A Summer "Fairyland" for Artists · Bonython Estate Gardens

“I always try and bring colour into my life. I think it’s come from my South African heritage as the the light there is wonderful and strong, but I’ve carried that colour back with me to Cornwall. When Cornwall’s good, the light here is beautiful.”

Admitting that everything about her is bright (including her clothing!), Owner Sue Nathan has brought a vibrancy to the Bonython Gardens and Estate like no other.

Sue and husband Richard purchased the Bonython Estate in Helston in 1999 when the gardens were a “blank canvas,” and Sue has since put her colourful stamp on every part of the 20 acre grounds.

“The listed, 1780s Georgian Bonython House drew us in initially because of its beauty but there was nothing here, so I was able to create a garden where there wasn’t much of a garden before – and I designed it all with colour in mind,” Sue said.

“I was able to create a garden where there wasn’t much of a garden before – and I designed it all with colour in mind.”

A colourful canvas

As an artist herself, Sue finds inspiration in every step through this riot of colour and says that right now is the perfect time for artistic types to visit as brilliant summer colours bloom throughout Bonython.

“The second lake, Lake Sue, is now at its best with lots of wonderful ‘hot’ summer colours on show – the oranges, red, and yellows. The grass has come out and all the South African feel of the hot garden is at its best there right now. The walled garden and the pottager is also full of colour at this time of year because it’s all herbaceous. Bright, strong, summer colours is what you can expect to see when you come to Bonython.”

Often spotting fellow artists around the grounds, Sue said, “It’s such a visual, tranquil place with lots of different colour tones – it’s not all just green, so there’s always somewhere where someone could paint detailed flowers or landscapes of colour. The peace of the gardens has that feel that makes people want to start drawing, and we have lots of unusual little features that people feel inspired by and want to paint.”

“We had the most beautiful spring gardens last year as we’ve got wonderful magnolias, azaleas and wildflowers mixed together. It was magical and I was very sad that people couldn’t come and see it. I call the end of April and beginning of May ‘my fairyland’ because it’s just so exquisite. You have the wildflowers as well as all the cultivated part of the gardens in full bloom and colour – it’s just sensational.”

“The peace of the gardens has that feel that makes people want to start drawing.”

Bonython Estate Gardens - The Great Gardens of Cornwall

Tea time with Lionel

One special guest who was privileged to see the spring display last year was Lionel, Bonython’s new art installation of a giant hedgehog. Created by Emma Scott of Creative Willow Craft, Lionel found a new home at Bonython in May 2020.

Sue explained, “Because we have badgers in the gardens we don’t get any hedgehogs, so I thought right, I’ve got to have a hedgehog! It was my daughter who said that we had to call him Lionel; it’s my husband’s middle name but he doesn’t like it – so poor old husband has to have his middle name mentioned all the time now!”

When he’s not hibernating in the winter, Lionel sits underneath the trees near the thatched teahouse for people to enjoy. Sue added, “Dogs get inquisitive and bark at him when they first see him, and children love going up and poking him! We’ve had lovely feedback from people; they all enjoy sitting and looking at him, and children say we want to go and have tea with Lionel!”

Bonython Gardens is open weekdays from mid-April to mid-September.