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2:34pm Friday 9th March 2007 in Gardens
A must for all gardeners, Heligan Survivors is a book which gives the reader the answer to why the gardens near St Austell are so special.
The book is about some of the historic plantstock found in the grounds Heligan. The foreword is by John Willis, a descendent of the family, which created the gardens, the Tremaynes.
In it he says that academics may theorise about the development of the English landscape, but what this book shows is how it takes the vision and energy of individuals - their personal passions and ideals - to create a truly enduring legacy.
To explore this through the individual stories of some of the plant "survivors" that would have been recognised by the pioneering plantsmen who first raised them - is an inspiring idea, as it explores the very root of Heligan.
The fact that their stories are told by so many individual members of staff at Heligan is testament to the continuing passion of individual commitment which proves that the Gardens are indeed in good hands.
Mr Willis writes: "When I first came to know Heligan - in the days when the gardens were literally lost and forgotten by all but a tiny few - its future seemed bleak and the plant survivors a small and beleaguered band struggling valiantly against overwhelming odds.
"But now the odds are different. After 15 years of dedication, care and sheer hard work, the Heligan Survivors have gained a new lease of life, and they and their progeny have set the seed for generations to come."
Initially inaccessible and swamped by overgrowth when the Lost Gardens of Heligan were rediscovered in 1990, much of the garden's valuable woody plantstock was subsequently identified and protected during the course of clearance by Philip McMillan Browse, then Cornwall County Council Horticultural Advisor (and former Director of RHS Wisley).
He is the author of this book which be much in demand throughout the spring and summer by visitors to the gardens.
Philip became Heligan's first Horticultural Director and encouraged his team to research into the origins of the veteran specimens in their care. Some individuals are rare indeed - and vulnerable in their old age.
Some have grown to extraordinary height during their battle for light during the era of dereliction. Others represent possibly the very earliest introductions to Britain.
All have stories to tell and contribute to the unique character and atmosphere of the gardens. The preparation of this volume has been a collective project by the Heligan staff. It introduces four collective projects by the Heligan staff and also four generations of the Tremaynes, who created and developed the gardens up until the First World War. Against a backdrop of avid, world-wide plant collecting, it features 28 of the trees and woody plants that the family secured for this captivating place during that period - exotics, conifers, climbers, ornamental and productive trees.
It is richly illustrated with photographs, all taken at Heligan, either then or now, which provide a lasting record celebrating Heligan's survivors.
Second and third generation plantstock is currently being propagated on site from the original heritage plants, to provide replacements for the gardens in due course - and to enable others to acquire a small piece of Heligan history to take home and grow on, into their own future.
The book: Heligan Survivors is published by Alison Hodge.
Heligan is open all year round from 10am and is situated near Pentewan, St Austell. www.heligan.com