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China Girl blog 19th September 2019

To make a garden is like painting a picture; it is a creative project which may take many years. Great patience is the key to success, for you can never be sure what the result will be. Mother says that the most important plan is structure, walls, hedges, steps, water, mounds, paths, terraces and of course, trees. Here at Cothay we were lucky as the arts & crafts structure of yew hedges forming garden rooms were planted nearly a hundred years ago, so were all in place.

An old garden is seldom the hand of one man, but has been over the years adorned and beautified by many people. How lucky we were, we gutted the garden, which had over the years gone to seed. We left the structure, the bones and set to work. Each year we try to add something of our souls. A lifetime of toil, for a garden which never changes dies.

When we were in Cornwall last week, we went to the National Trust house and garden Lanhydrock. At first glance, it looked spectacular. The glorious house had been gutted in Victorian times and then rebuilt, the charm of ages no longer in evidence. Acres of oak panelling replacing the once glorious seventeenth century panelling. Little of beauty was left, save the amazing seventeenth century barrel decorated ceiling in the Great Gallery, filled with ancient books. We all appreciate the work the National Trust does, but gone is the charm of a lived-in and loved house. There is little atmosphere. The dead hand of the National Trust.

Now that September is halfway through despite the lovely weather, few visitors are in the garden to see the late-flowering autumn glory. But life goes on, and so does work. The terrace is still a riot of colour, making one think that summer has not passed. The huge pots of half-hardy perennials, each pot containing twenty-five plants, are at their best. They stand like sentinels on the terrace. Full of flowering salvias and Argyrantheum, whilst the Japanese anemones mingling with the daisy Erigeron karvinskianus, which have seeded everywhere.

How lucky are we that live in a corner of paradise, for we that live here now gather magic as time passes. In Precious Bane, Pru asks “Where is the future?” And the wizard replies “It lies in the past at the back of time.”