A Bad Case of Gunnera & Other Garden Dilemmas

“It’s called Gunnerrhea” said Jim authoritatively in response to a friend’s question over dinner. “No it’s not, Jim, don’t be ridiculous.” Turned out he was right. Nearly. The plant I like to think of as Giant Rhubarb crossed with a Triffid is in fact called Gunnera. And we have quite a lot of it growing on one of the plots that we’ve earmarked as a site for a shepherd hut. It’s fantastic, but it’s huge spiny stalks and leaves spanning more than two metres across needed a bit of ‘pruning’ (hacking) to open up a view of the lake.

Pengelly Gunnera on Plot 2


Ruth = 161cm.
Gunnera = a lot taller than that.

In addition to keeping the Gunnera under control, we’ve been thinking a lot about the land and gardens here. They are beautiful, wild and wonderful. But slightly mad. We want to keep that wild wonderfulness, but shape them into a peaceful retreat. And over the past couple of weeks we have had the appraising eyes and comments of three different landscape gardeners to help us do just that.

Annabelle, friend of a friend and landscape gardener with Chelsea Flower Show pedigree agreed to view the gardens. “Can I be blunt?” she asked, fixing us with a look as we stood outside the entrance wall of Pengelly, “This area makes it look like you’re coming into a swingers’ place”.

A Swingers’ Garden?

Oh. Oh dear. It appears we need help with the garden design more urgently than we’d realised. Neither Jim or I were entirely sure what a swingers’ place might look like. But it definitely wasn’t the look we were going for.

Lou, partner of tree surgeon, Ant, and also a landscape designer, put her finger onto something that’s been bothering me for a while. “Can I give you one piece of advice? I’m not sure shepherds huts are right here. Your land has the whole Asian theme and the Cornwall theme….Have you thought about treehouses?” She certainly had a point. Shepherds huts are lovely. But they are ‘bunting and hay bales’ while Pengelly is more Buddhas and um, Gunnera. Would treehouses be better? Could we get permission for them? Could we afford them?

Then landscape gardener Matt came to see Pengelly.  He works at the Eden Project and lectures at the local horticultural college. We liked his practical approach, enthusiasm and sense of humour as he walked round chuckling at the array of exotic and unusual plants  growing in unruly abundance. “Wow. The guy who created this was a Collector.  He’d see a plant, love it, buy it and pop it in somewhere. ” Matt also mentioned he could provide cheap student labour if we needed it (we do).  That swung it for us.

There was also some news from the Council. The Planning Officer has decided that they will only consider changing the use of our land from agricultural-only “with all parties present”. In other words, the local Farmer who originally owned our land needs to give us his backing.

So the next step is for us to chat to the Farmer to see if he can help us. He has agreed to have a conversation with us next week. And we really need him to help us with the Council… or all our plans for landscape gardening, treehouses, shepherds huts and a lakeside retreat may yet come to nothing.

Finally, can you spot the Buddha in this picture?

Answer on a Postcard 🙂

Where’s Buddha?