Family have paid tribute to the man who made one of Cornwall’s most popular estates the huge attraction it has become.
As head gardener of Lanhydrock, Martin Peter Borlase made it his life’s work to completely transform the estate into what it is today.
Born in St Agnes in 1928 and known as Peter, he was the head gardener at Lanhydrock near Bodmin until he retired, but his interest in gardens, horticulture and plants in general was a passion he indulged in from a very young age.
In his autobiography, written a few years ago, Peter said horticulture must have been a genetic trait passed down through the family, as his maternal grandfather was a gardener on a large Cornish estate, his brother was a gardener at Regent’s Park and two of his uncles were also keen amateur gardeners.
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His father, while a carpenter by trade, was also a beekeeper and skilled vegetable-grower.
It was during the Second World War that Peter had his first taste for gardening when the Dig For Victory campaign gave him his a chance to grow vegetables. Aged 14, he even received a hand trowel and hoe from his teacher for his efforts.
Called up for National Service, Peter spent two years in an artillery regiment, and then in 1948 joined Truro Rural District Council. He married his sweetheart Gwen in 1951, and in 1953 was offered a gardening job at Trelissick.
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In 1966 Peter received a visit out of the blue from Sir Julian Gascoigne and Michael Trinick, chairman and secretary of the National Trust’s Devon and Cornwall committee, asking him if he was up for a challenge: to come to Lanhydrock and turn what had become a sad and tired-looking estate into a thriving, beautiful garden once again.
At the time Lanhydrock’s head gardener was responsible for 1,200 acres, including 30 acres of gardens.
After eight months commuting from Trelissick, Peter, Gwen and their son Jon moved into a new cottage on the estate, Lime Cottage, a home they would only leave after Peter retired in 1993.
Over the years Peter was involved with the Royal Horticultural Society, the Cornwall Garden Society and the International Plant Propagation Society, to name but a few, and received a British Empire Medal for his horticultural work. He was for many years a judge of the Bodmin In Bloom competition.
During his tenure at Lanhydrock the estate underwent a transformation, including a huge tree-planting programme, and saw the launch of various training schemes to train the next generation of gardeners. In 1990 Peter also oversaw the clean-up operation after a devastating winter storm brought down more than 1,500 trees.
On Peter’s retirement he and Gwen moved to a bungalow at Bosvenna View in Bodmin, where Peter had a lathe in his garden shed and created many items turned from wood he had collected over the years in gardens where he worked.
They travelled in Europe and America, and Peter always looked forward to a round of golf with his friend David from Bodmin on most Fridays, as he was always happy out in the fresh air.
Jon said: “Myself and my partner Gill live on the edge of Bodmin Moor at Praze Mill, Millpool, a smallholding which we have renovated over quite a few years.
“In his retirement Dad was always pleased to be fully involved with our renovation almost every weekend, with the building work, maintenance of the fields, hedges and woods.
“He was never happier than when he had a chainsaw in his hand and a bonfire burning up fallen trees. He also had the opportunity to design and create a new garden at the front of the property which is now well on its way to become well established: and, being head gardener at Lanhydrock, obviously had to include a couple of magnolia trees.
“Dad always showed interest in everything that was going on and was delighted to pass on his knowledge from many years of experience of working with the land.”
Peter died on November 2 at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro at the age of 93.
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