December Garden Update

Heligan has escaped the snow thus far but that doesn’t mean we have escaped the cold! We have seen multiple frosts which is good news for the sprouts. Luckily here at Heligan we have our own micro climate, perfect for the gardens and growing veg, so the effects of the cold of late have been minimal compared with the rest of the country.

On The Farm

December is a busy month on the farm. We have three male jack donkeys arriving at Heligan for their Christmas holiday today! The donkeys, named Rupert, Albert and Basil are extremely friendly and loving and you will be able to visit them in their holiday home ‘The Barn’, from Saturday 16th the December to the 4th January. We decided to bring donkeys to Heligan to tell the story of the history of donkeys here at Heligan. The Tremayne family had numerous horses and donkeys and used them to work the land, pull carts and transport the family during their outings from the Estate. During the restoration of The Gardens, Lost Gardens founder, Tim Smit, discovered ‘donkey booties’ within the grounds. These would have been worn by the donkeys when grazing Flora’s Green to avoid damage to the grass but still enable them to complete the job of donkey lawn mower!

Our 16 Tamworth and Lop piglets have all now been weaned from their mothers and have moved to make home on Valentines, where they can stretch their legs on fresh pasture. Enjoy an impressively beautiful stroll through Valentines field to visit the little piglets and take in the view of the valley, Mevagissey and beyond.

Thursday saw our livestock team gift two large home-grown Heligan turkeys to the St Austell Food Kitchen; to assist them in providing lovely Christmas dinners for the vulnerable, needy and homeless within our community.

Elsewhere on the farm this month, we are hopeful that our flock of ewes are now pregnant with Heligan spring lambs, after spending the last 6 weeks with their rams. Fingers are crossed that the first set of lambs will arrive in March 2018! It’s not just the ewes that will be expecting the pitter patter of little hooves in 2018, our White Park and Ruby Red cattle have undergone a session of artificial insemination over the last week. We choose to breed our cattle this way as it reduces the risk to both the animals and our livestock team by not having to have a bull on the premises for breeding. Artificial insemination also allows us to reduce the risk of disease being transmitted to our cattle during the breeding process as well as, increase breeding efficiency.


We are so pleased to say that the Redwing and Fieldfare have finally arrived here at Heligan! They can be seen around the animal paddocks down on the farm but the best place to try and spot them this month is in the Orchard, as this is where they are most likely to be found foraging for worms.

December is also the time to listen out for the robin’s beautiful song! You may well have noticed that the robin’s song is particularly loud and seemingly happy as we head deeper into winter. The reason for this is that male robins are calling out in song for a mate. This is the time of year they will look for a female to mate with and their song is how they attract them.


If you have noticed the cannas are missing from the Flower Garden, worry not, as they are safe in warmer climes ready to come back out again next year. As the colder weather sets in and winter is upon us, most of our tender plants come inside.

Our Kitchen Garden team is busy this month harvesting all the vegetables featuring in the Heligan Kitchens Christmas lunches, alongside this they will be lifting out; mixed kale, beetroot, turnips, parsnips, leeks, sprouts and mixed herbs. All ready to be used in the food offering from the Heligan Kitchen.

On your next visit to The Gardens keep an eye out for our asparagus beds in the productive garden, as they are now complete and are looking magnificent. We have two varieties of asparagus planted for next season, Franklin and Purple Passion and we are eagerly awaiting spears for next year.

We will be bringing mushrooms back to the mushroom house very soon, as we have just ordered our chestnut mushroom bales, which will be making an appearance in early January to be cropped early February.

Down in the Melon Yard we are planting a variety of winter salads; pak choi, giant red mustard, rocket, mizuna and mibuna. Mizuna is a Japanese leafy vegetable and their leaves have a characteristic peppery, cabbage flavour, and are used raw in salads or cooked for stir-fries. Like mizuna, but with a stronger, light mustard flavour is mibuna.

In the Jungle, the mighty Jungle…. This month a new project will start, that will be ongoing for a few weeks. Our team will begin cutting down a section of the Jungle to make a large clearing for a new boardwalk to be built. This new boardwalk will be positioned close to the top of the Jungle and will link East Lawn entrance with Top Pond. This will give all visitors a new pathway to explore on their route through the tropical gardens, along with new plantings to border the pathways.

Also in the Jungle this month, work continues for the large clearing made close to Fern Gully to make way for new beds. These beds will be planted up in the months to come and will boast but a well-established Azalea, new to Heligan.