Monday, 25 June 2012

Trelissick Garden

Prior to my recent visit to the US, I took a day to explore a bit of England that I'd not yet seen: Trelissick Garden. Of the many gardens in Cornwall, Trelissick is one of the closest to us, and one that Sasha has escorted many guests to over the past several years, and yet I'd never been--though my parents and I did see it from afar when we took our Round Robin boat trip up the Fal.

I've recently developed an obnoxious habit of stopping and photographing practically every blade of grass, which I'm sure was very trying for Sasha. However, he didn't complain at all, and even whipped out his own phone to take a couple portraits of me:

(The photographer at work. That look of concentration on my face is the same look my mother has when she is thinking hard, making the photo on the left one of the few in which I look more like her than like my father.)

As one might expect given that we were at a garden, the primary purpose of the trip was to look at all the flora. There were many species on display, including some that were being visited by local insects:

(Meadow crane's-bill)

(Perennial cornflower bud--looks kind of like an alien creature) 

(Dewy saxifrage)

(Bee on a hawkbit flower)

 (Ladybug on a mint plant)

We stopped by Crofters Restaurant at the beginning of our visit in order to have lunch, and then again at the end for a cup of tea. Although the day was intermittently cloudy, the sun was shining while we dined and it was very pleasant to sit outside. Eating al fresco gave us the opportunity to watch the birds come and go, which turned out to be unusually interesting because, in addition to all the house sparrows you'd expect to see nabbing crumbs from under the tables, we also saw a nuthatch and some chaffinches:

(Male chaffinch in bullet flight formation)

Although I would have been satisfied with just seeing plants, animals, and food, the garden has a number of other interesting features as well, including this fairy tale-inspired tower near the entrance:

(The Water Tower, a "holiday cottage") 

...and this holiday house (not open to the general public), which can be seen from the orchard:

(When I saw this, the first thing I thought was that if it were in a Jane Austen novel, it would probably be described as a "cottage." When I later visited the Trelissick website to try to find out more information about this building, guess what it was called? You guessed it: a "cottage.")

We also passed an unusual...I'm not sure what to call it, really...while walking through a wooded section of the garden. A tree trunk had fallen quite a while back, and passers-by have since stick many coins into the wood. The first thing I thought of was "wishing well," though I've since done a little research and discovered that it's a British tradition for bringing good luck. I suppose my guess wasn't too far off.

(Coins--old and new, foreign and local--inserted into a fallen tree trunk.)

Perhaps the most interesting (and unexpected) find was an outdoor art exhibit, You Are Here, in the Carcaddon section of the garden. According to the sign at the entrance, "You Are Here brings together site-specific artifacts designed and built to define a sense of space by level two students on the BA(Hons) Contemporary Crafts course at University College Falmouth." Students were asked to study Carcaddon and then "produce a crafted object that told of their experience of the garden." Although I found a number of the installations to be inexplicable and a bit pretentious, many were interesting, beautiful, or some combination of the two:

(Cardboard coffee cups were used to create manmade fungi to remind viewers of the impact of human consumption on wildlife.)

(Daffodil-bird hybrids representing "the globalization of flora that exists within the artificially made landscape.")

(Ceramic mushroom-men. I'm not actually sure of the source of inspiration for this particular piece, but seeing it made me feel as though I'd stumbled into an animated film starring these guys.)

(Teacups decorated with designs representing some of the many plants at Trelissick--a play on the Victorian practice of stenciling flowers onto fine china)

(One member of a small garden of tortured-looking ceramic people)

(An installation drawing attention to the endangered species status of the European stag beetle--whose head is poking out at the bottom left from underneath the log)

(One of my favorite pieces in the exhibit--a multi-part apple that looks like separate pieces when viewed from the side, but like a single piece of fruit when viewed face-on. I believe this piece was meant to draw attention to the fact that the UK imports many of its apples from abroad--a process that requires many separate, environmentally-unfriendly, steps.)

 (Another beautiful installation: a miniature model of Trelissick carved out of a book, sitting atop a tower of old library books)

I've always been an advocate of collaborations between artists and naturalists, so it was fun to see the product of this effort by the National Trust and the University College Falmouth. I keep hoping that one day the University of Exeter will get on board with something like this.

The Carcaddon section was accessed by crossing a bridge, at one end of which we found this:

(I had to look twice at this carving because at first I thought it was a living plant. Instead, it's a pineapple carving hiding amidst the wisteria growing on the bridge. Pineapples remind me of (Ohio-)home, because my mother often decorated with them when I was young; they are a colonial symbol of welcome.) 

All in all, it was a good outing, and we lucked out by departing just as the clouds decided to produce rain. We'll have to go back at some point in order to explore a bit more; although we saw everything in the garden proper, we did not go hiking on the trail that winds around the outside of the grounds. As nice as it is to see all the beautifully maintained cultivated species, you just can't beat the raw beauty of wild-growing plants in the meadows and woods of Cornwall.

(A view of the River Fal from a bench at the edge of the garden. Luckily it wasn't quite this cloudy and dark the whole time we were there.)

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