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Visiting the garden at Coleton Fishacre

View through trees to flower borders and a long, narrow water feature
The Rill Garden at Coleton Fishacre | © National Trust Images/John Dietz

Coleton Fishacre enjoys a climate as mild as South Cornwall, thanks to being nestled in a valley. As such, many exotic and tender plants thrive in the garden here. From formal terraces to woodland, the Coleton Fishacre garden is varied and filled with plants and wildlife to explore all year round. It's also a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) accredited garden.

Summer highlights

Coleton Fishacre becomes a riot of colour and heady scents in the summer. The garden is sheltered from the elements, which means tender and exotic plants thrive.

Terrace and walled garden

The first terrace in the garden and the walled garden below it are a place of tranquillity in early summer. Annuals, perennials and roses present a fragrant patchwork of pastel hues and, after the tulips of spring have faded, aquilegia, lupins, peonies and alliums continue the tapestry of colour.

Candelabra primulas, azaleas and iris line the stream in the upper section of the garden, while giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata) looks handsome beside the lower pond.

Around the house

Arctotis, gazanias and watsonias provide pops of red and orange in the terraces around the house, and succulents come into flower in summer.

Species of callistemon, grevillea, banksia and other flowers provide a taste of the southern hemisphere in the Gazebo border. The statuesque echium pininana from the Canary Islands is a magnet for butterflies.

Pictorial meadow

In the summer, the gardeners create a pictorial meadow by the café, which is perfect for insects. The seed mix is available to buy in the shop so that you can take a bit of Coleton Fishacre home with you.

Purple flowers in borders line a grass path leading to a brown wooden bench
The rill garden at Coleton Fishacre is filled with pastel blooms in summer | © National Trust/Robert Morris

RHS Partner Garden

The garden at Coleton Fishacre is accredited through the Royal Horticultural Society, and as a partner garden, RHS Members get free access on Saturday's when Coleton Fishacre is open.

For more details on RHS Partner Gardens, visit RHS Partner Gardens

Garden highlights

Kent’s Border

Named after Mr Kent, who was the site foreman when the house was built in the 1920s, Kent's Border has undergone a transformation in recent years. It's found at the top of the garden on the way down to the house. Evocative of the Arts and Crafts movement, the border has hedging, topiary, soft planting and plenty of colour.

The hedgerows also provide corridors that link different habitats and act as a refuge and home for the many creatures that call the garden home.

The Hot Border

In front of the house, the Hot Border is home to flowers in fiery shades of red and orange. They create a ‘firework’ effect of upward-pointing flowers, which blaze all the way from summer until late autumn. These were Rupert D'Oyly Carte's favourite colours, and he could see the border from his desk in the library.

Rill Garden

The Rill Garden gets its name from the rill, a formalised section of the stream, that runs through its centre. The borders are planted with a mixture of hardy herbaceous and semi-tender perennials in pastel colours, which were Lady Dorothy's favourite. Her room overlooked this garden.

The terraces

The terraces and walls around the house reflect the lines of the building. They're planted with tender, sun-loving plants and each terrace has a pool. The upper pool's rounded outline sets off an otter sculpture, created by local artist Bridget McCrum.

During the warmer months, the terraces and flower borders are filled with a variety of flowers. These are a great nectar source for insects like butterflies, moths and bees.

The quarry

The stone used to build the house actually came from the quarry wall that sits below the gazebo. It was transported up the valley on railway tracks, which are now being put to use in the kitchen where they support shelves.

The woodland

There are a few different spots around the garden from where you can soak up the sea views. Scout Point, the gazebo and the summerhouse, for example, all offer wide, sweeping vistas. Coleton Fishacre's woodland is a mix of broadleaved trees and conifers. These provide shelter for tawny owls, great spotted woodpeckers and a whole host of other birds.

Dead wood and leaf litter are vital for insects and fungi, which is why you'll likely see log piles in the woodland near Scout Point.

Visitors enjoying the view of Pudcombe Cove from the South West Coast Path at Coleton Fishacre, South Devon
Sea views from the garden | © National Trust Images/Trevor Ray Hart

The informal garden

The further down the valley, the more informal the garden becomes. At the bottom is the tree fern glade, where the stream trickles out to the coast and where hydrangeas flower in the summer.

There's also a gate that leads to the South West Coast Path, where you can take in views at Pudcome Cove and spot the old tidal pool that the D'Oyly Carte family used to use.

Wildlife in the garden

With its combination of flower borders, woodland, grassland and streams, the garden at Coleton Fishacre is home to many creatures throughout the year.

Butterflies, such as the marbled white and the common blue, are often found in areas of grassland around the edges of the garden in the warmer months. Voles and meadow grasshoppers also love these areas as do plants, such as ox-eye daisy, bird's-foot trefoil and betony.

With the stream running down the valley and the nearby sea, many unusual trees and shrubs grow in the garden here. Plus, the stream and pools are home to newts, dragonflies and toads. You may even see snakes and lizards on a sunny day sunbathing on a smooth rock.

A view of the flowers in the garden with the house in the background at Coleton Fishacre, Devon

Discover more at Coleton Fishacre

Find out when Coleton Fishacre is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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