Monday, July 2, 2012

Heligan - Part 2 - The Jungle

The jungle at Heligan is an eight acre, steep sided, south-facing  valley at the lower end of the garden. Access now requires quite a long walk around the perimeter of the house and its immediate grounds which are not open to the public. It's worth the effort and if you tire, there is a cafe in the Steward's House en route!  this area was originally planted in the late 19C, possibly coinciding with the move towards sub-tropical gardening, although it was originally known as the Japanese Garden. Pictures in the early 20C show a beautiful stage set of a landscape wrapped around four ponds.

An early photograph of the upper lake looking towards the house, probably early 1900's
Restoration took place from 1992 onwards. Much bramble and encroaching willow, sycamore and other weed trees had to be removed to reveal  the bones of the garden. Amazingly tree ferns, Chusan palms, bamboos and other exotic plantings had survived the many years of neglect and smothering green gatecrashers.  The top pond had become entirely silted up and had to be excavated by diggers, provided by the National Rivers Authority whilst the lower ponds were cleared out by intrepid volunteers. Early in the restoration an extensive board walk was installed to allow safe and easy access throughout this garden without damaging the fragile infrastructure.

Volunteers digging out the second pond - 1990's

Plan of the Jungle from the guide book
Since restoration, a considerable amount of new planting has taken place. In particular the tree ferns have been augmented by a container lorry of new ones imported directly from Tasmania. In this area additional planting has been in the style of the original creators rather than pure restoration and many new species have been added and appear to thriving in this sheltered valley. Gardens such as this are very aware of the risk of Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum) which has occurred in the garden and is fatal with many woody species. Because of this risk, many of the old groups of the invasive Rhododendron ponticum have been removed and burnt. This has in turn let in more light and allowed the planting and establishment of new species.

Looking across the jungle valley - difficult to capture the lushness of it all!

Dicksonia antarctica

The top pond

Eriobotrya japonica - loquat - a good hardy exotic

Beschorneria  - is it B. yuccoides?

Bananas - probably Musa basjoo

Impatiens omiena - lovely hardy Busy Lizzie - said to have yellow flowers.
Canna 'Stuttgart' - Never an easy plant to grow and always scorches - even in this wet cool summer!

Just a rather good white hydrangea - plants don't have to be rare to be good!
Just a little detail I rather liked

Desfontainea  spinosa

Trachycarpus fortunei - one of the original plantings
Gunnera manicata hangs over the boardwalk
Crinodendron hookerianum
Amazing to walk over a footpath sprinkled with exotic red Crinodendron petals

Whilst the area is very accessible, pruning has been minimal, so that the visitor has the feel of pushing through a jungle, under and around branches that sweep down and across the boardwalk. Particularly noticeable on a wet morning! By the time I hurried out of the jungle, very aware of time disappearing, I was hot and decidedly damp - all part of the jungle experience!


  1. Those bamboo poles are fab, haven't seen that there before so must be a very new thing. Heligan is looking good again, they were badly hit by the harsh winters a few years back and it's looking like the garden has recovered already.

  2. Cool photos, Ian. I was there at the beginning of June and it is a fantastic place. The Jungle was the highlight for me.

    Yes, that is B. yuccoides - what a sight these are in flower!