Green-fingered couple spend 20 years building Japanese-themed garden behind their bungalow complete with waterfall, 5,000sq ft lake, Torii gates and Oriental pergoda – but have never even visited the country

  • Dawn and Terry Heaver were inspired by the gardens at Compton Acres to create their own Japanese oasis 
  • The couple, from St Ives, Dorset, spent two decades installing a waterfall, lake and Oriental pergoda in space
  • Mr and Mrs Heaver will now open the garden to the public on Sunday as part of the National Garden Scheme 

A green-fingered couple spent 20 years building an incredible Japanese-themed garden behind their bungalow complete with a waterfall, Torii gates and a 5,000sq ft lake – but they have never even visited Japan.

Dawn and Terry Heaver began cultivating the impressive plot in St Ives, Dorset, after being inspired by a visit to a nearby botanical gardens when they moved to the area from Harrow, London in 1994.

Their secluded garden is now enclosed by evergreen trees and features a waterfall, an ornamental 5,000sq ft lake, two Torii gates, an Oriental pergoda and Japanese stone ornaments including a tiered tower and foo dogs.

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

Though the tranquil garden is inspired by idyllic Japanese horticulture, the couple admit they have no interest in travelling to the Far East as they have their ‘own version’ in their back garden.

Mr and Mrs Heaver have also added palm trees that now tower 20ft and conifers that have grown to 35ft.

Dawn and Terry Heaver began cultivating the impressive Japanese garden (above) in St Ives, Dorset, after being inspired by a visit to a nearby botanical gardens when they moved to the area from Harrow, London in 1994


Their secluded garden is now enclosed by evergreen trees and features a waterfall, an ornamental 5,000sq ft lake, two Torii gates, an Oriental pergoda and Japanese stone ornaments including a tiered tower and foo dogs

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

Though the tranquil garden is inspired by idyllic Japanese horticulture, the couple (above, Mr and Mrs Heaver) admit they have no interest in travelling to the Far East as they have their ‘own version’ in their back garden

The green-fingered couple are throwing open the doors to their oasis on Sunday as part of the National Garden Scheme, which allows access to private gardens in England and Wales on selected dates for charity.

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

On what inspired the garden, Mrs Heaver, 65, explained: ‘We just like Japanese-style gardens – we’ve never even been to Japan.

‘When we first moved here from Harrow in London in 1994 we went to Compton Acres in Poole and we just loved their Japanese garden. But some people have told us that ours is even better.

The couple began their astonishing transformation more than 20 years ago after moving from Harrow, London to St Ives. Pictured: The ground works starting 

The green-fingered couple are throwing open the doors to their oasis on Sunday as part of the National Garden Scheme, which allows access to private gardens in England and Wales on selected dates for charity

Money from entrance fees and tea, coffee and cake sales on the day will go towards the NGS and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), where their son Carl was once treated as a child. Pictured: Mr and Mrs Heaver in their garden

On what inspired the garden, Mrs Heaver, 65, explained: ‘We just like Japanese-style gardens – we’ve never even been to Japan’


Mr Heaver, who ran his own central heating business before retiring three years ago, admitted he has lost count of the amount of money they have spent on the project. Pictured right: Torii gates in the garden 

‘We have had Japanese people round the gardens before and they couldn’t believe it and said they had never seen anything like it. A lot of people always ask us how we have come up with it but it has just grown over the years.

‘The only thing in the gardens when we first came here were the pine trees. Everything else was grass.

‘We ordered some of the plants and trees from Italy and they came in big crates, but most of the plants we have bought in this country.’

Mr Heaver, who ran his own central heating business before retiring three years ago, admitted he has lost count of the amount of money they have spent on the project.

The 69-year-old said: ‘We were in awe when we first visited the gardens at Compton Acres – we had never seen anything like it before.

‘I have always kept ponds with carp in but when we moved here I thought ‘I’m going to build something similar to the Compton Acres gardens.’

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

Until recently, the couple had more than 60 koi carp inhabiting their lake (above), which they built using around 100 tons of Purbeck stone and 300 bags of cement – all moved by hand

Mrs Heaver, who also runs her own soft furnishing company, agreed that the garden had taken on a life of its own


The beautiful garden will be open to the public on one Sunday of every month until September as part of the National Garden Scheme. Pictured left: Mrs Heaver near one of the foo dogs

In 2019, Mr and Mrs Heaver had over 500 visitors to their garden over two weekends and raised £4,250 for charity

But some of the carp were killed by invading otters from the nearby River Avon which forced Mr Heaver to sell them.

He said: ‘It was sad, but the bright side is that we can now grow plants in the pond, like beautiful arum lilies, which the carp would’ve eaten.

‘I wouldn’t want to think about how many thousands o pounds we have spent on the garden. At some stage or another, we just stopped counting.

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

Mrs Heaver, who also runs her own soft furnishing company, agreed that the garden had taken on a life of its own.

She added: ‘If we ever sold the house, which we never will, we would have to advertise it as a garden with a house at the front of it.

The lake had contained koi carp before it was invaded by several otters from the nearby River Avon

The astonishing garden is built on a three-quarter-acre plot in St Ives, Dorset, inspired by the gardens at Compton Acres in Poole

The idyllic garden will open to the public on Sunday under the National Garden Scheme to raise money for charity

Speaking of the garden, Mrs Heaver said: ‘If we ever sold the house, which we never will, we would have to advertise it as a garden with a house at the front of it’

She added: ‘Terry even says wants his ashes scattered around the garden when he’s gone, but I tell him he’ll ruin the plants’

‘Terry even says wants his ashes scattered around the garden when he’s gone, but I tell him he’ll ruin the plants.

‘We’re not really interested in visiting Japan – why go when we have our own version in our back garden?’

The beautiful garden will be open to the public on one Sunday of every month until September as part of the National Garden Scheme.

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

Mrs Heaver said: ‘We chose to donate to GOSH because they had our son Carl in when he had Leukemia back in 1980, and the money that goes to the National Garden Scheme is split between around 20 different charities. ‘ 

The garden is nestled behind the couple’s bungalow in St Ives, Dorset

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