Our favourite Cornish spring gardens to visit
The mild Cornish climate means the arrival of spring comes fairly early in the year – heralded, it is said, by the blossoming of the magnificent magnolia. With its beautiful pink blooms, it creates a turning point in the garden as winter disappears and the green shoots of spring burst through.
With Easter arriving early this year – Good Friday is March 30 – here are six of the best Cornish spring gardens, all less than an hour’s drive from Mother Ivey’s Bay Holiday Park and all “blooming” lovely at this time of year.
If it’s magnolias you’re after, Tregothnan near Truro is a good place to start. Its 100 acres are packed with magnolias, alongside camellias and rhododendrons spanning over 40ft.
This is the historic estate where camellias have been grown for over 200 years. The conditions are often warmer than Darjeeling in India which lead to Tregothnan producing its own tea in 2005, the only UK producer. The tea shrubs are close to the pink Magnolia campbellii that was brought here from Darjeeling and will often bloom in spring in Cornwall before it blossoms in Darjeeling.
You can enjoy a tea experience at the estate, seeing how the tea is grown and made, but the estate is otherwise kept private. The good news is that for one weekend – 21-22 April 2018 – there is a garden opening when you can experience Tregothnan’s unequalled diversity of trees, rare collections, sweeping vistas and peaceful secluded groves on the banks of the beautiful river Fal.
Proceeds go the charity, this year supporting the Merlin Multiple Sclerosis Centre, and tickets are available at www.tregothnan.co.uk.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, near Mevagissey, is also home to one of the six champion Magnolia campbellii in Cornwall. Rescued from dereliction 25 years ago, the 200 acres have something to offer all year round but look particularly spectacular in a Cornish spring. Heligan has National Collection Holder status from Plant Heritage for its historic and unique camellias and rhododendrons which were introduced pre-1920.
There are more than 70 veteran camellias and 350 ancient rhododendrons included in the collection, the earliest dating from around 1850.
There’s another magnificent magnolia at the Trewithen estate near Truro – the 65ft tall Magnolia campbellii subsp. Mollicomata which was introduced from China and flowers in March. Trewithen benefitted from the enthusiasm of early 20th century plant hunters, including horticulturist George Johnstone who inherited the house in 1904.
Many rare and unusual specimens came to Cornwall to thrive in the 30 acres of woodland gardens and more than 200 acres of parkland – the name Trewithen itself means “house of trees”.
The gardens and the house open on 1 March.
Lanhydrock near Bodmin is a magnificent late Victorian country house with a 1,000 acre estate, which includes ancient woodlands and tranquil riverside paths. The more formal gardens are packed with spring-flowering camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons. Dogs are welcome on the estate where there is plenty to explore.
The gardens open on February 10.
Spring begins at Pencarrow near Wadebridge with two Snowdrop Sundays in aid of charity during February. The garden opens properly for the year on March 1 and visitors will find them packed with interest including an Iron Age hill fort, sunken Italian garden and a grotto. There are more than 600 varieties of camellias and rhododendrons, to be followed by bluebells and wild garlic in May and June. It was at Pencarrow that the towering Araucaria araucana was given the nickname Monkey Puzzle Tree.
This beautiful estate near Lostwithiel has been restored to its former glory, albeit with a contemporary vibe, and is available for weddings and corporate events. But there is a chance to discover the magic of the gardens at the Cornwall Garden Society’s Spring Flower Show on 7-8 April.
As well as the flower show, there is plenty to admire in the gardens – a riot of colour including 34 different species of hydrangea, pink and purple rhododendrons, azaleas and the mighty magnolia.