History of Moyclare Cornish Garden

80 years a-growing

In 1927 Moyclare was an open field, fairly near the town centre of Liskeard, in Cornwall.

Then along came Moira and Louis Reid from Ireland; armed with a passion for gardening, and boxes and packages of plants from Moira’s County Clare home, where the damp warm climate mirrors that of Cornwall.

While the builders dug the foundations for the house, the Reids began the garden. It was just one third of an acre at first. The garden grew to be a full acre in 1936, when they bought an L-shaped piece of ground to the north and east.

A ‘full acre’ soon became the most apt of expressions as the space was filled with choice plants shrubs and trees; many were cuttings, swaps and presents from other gardeners. Moira was a close friend of the gardening writer Margery Fish, and they exchanged letters and plant material for years. A number of the letters are kept in an album for visitors to read during garden visits to Moyclare.

Amongst the keen garden visitors was Beverly Nichols, another gardening writer, who gave a present of a Eucalyptus gunnii. John Betjeman wrote: ‘A perfect piece of England’ in the visitors book - much to the annoyance of Moira who considered it then to be an Irish garden! Charles Nelson from Dublin’s Botanical Gardens was another visitor, as was Topline Broadhurst who televised it often in the 1970s, and many others. The most recent was Helen Yemm, who writes for the "Daily Telegraph".

‘A garden with personality’ was how one guidebook described it. ‘Nature versus Nurture’ is how Moira’s niece and present owner, Elizabeth Henslowe, thinks of it, often exasperated by her Aunt’s policy of ‘cramming them in’ (as she wrote in the article written in the March 1984 edition of the Cornwall Garden Society Journal which echoed one published in September 1975 in the Royal Horticultural Society's Journal "The Garden").

Now over eighty years on, many of the original shrubs are tree-sized and have outgrown their own space, and indeed that belonging to other plants nearby as well. Honey fungus has taken its toll and caused large gaps to appear. So a programme of rejuvenation is being carried out.

While being mindful of how important it is to preserve the ethos of Moyclare, it is not being turned into a museum. The nature of a garden is change, and sympathetic change is happening. Where possible, and if available, former plants and shrubs are being replaced with strong young specimens. New varieties of plants are being introduced and the collecting of variegated plants continues.

The general layout is being kept, but the meandering overgrown paths have been cleared and widened, making them suitable for wheelchair users. The borders have been defined and given names to make cataloguing the contents easier. The fruit and vegetable areas have been much improved, and supply much of the family's needs. A pergola and a number of arches have been erected and furnished and a fishpond has been dug and planted and (despite herons and seagulls) is inhabited by over a hundred goldfish hybrids and much aquatic wildlife.

Despite the changes that have taken place, Moyclare garden is as fascinating as it ever was and mature specimens and tiny treasures still intrigue our visitors.

There are variegated and evergreen plants and shrubs from the Andes, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Tasmania and New Zealand, as well as Camellias and Rhododendrons and other shrubs and plants from America, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Madeira, Mexico, Morocco, Siberia and Tibet, to list just a few. All live together like a close family, and provide a habitat for nearly fifty types of birds, and many butterflies and moths.

New varieties of plants are still being discovered; adding to Cytisus ‘Moyclare Pink’, Bracchyglottis ‘Moira Reid’, Astrantia major ‘Moira Reid’ and Camellia x williamsii ‘Moira Reid’ there are several recently found but not yet named Camellias and herbaceous perennials. Even some of the weeds are unusual plants in other gardens.

Opening and visiting arrangements are listed on our contacts page.

Introduction - Contacts and Opening Times - More Pictures




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