Jul 25, 2010

Walking About the World: Catrina Saunders, Head Gardener, Overbecks, UK

Walking About the World
Catrina Saunders, Head Gardener

You know you are in England, but you might be in South America or Africa or Japan. Overbecks Garden on the Cornish Coast is hard to get to, but worth the journey.  It's beautiful and bizarre location is matched by its exotic plantings. I talked to Catrina Saunders, Head Gardener at Overbecks about the garden and its potential.
 Caterina Saunders

How did you come to Overbecks?
I've only been here a few months - since the start of March - before that I was in Wiltshire, as Head Gardener of the Courts Garden.  In some ways, they are completely and utterly different - the Courts is mostly herbaceous, Yew hedges, topiary - very, very formal and highly gardened, and Overbecks is densely sub-tropical and naturalistic.  However, both are 20th century gardens, and had quite eclectic and eccentric people putting them together.  

One of the interesting parts of working in an historic garden is trying to understand the created atmosphere, and the ethos of the owner, and carry that on in a sympathetic, but lively manner.

What interests you about the place?
Plants are the key here.  I love the fact that the original tennis court got dug up, and a formal garden put in its place, because the owners wanted more space for plants!
photo courtesy of Catrina Saunders

The plantings are not in strict geographical aras, but there is a feeling of walking around the world in here - Southern France and Spain, South America, South Africa, and Japan are all here in character.  Virtually the entire 7 acres are taken up with plants and paths, trying to imitate natural planting combinations.

Some people really 'get' the garden when they come - and for others its just a pile of plants on the side of a hill, with some stunning coast views.

What are your plans for the future?
I have a lot of plans, naturally.

I think I must like living in that high state of anxiety that compels you to change things aruond!  Sometimes it's 'more of' (more Leucodenedrons! More Tree Peonies!), sometimes 'less of' (not another Photina, please!). 

I'd love to forge new paths through the woodland, where they used to be- a long time back (that's the keen eye of an ex-archaeologist for you) and plant a little bit of maquis on the slopes above the house.
 Crinodendron Hookerianum
Chilean Lantern Tree
photo courtesy of Catrina Saunders

In the end, this should be the garden of the SW that everyone wants to see, a little piece of Tresco on the mainland, richly planted, a place to be inspired by.

I really think that gardens have the potential to change people's lives, and in the end, that's what it's all about.
 Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.

All photographs  Copyright Phyllis Odessey.  No usage without permission.