The Search for Bishop Hunkin’s Plants – end of story
by Margaret Burford
After three years and many miles, I have visited all the churchyards listed in From a Cornish Bishop’s Garden by Joseph Wellington Hunkin (edited by Douglas Ellory Pett and reviewed by Alison A Newton in the CGT Journal 2002). I do wonder whether some of the neglected plants I saw in 2002, like the bramble-covered Chaenomeles in Perranzabuloe, and the huge old rootstock of Senecio at Delabole with one remaining green sprig, are still in existence. This thought is balanced by some of the magnificent specimens I can visualise like the Magnolia grandiflora at Flushing and the Drimys winteri at St Clement.
The plaques I have found are mostly made of metal, although one or two are concrete. There arre still plaques at Ludgvan, St Blazey, Calstock, Lanhydrock, Perranzabuloe, Flushing, St Stephen in Brannel and St Neot.
Identifying plants without plaques became easier when I found that most Bishop Hunkin memorials had been positioned by the porch or at a gateway. Once or twice, when I found a well-aged and suitable specimen in the correct place, but not according to the list in the book, I wondered whether perhaps it was a replacement. In Helston there is documentary evidence that the magnolia originally planted had died young and was replaced by another from the garden of Dr Michael (his garden, Lismore, has been recorded by CGT). This replacement is flourishing and much admired every spring. At Lanlivet I found a Crinodendron hookerianum where there should have been azaleas. However, at Mawnan for instance, looking for Viburnum betulifolium, I found an old plant in the churchyard that could well be a ‘Hunkin’. In two other instances, Penponds and St Teath, there were indeed prunus, although not the variety I expected.
The explanatory note published in the diocesan magazine The Coracle also threw up a couple of anomalies when elderly parishioners wrote remembering Hunkin plantings which were different to those I found or those documented in the book. There were two letters remembering the ‘little ceremony’ when their shrub was planted.
I also found myself looking over hedges and walls into adjoining vicarage gardens. Documents show that the camellia at Pendeen was planted beside the rectory. At St Allen looking for Magnolia campbellii var. mollicomata but faced with an empty churchyard, I could not help noticing at least two magnolias in the adjacent, now rather neglected garden. I wonder if…!
This project, by its nature, cannot be written up as a normal record. What I shall do therefore is copy the list from the book making relevant comments about each entry, and where possible add a photograph.
If any reader lives near the following churchyards: St John by Antony, North Hill, Mawnan, or Perranzabuloe, it might add to the congregation’s interest, and indeed, that of the incumbent if an approach was made and their ‘special’ plant pointed out and hopefully labelled.
For further details contact Margaret – telephone 01326 221632.