English Country Garden – Coleton Fishacre
As I have mentioned in my previous post I spent last weekend in Devon. We managed to fit in a daily garden visit and on Saturday it was the turn of Coleton Fishacre. The property is now managed by the National Trust but was originally built in 1923-26 for Rupert D’Oyly Carte, the son of Richard D-Oyly Carte who was behind the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. I have been to many national trust houses over the years and to be honest I do get a little bored of the tapestries and family portraits etc so my enthusiasm for visiting the actual house was low.
However, I then discovered that the house was furnished in the Art Deco style so my attitude towards visiting it changed immediately. I am a complete sucker for abit of Art Deco!! We visited the house first as it had only just opened for the day and we wanted to avoid the crowds. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos but if you like Art Deco and are in the area I would really recommend it – it was beautiful.
Having visited the house we moved on to the garden, the real reason for our visit. Like many gardens in South Devon and Cornwall it descends from open views around the house through more jungle-like vegetation down to the sea. I was reminded very much of the similarity in layout with Heligan although Coleton Fishacre definately had its own character. There are terraces around the house with formal planting, and the gardener was busy starting to plant out the summer bedding. Close to the house there is a formal rill with strong clean lines but quite quickly this changes to a more naturalised effect. If you look in the photo above you can just see the formal rill in the top right hand corner. The stream works is way down through the garden, splitting into two at one point. The paths run along side and there are numerous small bridges taking you from one side to the other.
The streams come out into at least two large pools on their way down the hill. The planting around these will be very lush in a couple of weeks but as you can see the gunneras haven’t quite got going. I was particularly struck by the yellow Skunk Cabbages that seemed to be everywhere but have now been advised that they smell so I really don’t want any in my garden – I do have a cold which is probably why I couldn’t smell them! The majority of the planting going down the hill is what you would expect of a garden in this part of England – lots of Camellias and Rhododendrons (there was even one in flower). The underplanting seemed to be primarily wild garlic and bluebells which weren’t that far from coming out.
When you reached the bottom of the garden you are still some height above the beach but the view in the top photo is what greets you. I can understand why the D’Oyly Cartes fell in love with the setting.
Did I like this garden? Well it was a pleasant place to visit and there was a real sense of exploring as we followed the path down the slope along the streams, passing large clumps of bamboo etc but the garden, unlike the house, did not leave a lasting impression on me. I found nothing to inspire me in my own garden and the planting was rather haphazard for my liking although very much of its time. I am sure when it was originally planted it was, like many of this era, considered to be impressive. I suspect what I prefer is something with a degree of formality in it, or at least to see nature tamed just a little bit! But then everyone has different tastes.