Gardens of Heligan: Background information when reading Black Rabbit Hall

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Black Rabbit Hall

by Eve Chase

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2017, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Beyond the Book:
Gardens of Heligan

Print Review

The Italian GardenThe grounds of Black Rabbit Hall (In Eve Chase's eponymously named novel) are depicted as lush and untamed, a state of wildness that could be the site of enchantment or of danger. Several times Chase mentions "giant rhubarb" growing wild in the woods around Black Rabbit Hall, a detail that immediately reminded me of a real Cornish garden that seems to share a number of qualities with the abundant foliage encircling Black Rabbit Hall – Heligan.

Mud MaidHeligan was once the home of the Tremayne family, near the Cornish town of Mevagissey. It was a beautiful home surrounded by elaborate, well-tended gardens developed over hundreds of years. But the outbreak of World War I, among other factors, meant that the garden quickly slid into neglect, and between 1914 and 1990, virtually no one even knew that this "secret garden" existed. Only the chance discovery, by one of the Tremayne family descendants, of a door in a garden wall led to the realization that these acres had once been horticultural treasures – and could possibly be again.

The JungleHeligan's gardens are still being actively restored, with various thematic areas including an Italian garden, vegetable beds, a series of lakes, a subtropical wild area, with lots of that giant rhubarb, known as "the Jungle", and a "pineapple pit," (a way of growing pineapples in colder climates, which consists of the pineapples surrounded by trenches filled with heat-producing manure and covered in glass walls.) The current caretakers have even incorporated a variety of new thematic and botanical sculptures, which add to the gardens' air of magic and secrecy and serve as a reminder that it's never too late for a season of rebirth.

The Italian Garden, courtesy of Chris Wood
Mud Maid, courtesy of www.trenython.co.uk
The Jungle, courtesy of Melanie Nakisa

Article by Norah Piehl

This article was originally published in April 2016, and has been updated for the July 2017 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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