VISITING TRENGWAINTON GARDENS
PUBLISHED: 10:57 16 May 2014 | UPDATED: 13:14 30 August 2017
Trengwainton Gardens in Cornwall celebrates the arrival of spring and opens its gates to visitors keen to enjoy the botanical paradise
With hopefully the worst of the winter behind us and spring true on the horizon, Trengwainton’s gates open to eager visitors again this month. Being one of the bright botanical jewels in the Cornish garden crown, we don’t mind the wait
Obviously the trees and shrubs in bloom during February will depend on the winter we’ve had so far but suffice to say there is likely to be more colour and impact here, than in almost any other part of the UK. Tending this space is Head Gardener of four years Philip Griffiths and his team.
Coming from another amazing Cornish garden; Antony House near Torpoint, Phillip has been at Trengwainton for 12 years and describes himself as Cornish and proud.’ He is passionate about Cornwall and Trengwainton his team consists of three full-time and 1 part-time staff members as well as a dedicated band of volunteers who work together to keep the 25 acres of garden within the 100 acre estate beautifully maintained and continually developed.
Taking in The Long Walk up the spine of the garden is joyful, walking these paths under the canopy of magnolias in full bloom, their magnificent flowers held proudly on naked stems accompanied by the mature rhododendron and camellia plantings alive with the history and excitement of knowing that they arrived into this county and some specimens even to this garden before being widely cultivated elsewhere is intoxicating particularly when the month is taken into consideration.
'Sitting up on the terrace, the view from the summerhouse across to Mounts Bay, the Lizard and Godolphin Hill, as a Cornishman it’s what I love about the garden and this county; its fantastic scenery.’
Approaching the Terrace via The Long Walk with those acid-loving plants on either side is tremendous at this time of year with the pay-off being a particularly fine view of some iconic Cornish landmarks. Philip and his team have plans to replant the terrace in 2014 with exotic protea and banksia, they’ll thrive in the full-sun as the terrace is almost south-facing. These tough South African natives will also cope well with this exposed site.
Head Gardener Philip’s favourite spot with in the garden is actually this view, Sitting up on the terrace, the view from the summerhouse across to Mounts Bay, the Lizard and Godolphin Hill, as a Cornishman it’s what I love about the garden and this county; its fantastic scenery.’ At the end of a busy day, perhaps it’s no surprise that Phil can be found taking in this unique setting, reminding himself of the wider landscape and the position that Trengwainton occupies within it.
Back down the Drive toward expansive views of farmland and a variety of informal garden rooms are discovered. The Dig for Victory plot, where an area of the garden was given over to Land Girls during the war, now acts as a reminder of Trengwainton’s contribution. On to the Foliage garden celebrating all things leafy and textured.
The Fuchsia garden, now Philip has his eye on this and hopes to develop it to show the amazing diversity of species fuchsias rather than the ones we plant in our containers and hanging baskets. Many Chilean and Bolivian fuchsias deserve a little of the spotlight and this area at Trengwainton is just the stage they need.
The Kitchen Garden interestingly was built to the same dimensions as Noah’s Ark, 300 cubits long and 50 cubits wide is now widely used for the garden’s events and by various local groups but is famous for its incredible annual veg and salad displays nestling within the incredibly maintained kitchen garden. The Union Flag being one notable piece of living artwork the team have created.
Trengwainton is used and enjoyed by a diverse range of people, the value to the wider community is immeasurable. Working closely with the Job Centre to build confidence and team working skills, CN4C, Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change, running organic gardening courses in the Kitchen Garden, Pinnacle People and many local schools Many families come to our events and then return throughout the year, it’s a lovely feeling when the children recognise the team and enjoy the garden enough to come back,’ explains Philip.
There is something quite magical about plants blooming in the coldest temperatures, petals in the frost the triumph over adversity for the botanical world yet slowly these early spring stars are quietly going about their business. One very special Rhododendron has received plenty of attention over the last few years and the results are about to be revealed.
Having worked closely for the past four years with Defra and Ros Smith at the Duchy College, Rosewarne, micro propagation laboratory the first batch of Rhododendron macabeanum is ready to be planted out into the garden at Trengwainton. It’s a significant and important horticultural development, not only is the shrub stunning to look at but it first flowered in the UK in the gardens here and went on to win a First Class certificate when the Bolitho family exhibited it in the 1930s.
As a project 20-30 plants were grown to ensure against losses from Sudden Oak Death which can seriously affect rhododendrons. Trengwainton is to plant three in the spring and the rest will be planted in other suitable gardens.
Now sitting comfortably in the fold of the National Trust since 1961 Trengwainton’s future is decided. Historically, the Price family planted many trees, the landscape here would have resembled Bodmin Moor had it not been for Sir Rose Price. The family also put in the shelter belt mainly of beech which is now reaching 200 years old so another consideration is what to replace it with and how. The shelter belt allowed the following owners, further generations of the Bolitho family, to experiment, cultivate and nurture a wider range of plants within the comparable calm of the garden.
As for the future, head gardener Philip talks about the wider vision for the garden; Passion for plants, improving growing facilities to improve the garden and restocking after the Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death) outbreak are all things we’re working on. The 1920s and 30s was a really experimental time for Trengwainton, that’s something I’m keen to get back to.’ Philip is also working on mapping the garden and geo tagging each plant to develop and accurate database of the specimens growing here.
Cornwall is renowned for its spring gardens and those who visit at this time of year although aware of what to expect, the excitement never wanes, a floral spectacle during these chilly weeks, reminding us that there is more to come in the seasons ahead. An optimistic looking glass for any one appreciating beauty in nature, it certainly awakens the senses and creates a little frisson of horticultural anticipation.