From South African succulents clinging to cliff faces to rose gardens at the tip of the county – Tim Hubbard talks to us about the Secret Gardens of Cornwall

Tim Hubbards first book The Great Gardens of Cornwallfocussed on the big estate and National Trust gardens that are famous in springtime when magnolias bloom and garden-loving visitors flock to Cornwall. His new book delves into the lesser known, secretgardens in the county and the people behind them.

“I wrote ‘The Great Gardens of Cornwall’ several years ago now and it was so popular it got redesigned and reprinted by Tormark. The Quarto/Frances Lincoln publishing house spotted the book and approached me about writing another book that celebrated smaller, ‘secret’, gardens which were nevertheless open to the public…the less well known if you like,” Tim told us.

An award-winning journalist, Tim has lived in Cornwall for over 40 years and is passionate about gardening and in particular his own clifftop garden overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Tim says he loves to get ideas for his own garden whilst exploring the county and he found researching and writing this book especially inspiring.

Tim Hubbard

In particular he drew inspiration from the huge variety of Cornish gardens he visited, including the less well known estate gardens such as Enys Gardens near Falmouth and  Bonython Manor on the Lizard, to hidden gems such as Lamorran, a private palm garden in St Mawes with an Italian influence, or the rose garden at Trevilley near Land’s End, which Tim said may well be one of the windiest spots in the UK!

“I also really wanted to include a number of gardens that are free and open 24/7, 365 days a year,” Tim said. “I loved exploring Falmouth’s public gardens, Gyllyngdune Gardens, Kimberley Park, Queen Mary and Fox Rosehill.  In all of these you can find unrivalled richness and the most extraordinary plants, many of which were brought back by sailors on packet ships.”

But Tim told us it wasn’t all just about the plants either; it was about the people.

“The owners, gardeners and communities of people involved in them was one of the highlights of bringing this book to life.”

“Potager near Constantine, while obviously a fantastic garden stood out for me because of the focus on people and community. Potager run a forest school for children and a dementia-friendly gardening group among other things. Volunteers there are offered hands-on training in horticulture and that to me is what gardening is all about,” Tim said.

And on the subject of people, Tim also highlighted one of his favourite characters, Head Gardener of Tresillian House and Rick Stein’s ‘Cornwall’ regular, John Harris.

John Harris began gardening at the age of ten but started his career as a ‘garden lad’ or apprentice in 1956 on another estate in North Cornwall. He arrived at Tresillian House in 1982 and found the estate in desperate need of some love and attention.

John spoke to Tim about his passion for “moon gardening” which is based on the understanding that the moon’s gravitational pull is felt not only by the earth’s oceans but also its land masses and atmosphere. As a result, the water table under the soil rises and falls and so the structure of the ground changes daily. John believes that the gardener who acknowledges this can use it to their advantage, knowing the optimum times to plant and harvest, as well as how to manage the soil.

Tresillian Garden, Cornwall. Head Gardener John Harris.

The book took Tim just under a year to write and that was in part due to the gardens spreading out from the Tamar Bridge to Land’s End. But it was a much longer task for the photographers, Rob and Jo Whitworth, who had to capture each of the gardens at its very best. And this meant different seasons, days, time of day and in various weather conditions.

“Kestle Barton is best in high summer, while the garden at Burncoose is worth visiting when the magnolias bloom in January and February, Tim advises. “Enys Gardens is famous for its bluebells in April and under the afternoon light and while I was interviewing Sue Nathan at Bonython Manor on the Lizard, she told me the garden was at its peak at that very moment so I had to call the photographers and ask them to get there QUICKLY!”

The book is recommended for those who love gardening of course, but also those who love to explore Cornwall and hear the stories of the people behind these gardens.

History lovers will also enjoy picking up a copy of The Secret Gardens of Cornwall and finding out some golden nuggets of information such as how at Penjerrick near Falmouth, a valley garden that was once owned by the Fox family, you can find a piece of brain coral which came to Falmouth on ’The Beagle’ with Charles Darwin!

The book is released on 3rd November and we can’t wait to welcome Tim and John Harris into our store on November 23rd for a special evening and book signing. If you haven’t managed to grab a ticket, come instore for a signed copy after the event.