Devon Arts and Crafts garden

In the early 1920’s, the story goes that Rupert and Lady Dorothy D’Oyle Carte were sailing their yacht along the south Devon coast when they spotted a farmstead at the head of a coombe leading down to the sea. They decided that they would like to build a house there as a seaside residence, and employed Oswald Milne (a pupil of Edwin Lutyens) to design it for them in the Arts and Crafts style. They created terraces around the house to make the most of the views and made a wonderful informal garden around it, tumbling down the valley to the cliffs. Today Coleton Fishacre is owned by the National Trust and is a magical place to spend an afternoon.DSC_0040.jpgThe mild coastal climate means that many half-hardy and more exotic plants, shrubs and trees can be grown there, so for the plants person some exciting discoveries are in wait



This Fuchsia arborescens caught my eye when I visited this year. It doesn’t look like a fuchsia at all, but it is. A tender shrub from Mexico and Central American cloud forests. Pretty purple fruits follow the delicately scented flowers. IMG_1349.jpg

Totally frost tender but could be taken into a conservatory in winter. love it. want it. Thompson and Morgan sell plug plants in spring.

The detailing of the Arts and Crafts style terraces, paving, walling and water features, using the stone found on site, harmonise beautifully with surroundings and the house.DSC_0049.jpgDSC_0057.jpgIMG_1348.jpgDSC_0030.jpgDSC_0037 (1).jpg

Love the idea of a window in the verandah to screen from the wind yet keep views open.


Sadly the trees have grown up and blocked the view to the sea but in the early years there must have been a terrific view from here. Sea mists roll in and out of the valley quickly, changing the atmosphere dramatically.DSC_0068.jpg

The house is equally atmospheric, giving the impression the D’Oyle Cartes have just gone for a spin to Dartmouth in the Bugatti and could be back any minute…..

I left reluctantly, but with a long list of interesting plants that I would like to try growing myself. A plea to the garden staff. The gardens are stunning but my only disappointment was that despite the garden being full of unusual and exotic plants, the garden shop mainly sold plants that can be found in an average garden centre. Many of the exotics must be grown on as cuttings each year, so how about putting some for sale too?

Coleton Fishacre is across the river from Dartmouth via the lower ferry.


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