PUBLISHED: 21:55 16 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:43 30 August 2017



Trebah Gardens is a 26-acre valley garden in Cornwall leading down to the sea and is known for its stunning spring displays

Just outside Mawnan Smith near Falmouth, something quite magical is going on this December. is a 26 acre valley garden leading down to the sea and is well known for its stunning spring displays, architectural bamboo collection – the Bamboozle, its Chilean Coombe and champion trees. But over the next few weeks the Christmas spirit is never far away

Beyond the Vinery, through the Elf Village and past the reindeer sleigh is a grotto where Father Christmas will be in residence on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of this month. After visiting the man himself and his elf helpers, younger visitors to the garden needing to run off some festive high spirits can follow the silhouette trail around the garden and head down to the beach.

Away from the gifts and garlands, the garden itself remains unaware of the merriment, for the plants it is business as usual. The garden takes on a hauntingly beautiful quality at this time of year, winter stems and spent flowers dusted with frost silhouetted against the moody sky by a low slung sun prove that Trebah is still packed full of winter ideas to inspire.

Head Gardener Darren Dickey points out some December highlights that are coming into their own and there really is plenty of interest. Many specimens are in flower and even full of fragrance, others bare naked ornamental stems and not forgetting those brave, delicate bulbs, eagerly forcing their buds through the hard cold earth to burst into bloom and bring a different kind of festive joy to the garden.

We have planted over 70,000 snowdrops during the last five years, Galanthus nivalis and Cyclamen coum are my top winter flowering bulbs.’ Says Darren, singing the praises of snowdrops and cyclamen.

For top tree and shrub interest now, Darren recommends; Coloured stems acers -agood example being Acer palmatum Beni Kawa' with its lovely bright red stems.The cinnamon-coloured stems of Luma apiculata a South American myrtle that has naturalised in the garden.’

Correa and grevillea are two antipodean plants that look beautiful during the winter. Correas with their pretty bell shaped flowers - Correa backhousiana has yellow flowers that last for months and the Grevilleas - especially Grevillea victoriae with its vivid orange flowers set off nicely against the silvery foliage’ Says Darren.

Fragrance in the garden at this time of year where shorter days and lower temperatures abound is a valuable commodity, Darren talks about a couple of his favourites; Winter scented wonders are also a nice stimulus for the senses with a couple of standout plants being Sarcococca confusa the Christmas box and Mahonia japonica. Not forgetting the star of the show in February, Magnolia campbellii, the giant Champion Magnolia that lights the valley up with its magnificent display of largepink tulip-like flowers.’

Just as the garden doesn’t stop for the festive period, Darren has turned his thoughts to the new year and his plans for the garden through the seasons to come. Our big project for 2014 is to continue with and finish the Amphitheatre Project. We are currently in the process of building a granite Amphitheatreand stage area with seating foraround 230 people.’

Darren explains more about this ambitious project The construction has all been doneby the team and for my sins I volunteered to do the granite mortar work myself! We will be looking at putting in the electrical installations this winter and hope to light up some of the trees and the path down to enhance evening performances. We will have around 5 evening performances for the next year and will be inviting the likes of the Miracle Theatre and Duchy Opera.’ Certainly a case of watch this space.

Plant centre manager Debbie Dickey is running a wreath making workshop for those crafty visitors to the gardens. They will be madeon special clamping tables, which means you don't have tospend a lot of timemanually binding the foliage to the wreath ring - and is much kinder on the fingers!

We use several types of foliage - holly, conifers like green and gold leylandii and also the trimmings from the Christmas Trees which are used for decoration in the Visitor Centre and Santa's Grotto.’ This foliage is cut into short lengths and thenarranged onto the wreath rings and clamped into place. We can then decorate the wreaths using baked orange slices, pine cones, cinnamon sticks, berries and ribbon.’

Debbie has a great tip for anyone creating their own wreath or table decoration; The bottom branches of the trees are cut off to position the trees into their stands, so it's nice to use these offcuts to make something new and reduce waste.’

Leaving behind the gunnera canopy of summer collapsed by the year’s first frosts, the iconic sea of sky-blue hydrangeas that Trebah is famed for a distant memory of longer, warmer days, the year marches to a close but not without the chance to celebrate the season of goodwill.

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