with a big smile and oodles of Cornish charm, met our coach and
welcomed us to Marsh Villa Gardens. “Well, welcome to the gardens,
the villa is still not built! “ he joked. ”Come and meet the
crocodile”, he continued “Not my wife” he hastened to add. In
the “Pretty Yard” surrounded by the cottage, small barn, tables
and chairs ready for later refreshments was a big model crocodile; a
smaller one was hidden in a nearby border.
1976 flooding was a major problem. Then the Water Board started a
flood relief scheme, including putting sluice gates on the tidal
creek, which runs along one side of this three acre garden.
Judith and Harvey Stephens moved from their Bodmin Moor farm to his
family home in 1985, Marsh Villa was a small holding with chickens,
ducks and one cow, no garden and very open to the elements.
some years the site was infilled with loads of building rubble, china
clay waste from the harbour, clinker from the gas-works and household
rubbish, covered by a mere 3 inches of topsoil.
with no formal training, found it necessary to use a crowbar, fondly
named “Betsy”, to make planting holes for trees to form a shelter
belt for shrubs and flowers to follow.
were many ”rooms”, each very different but complementing each
other. There were areas with soft coloured spring planting such as
fragrant sweet rocket ( Hesperis matronalis) and some vibrant
borders with alliums, peonies, lemon and orange poppies and frothy
forget-me-nots set against lush green mounds of oriental poppies, day
lilies, delphiniums and sedums. Many more perennials were ready to
burst forth later.
of all shapes and sizes included Monterey pines, which Judith had
grown from seed. I’m still intrigued by the Handkerchief tree (
Davidia involucrata ), but my favourite was the shrub
Viburnum plicatum ‘Lanarth’ which in full flower was
absolutely fabulous in “Gran’s Patch”.
the cow died her field was made into a big pond surrounded by a wide
grass path and lush growth, including gunnera.
the main garden is natural very marshy woodland with paths and
streams invariably flooded during winter; a haven for birds and wild
incredible vision, strength and dedication by Judith and Harvey to
reclaim this area of marshland to form such an amazing garden was an
inspiration to us all and blew me away!