What Bosvigo House, a woodland garden with herbaceous planting near the house
Where Truro, Cornwall
Size Two acres
Climate Mild and wet
Soil Thin and acid
Cornish gardens have a reputation for flamboyant displays of early spring colour. The mild, maritime climate and acid soil suits camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons to vivid perfection, and the drifts of snowdrops, crocuses and narcissi that accompany them seem to burst into bloom with competitive vigour earlier each year than the last. But it takes a true plantsman and artist to achieve a subtler range of harmonies from the large and joyful palette of colour available in those crowded weeks of intense flowering in April.
Wendy Perry has spent some 50 years creating the two-acre garden at Bosvigo House on the outskirts of Truro, where the focus now lies in developing the established matrix of woodland and herbaceous plants in richly satisfying associations of colour, form and texture. “You can live on a diet of leathery evergreens in Cornwall,” she says, “so I’ve enjoyed introducing silvery pittosporums and bright acers into the framework of architectural plants here – chiefly beeches and hedges of laurel and yew – and creating drifts of colour at ground level, to flower at the same time as a shrubby neighbour.” She indicates a blue carpet of scillas, overhung by the yellow blooms of Stachyurus praecox and a sea of sky-blue Corydalis and lemon-yellow primroses sweeping around the twisted frame of a snowy Magnolia stellata. “I am particularly fond of pale lemony yellows, lavender blues and pale sky blues in a woodland garden,” she says. “They sing out in the shade with a clarity that you just wouldn’t get in an open border.”
The woodland garden at Bosvigo bursts with colour in spring. In this corner bright green, cream and gold hellebores and narcissi combine beneath Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’.
Rich yellow Forsythia x intermedia ‘Gold Leaf’ and a dark-flowered Helleborus x hybridus catch the eye in a scheme that also includes magenta primulas.
Wendy and her husband Michael came to Bosvigo in 1969. “It was the house that drew us here,” she remembers. “The older parts of the building date from the 17th century, but in the main it was Georgian.”
A double camellia adds a luxurious dollop of rich pink.
A katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) and flowering Magnolia x loebineri ‘Leonard Messel’ flank a path through the woodland.
Bosvigo spring flowers
The dainty white blooms of Erythronium “Jeanette Brickell’ hang lamp-like on curving stems.
Pulmonarica saccharata ‘Leopard’ flowers from February to May.
The dog’s tooth violet Erythronium japonicum loves moist loam and partial shade.
This salmon-pink Epimedium hybrid will even grow in dry shade.
Anemone apennina double-flowered is suited to woodland planting and blooms in drifts.
Omphalodes cappadocica ‘Starry Eyes’ – a pretty filler in a woodland planting scheme.
The lovely white flowers of Erythronium ‘Rosalind’ are flushed and edged with pink.
Trillium rivale is a pretty plant at just 12cm tall. Does well in dappled shade.
Epimedium ‘Phoenix’ – Wendy selected this plant from a seedling in the garden.
Visiting the garden
Bosvigo House is open from March to September.
Bosvigo Lane, Truro, Cornwall TR1 3NH
Check website for full details bosvigo.com
Cornish gardens to visit in spring
If you’re in the county, here are some other gardens worth visiting for spring planting ideas
Bonython Estate Gardens
Cury Cross Lanes, Helston, Cornwall TR12 7BA
Burncoose Garden and Nursery
Gwennap, Redruth, Cornwall TR16 6BJ
St Gluvias, Penryn, Corwall TR10 9LB
Budock Water, near Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 5ED
Feock, Truro, Cornwall TR3 6QL
Photographs Rebecca Bernstein
Words Kirsty Ferguson