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How a Dorset couple spent 20 years creating a Japanese themed garden


Dawn and Terry Heaver have spent the past 20 years creating their Japanese-inspired garden in St Ives, Cornwall – BNPS

A green-fingered couple who spent 20 years building an amazing Japanese-themed garden behind their bungalow are now preparing to show it off to the public.

Dawn and Terry Heaver, who say they’ve never even visited Japan, began cultivating the three-quarter-acre plot after being inspired by a visit to a nearby botanical garden.

Their secluded garden in the village of St Ives, Dorset, is now surrounded by evergreen trees and features a waterfall, 5,000 square foot ornamental lake, two Shinto torii gates, an oriental pergoda and Japanese stone ornaments, including a multi-level tower and foo dogs.

They spent thousands of pounds planting hundreds of vibrant azaleas, acers, various breeds of rhododendron bushes and traditional Japanese cloud trees.

Although the tranquil garden is inspired by Japanese horticulture, the couple admit that they have no interest in traveling to the Far East as they have their “own version” in their back garden.

How a Dorset couple spent 20 years creating a Japanese themed garden

Terry says they have “lost count” of the money spent to build their utopia – Corin Messer / BNPS

How a Dorset couple spent 20 years creating a Japanese themed garden

An aerial view of the garden – Corin Messer

Dawn and Terry also added palm trees that are now 20 feet tall and evergreens that have grown to 35 feet.

The couple will open their own private doors on June 13 as part of the National Garden Scheme (NGS).

The money from entrance fees and sales of tea, coffee and cake on the day will go to the NGS and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), where their adult son Carl was once treated as a child.

Of what inspired the garden, Dawn, 65, explained: “We just love Japanese-style gardens – we’ve never even been to Japan.

“When we moved here from Harrow to London in 1994 we went to Compton Acres in Poole and we just loved their Japanese garden.

“A lot of people always ask us how we got here, but it has only grown over the years.

“Terry even says he wants his ashes to be scattered in the garden when he’s gone, but I tell him he’s going to ruin the plants.”

How a Dorset couple spent 20 years creating a Japanese themed garden

The lake, which they built with around 100 tons of Purbeck stone and 300 bags of cement, all moved by hand. -Corin Messer

How a Dorset couple spent 20 years creating a Japanese themed garden

The couple’s garden was inspired by a visit to a nearby botanical garden – Corin Messer

Terry, who ran his own central heating business until his retirement three years ago, admitted he had lost count of the amount of money they spent on the project.

The 69-year-old said: “I’ve always kept ponds with carp, but when we moved here I thought, ‘I’m going to build something similar to the gardens at Compton Acres. “

“The hardest part was moving all the rocks and all the items. We have two foo dogs guarding the entrance arches which weigh three-quarters of a ton each.”

Until recently, the couple had over 60 koi inhabiting their lake, which they built using around 100 tons of Purbeck stone and 300 bags of cement – all moved by hand.

But the carp were killed by invading otters from a nearby Avon River, which forced Terry to sell them.

In 2019, they welcomed over 500 visitors over two weekends and raised £ 4,250 for charity.



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