I’ve talked about the theatre with the mighty Atlantic below, but I don’t think that I’ve said much about the gardens and there's plenty to say. The gardens at The Minack are like no outdoor garden I have ever seen before.
When I first visited about thirty years ago I don’t really remember seeing the gardens, certainly not as they are today. Rowena Cade landscaped the cliffs below Minack House to create the theatre, but the gardens at the Minack have been created by two local gardeners, Niall and Jill Milligan. It’s not on the scale of The Lost Gardens of Heligan and it isn’t quite the Eden project, but it comes all in for the price of admittance which with a performance was only a fiver. I’d have happily paid that for the quirky gardens on their own.
They’ve transformed the cliffside into an incredible coastal garden featuring an eclectic array of plants from around the world. It’s all rocks and plants, the best rock garden I’ve ever seen, lush but at the same time almost arid - at least on a sunny warm day. It's an oasis on the cliffs. Of course the Gulf Stream is at its warmest below and the sun does shine in Cornwall, but even so it’s an incredible achievement what with the salt spray, gales, damp and foggy winters and the occasional baking summer.
It’s a full garden, just the way I like it. Crammed with rare plants that you are more likely to see in the Canary Islands, South Africa, Mexico or the Andes and not the UK - even if it is Cornwall. There are aloes, silver trees, bird of paradise plants, cacti, my favourites the aeoniums and they all seem to be thriving. There’s hardly an inch to spare and at the very top of the theatre, as you go in, the upper gardens are home to echiums, lampranthus, a wonderful selection of irises and of course masses of massive broad leaved agapanthus which seem to be everywhere in Cornwall. I could have spent all day wandering around the top gardens but the beer was calling and we had some maidens to meet.
I left determined that one day I would try to grow some of the plants I’d seen, particularly the tree aeoniums which were everywhere, some of them two or three feet high and every colour from purple blacks to pale blue sea greens. They were selling them at the shop and I so wish that I’d bought one, but I didn’t. I was worried that our climate back home wouldn’t suit it and then I would have felt like a murderer. It would be a sin to take such a beautiful thing away from its home to languish and die.
Okay, that’s if for the Minack. I shall never mention it here again I promise (crosses his fingers behind his back).