plymouth Hoe before he took on the Spanish Armada.
The terrace is home to a number of rhododendron hybrids, several of Fortescue’s raising, their parentage variously involving, R. ‘Hawk’, R. wardii and R. campylocarpum. There are also fine specimens of the scarlet ‘Tally-Ho’ and perfectly formed butter yellow R. ’Hotei’.
On the other side of the path stands a magnificent Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’, an example of careful pruning to enhance its aged appearance – like a large bonsai.
At the far end are blue R. augustinii, one of Fortescue’s great favourites and collected by him in its variable shades. The Prospect steps are known as Tom’s Steps after Tom Hooper who worked in the garden for over 50 years!
On this terrace are two unusual evergreens, Pseudowintera colorata, with striking pink leaf undersides, and behind, Lomatia ferruginea.
An informal camellia hedge runs almost the length of this terrace to a large ‘moon-gate’ which offers a fine view to the tennis court terrace and tower.
The timber annexe was built at the end of the 19th century and was once the Sunday school, hence the ecclesiastical windows. It is now accommodation for one of our horticultural students. At the far end of the terrace are fine examples of Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ and, above it, an unusual upright form of M. salicifolia, both a spectacle in Spring.