The ‘Garden Capital of the World’ is often how Cornwall is thought of throughout the world. Cornwall enjoys the power of the Gulf Stream with its temperate climate of warm summers, mild and wet winters which in turn allows exotic and rare plants to thrive.
Where else can you find so many gardens with history dating back to the Iron Age? As long ago as the early 19th century Cornish gardeners were part of the Victorian plant hunters who collected exotic plants and seeds from all around the world.
That gives us what we have today: over 60 fabulous gardens to explore with lush vegetation and sub-tropical theatres of colour brimming with exciting, rare and beautiful plants. Cornwall’s gardens are found in our magnificent Castles, Manor Houses, grand Farm Estates, Mill Houses, sheltered valleys, high up on blustery moorland and nestled in woodland and seaside gardens which meet the turquoise hues of the water’s edge.
Cornwall’s gardens are so diverse as they vary in size from small and intimate to acres of rolling countryside. Some with enchanting lakes and a Victorian boathouse to water gardens with tree ferns, rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. Others have walled gardens and manicured lawns to the newest of all two magnificent Biomes filled with magic from around the world.
All around Britain you will be hard-pressed not to find a ‘Veitch’ plant or one derived from their nurseries. The Veitch family sent many collectors all over the world to bring back seeds and plants. These included two Cornish brothers, William and Thomas Lobb. William Lobb died in San Francisco in 1864 but his brother Thomas lived in Devoran until his death in 1894.
In the East of Cornwall Mount Edgcumbe have The Earl’s Garden with ancient and rare trees including a 400-year-old lime. The Formal Gardens are found in the lower park and were created over 200 years ago in English, French and Italian styles. Cothele tells the story of the Tamar Valley and Antony was recently used as a backdrop for the film Alice in Wonderland. Also in the East is Ince Castle which overlooks the River Lynher. The garden enjoys woodlands filled with rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias, vibrant shrubs and formal gardens. Pentillie Castle’s gardens are only open on specific days and their orchard was replanted with old Tamar Valley varieties of apple and cherry.
The South is awash with fabulous gardens which proves how sheltered this coast is in Cornwall and many are overflowing with collections of Cornish rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. We can start with Hidden Valley Gardens, Near Par. These gardens won the Cornwall Tourism Silver award 2010 for small visitor attraction. Tregrehan is a large woodland garden and is home to the Carlyon family since 1565. The Pinetum Park and Pine Lodge Gardens, Near St. Austell is a 30-acre paradise with over 6000 labelled plants. Ray and Shirley Clemo travelled the world collecting seeds and plants for this garden and a pair of black swans have made it their home.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan at Pentewan have been voted Britain’s finest garden and has scooped the title in the Countryfile Magazine Awards 2011. Celebrating 21years since Heligan’s Lost Gardens were discovered, this beauty provides 200 acres to explore. Discover the Northern Garden, the Jungle, the Wider Estate and the Horsemoor Hide and Wildlife Project.
Next on our list would be Caerhays Castle Gardens which is situated in a valley above Porthluney Cove. A horticultural treasure covering 100 acres of woodland gardens and holder of the National Magnolia Collection. Lamorran at St. Mawes is a Mediterranean-style garden with sea views over Falmouth Bay. History says that it is the most Northerly Palm Garden in the world. From Lamorran you can see the lighthouse at St. Anthony’s Head. St. Just in Roseland has a 13th century church and is set in a sheltered sub-tropical riverside garden filled with magnolias, azaleas, bamboos and giant gunnera. Trelissick Garden at Feock was planted 200 years ago and has views down the Falmouth estuary. It has year-round plant colour, an orchard, woodland walks and an art and crafts gallery. In the autumn 300 varieties of apples will be on display in the Georgian stables. Enys Gardens at Penryn is one of Cornwall’s oldest gardens dating back to 1709. Penjerrick at Budock Water is unspoilt with historic and botanic interest; relax among tree ferns and hidden paths.
Moving on down the coast to Mawnan Smith is Trebah and Carwinion, these are gardens with great historic interest. Trebah is on the North bank of the Helford River and in this garden you can wander among giant tree ferns and palms. Carwinion has a renowned collection of bamboo and has 14 acres of tranquil gardens. Glendurgan lies in a sub-tropical valley running down to the Helford River. Have fun in the 180 year-old cherry laurel maze and wander through the garden and down to the hamlet of Durgan. Potager is a new organic garden and is close to Constantine, five miles from Falmouth.