Bonython Gardens with its 18th century walled gardens, tranquil lakes and dramatic sweeps of parkland is almost a hidden gem amongst the Great Gardens of Cornwall.
With its laid back approach, Bonython is definitely a must for garden visitors seeking to step off the “Tourist Trail” and move into another world of old fashioned hospitality in a deeply personal garden.
Our visit to Bonython Estate Gardens
We visited Bonython Gardens this August and I remembered the vibrant colour combinations in the walled gardens and the rich South African planting of Cannas and Grasses around one of the lakes. Our continental guests often ask which garden they can visit with herbaceous planting and from our previous visit in 2000 held fond memories so after a gap of eighteen years it was definitely time to refresh my memory for you!
Parking and approach to Bonython
We turned into the farm drive, just passed the house entrance, to park in a little field with two other cars and it felt rather like arriving rather early at a laid back local gymkhana. A little wooden hut stood empty displaying the advice the “Pay the gardener in the Walled garden” and so we set off around a grass field to woodland, (that I must remember to see the Blue bells in next spring) that gave way to heroically tall blue Hydrangeas leading passed the handsome 1780 facade of the house.
As we circled the house, an immaculate croquet lawn came into view with a plump sausage dog trotting across it and finally the entrance to the walled gardens to the right.
The walled garden
The historic walled gardens date back to the 18th century and broad herbaceous borders flanking a topiary edged lawn, gorgeous pool and flamboyant Pool House give way to an artful potage that leads seamlessly to the open lawns embracing the first lake.
This August, the fabulous cobalt blues of Russian sage set in front of the Pool House caught my eye but harmonious, successive planting caries the interest though spring, well into autumn.
Silver Birch Trees
Emerging from the walled gardens onto the open lawns above the lake, the dramatic circle of silver Birch trees to our left caught my eye and at the same time the sun broke through the sullen clouds. Alas my photographic skills were not equal to the task (and camera decide its batteries were flat) but I could image the exquisite composition that would be possible in the Golden Hour with the light shimmering off of the trunks that encircle a gently sculpture topped mound.
Garden journey without a map but lots of arrows
We set off again towards the lake and soon found ourselves treading a well signposted route…….. except all of the arrows were pointing in the opposite direct. Ah well as I remarked to Charles “It is a pity we don’t have a map” do you know he replied “There was one in the gatehouse it cost 8/- (or 40p in current money) I don’t know where Charles’s been since decimalisation but suffice to say I put 40p in the saucer on the way out for a map to bring home with me and study at leisure! If we’d have had a map of course, we wouldn’t have missed “The living Yew Chapel” and “The Thyme and Alpine walk” – ah well an excuse to go back again one day soon.
The trio of lakes at Bonython Gardens
The magnificent Gunnera lake is everything you would expect a lake to be – cool and elegantly stylish.
We circled the reflective waters, following our back to front arrows until were reached the dramatic banks of Lake Sue. Lake Sue is at its best now planted with a flamboyant mix of Cannas, grasses Echinacea and Persicarias that glow in August and enjoy a long season lasting well into September – it was just as I hoped that it would be.
The shimmering colours of South Africa reflected in the waters from our vantage on the far bank, following our journey through the gardens, until we slipped into woodland once more, to emerge by the haunting beauty of the Quarry Lake.
This quarry was said to have provided the stone for Bochym manor, the one time home of the artist and master of the Cury Foxhounds, Richard “Seal” Wetherby, who painted at the end of the Penzance and Newlyn School period. It has an air of a past half remember caught in time with studied dereliction and the haunting beauty was possibly my favourite spot in the garden
A journey through a garden
At each point of our Bonython Garden adventure, we lingered and sat and yes I cursed the camera which would only now work without the viewfinder but it did mange a few snaps between its deathly pauses and wheezes for the blog today!
Finally we wandered back across the lawns to the pretty thatched tea house (help yourself to tea and leave money in the saucer) and I did ask the only other people we saw that day if they’d seen the gardener to pay but no, they hadn’t either. So we returned through the walled gardens, where the sun taunted me to take photos and by letting the battery rest the camera managed just one shot of the vibrant Russian Sage …..And none at the entire, broad herbaceous border!
In the gatehouse I found a sign saying “put money in the box” so carefully folded my £16* offering for two tickets, to fit neatly through the slot, feeling very virtuous too of course.
*Garden entry £8 per person 2018
The rustle of the trees and reflections on the waters
From the soft rustle of the trees, to the reflective lake, I can recommend Bonython Garden for a quiet tranquil garden, away from the bustle of the tourist spots that is still beautiful as summer fades, with a joy that will last well into the autumn.
To combine this glorious Cornish Garden with an unspoilt Fishing cove why not travel on to the nearby village of Cadgwith
Other Autumn Gardens to visit in Cornwall
Last autumn we renewed our acquaintance with Trebah Garden near the Helford wandering the length of the valley to the secluded beach and explored the arboretum at Trewidden near Penzance. Trengwainton Gardens agian near Penzance has far reaching scop of interest and of course one of my favorites has to be Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens agian near Penzance overlooking St Michael’s Mount with its glorious gardens clinging to the rocky storm lashed cliffs.