A WOODLAND VIEW
The garden can best be described as a “Cornish Woodland garden” the inspiration being the garden at Tregrehan in Cornwall where the Carlyon family have lived for over 500 years, Phyllida is the 5th generation at Gwavas. Phyllida's brother Tom Hudson and his wife Jo and their two children live at Tregrehan.
Phyllida’s father Michael Hudson has, since 1950 restored, extended and done all of the planting including many of his own plants bred here at Gwavas Garden. His philosophy in relation to the garden is that, although everything has been planted, there should otherwise be no, or very little evidence of the intrusion of man and that the garden represents a setting where plants are able to express themselves as if they were in a natural woodland setting. We therefore do not trim or shape plants, the only concession to this being that we do “lift” plants i.e. prune off lower branches to allow plants underneath to get enough light to flower. You will notice that there are no signs or coloured markers, this is not an oversight, but a conscious decision in keeping with Michaels vision of an unspoilt woodland setting. We also allow our ground cover plants such as bluebells, daffodils, lilies, forget-me-nots and aquilegias etc. to seed which can look a bit “wild” but is all part of a natural woodland cycle. As Gordon Collier said in the October 2010 edition of NZ House and Garden magazine “It’s a natural woodland setting and looks cared for but not managed.”
The oldest part of the garden, down by the cemetery was planted around the 1860’s. This includes several oaks, ash and pines. Many of the older trees were planted in the 1880’s, before the homestead was built. Once the homestead was built in 1890 planting by Michael’s grandfather A.S.G. Carlyon really intensified, with a number of seeds coming from Tregrehan.While being tutored in England a year before attending and also while he attended Cambridge, A.S.G.'s son Rupert kept an eye out for interesting plants and a number, particularly Rhododendrons, he recommended his father plant at Gwavas, some of these A.S.G. was able to source in New Zealand at that time. While at Cambridge the 1st world war broke out and Rupert volunteered for service with a British regiment. After the war many plants were sent back, often soil and all, from Tregrehan and nurseries around Britain. Although the garden is large (20 acres/9 hectares) it is an intimate garden, you can get up to virtually any plant in the garden to smell or touch.
The garden is one of, if not, the largest privately owned collection of temperate woody plants in Australasia and has been recognised with a "Distinguished For Merit Award" by the International Dendrology Society on their visit in 2009 and is also registered as a "Garden of National Significance" with the New Zealand Garden Trust.