THE HEART OF A GARDEN

Book by Jess Wynne, edited by Martin Gaunt

ISBN 978-0-9555733-0-9

Paperback £14.99

Two DVDs, narrated by Richard Briers:  each 90 minutes
Gardens from Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
Gardens from Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset and Gloucestershire

£12.99 each  (£24.99 the 2-disc set)

Publisher:  Oscha Productions (2007)

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This book and two DVDs cover 16 gardens in the South West, featuring Pencarrow, Prideaux Place, Trebah and Tresco Abbey Gardens in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The publisher’s description of the book as ‘approx.184 pages of photography along with the stories behind the gardens’ is very accurate – at the turn of every page and throughout the DVDs are stunning close-ups of individual flowers and plants, wildlife (lots of the ‘ah!’ factor with a hare, fallow deer, robins..), statues, buildings and other features mixed with long-shots of borders, water, walks, views, and people enjoying the gardens.

I enjoyed reading and hearing from the owners or gardeners about the gardens’ history and how they were created, often by themselves, and the effects their gardens have on them.  The many ways they have found to adapt to visitors with attractions like tea rooms, Pick Your Own, and annual events was interesting, and I was impressed by the courage of the current owners in following their dreams.  In the book, separate panels set out each garden’s highlights, the wildlife to look out for, some gardening tips, recipes and folklore.  There are interesting historical and botanical snippets:  how Trebah prepares its Gunnera for the winter, the list ‘Firsts’ such as the ,Palm House at Bicton Park, the story of how the Monkey Puzzle got its name at Pencarrow.  The DVDs feature comical little incidents like the starlings at Tresco turning into ‘Birds of Paradise’ after the nectar from the Puyas had transferred onto their heads.

For me, the sometimes light-hearted approach, including a close-up of the bottom of the owner of Abbey House Gardens and seemingly unrelated asides like ‘don’t eat cheese before bed, it will give you nightmares’ detracted from what is a beautiful book.  The DVDs seem more like something you would find at a travel fair to entice visitors to the South West.  So this is perhaps not a package for the serious garden visitor, but ideal to send to friends up-country as a memory of their visit. That said, it certainly made me add a few names to my list of ‘Gardens I Want to See’.

Shirley Barnes