by Charles Fox

ISBN  0 906720 35 4

Paperback, £12.95


This is much more than a description of a garden and its plants.  Charles Fox, himself a garden designer, tells the story of the garden at Glendurgan started in the early 1820s by his great-great grandfather, Alfred Fox, comparing its development with that of the Fox gardens at Trebah, Penjerrick and Rosehill, and to other well-known Cornish gardens.

The author initially describes the historical development of Falmouth as a port and centre of commerce, and then introduces the Fox families and their properties.  I read Barclay Fox’s Journal some years ago and the dedication and enterprise of this extensive Quaker family, whose interests ranged from banking and brewing to engineering and shipping, fascinates me.  They built comparatively modest houses for themselves but devoted much time to laying out their gardens, introducing rare and exotic plants brought to Falmouth from all over the world.  The chapters headed ‘Horticulture’ and ‘The Garden’ are detailed, instructive, and beautifully illustrated.

Glendurgan, like its neighbour Trebah, is a typical Cornish valley garden, taking full advantage of its microclimate and shelterbelts of trees.  Charles Fox describes successive generations developing the garden and constructing features such as the laurel maze, restored to its original plan in 1991.  The National Trust acquired the garden in 1962.  Latterly the close working relationship between the Trust and Charles Fox has been instrumental in maintaining a sensitive balance between conservation and development, making it more accessible to the public while retaining its genius loci.

The book is lavishly illustrated with reproductions of historical photographs, early watercolours and superb contemporary colour photography.  Particularly successful is printing the old black and white photographs in colour that has given them great clarity.  I personally do not like the overlapped illustrations and it is a pity that the small script captions on them are often illegible.  In addition, I found it rather difficult to read the pale grey type used for most of the quotations.  However, these are minor quibbles about a beautifully produced book.

Michael Hitchings