Set above the southern banks of the River Fal in Cornwall, Trelissick Gardens are large and park like. In a picturesque setting, they cover a peninsular of several hundred acres of contoured land.
The garden has had many owners since its early days in the 1700s and each of them have made their own contribution to this garden. However, the greatest contributions have been made by Carew Gilbert in the late 1800s, Ida and Ronald Copeland from 1937 to 1995 and, since then, by the National Trust who now own the gardens. Three NT gardeners now take good care of the gardens with the help of volunteers (Friends of Trelissick) and students during their holidays.
The NT restored the orchard in the 1990s. It now contains 68 different apple trees, mainly Cornish varieties, and as such is a valuable asset to Cornish heritage. The grass in the orchard is left uncut in the summer to encourage wild flowers. Unfortunately we didn’t get to that part of the garden which must look good in any season with the spring apple blossoms, the summer wild flowers, the autumn apple harvest and then the tracery of the limbs in winter.
Overlooking the visitor car park is the former water tower with its delightful squirrel weather vane. Because the house and gardens are so far above the river, the water tower was built in about 1825 to pump water from the river. Looking more like a fairy castle, this is now one of five NT holiday cottages which can be rented on the estate. The house and gardens were given to the National Trust in 1955 with the proviso that future generations of the previous owners, the Copeland family, could live on in the house.
For now, just the gardens are open to the public. The reception, cafe and shop are housed in former farm buildings giving a rustic feel to the entrance. Once inside, the first thing that greeted us on a cool June morning was the beautiful sight and smell of wisteria. This curtain of flowers was labled as Wisteria floribunda ‘Macrobotrys’, a plant that has been known in Japan for at least 400 years.
Flower beds line the short entrance walk into the main gardens.
Purple iris were brilliant against the greens.
The markings on this yellow iris are stunning and the furled bud is so elegant.
It always pays to stop and take a closer look.
Colours, shapes and textures were carefully blended in the garden design.
There were delightful small plants, too, like this Scilla peruviana.
The main lawn spills down a slope to a border thick with trees and shrubs. In the centre of the lawn is a large Cryptomeria japonica, Japanese Cedar, planted in the garden in 1898 by the estate’s owner at that time, Carew Gilbert.
Carew was a great traveller and brought back many exotic plants from Japan, southern Europe, North and South America. Many of the bigger specimen trees in the garden were planted in his time. This one dwarfs David. It’s magnificent.
Paths run along the top of the slope with glimpses of the River Fal.
Above the river, at the top of the hill, is a glimpse of the Tregothnan Estate owned by Lord Falmouth’s family.
A closer view of the large mansion at Tregothnan. In 1832, Lord Falmouth of Tregothnan bought Trelissick from the then owners, the Daniells. The cost of building a new house at Trelissick and a slump in mining had forced the Daniell family into bankruptcy. The house was unlived in and the gardens untended until 1844, when the estate was purchased by John Gilbert, father of the plant hunter, Carew Gilbert. Thankfully, a keen gardener had come to live on the estate and his plantings form the skeleton of the gardens today.
There is plenty of space in this garden to wander and unwind as you discover the great variety of plants that grow in the various micro climates formed by the topography of the garden and sheltered by those trees planted by Carew Gilbert.
It’s a garden to be enjoyed in any season of the year although early spring and autumn must be the most spectacular. We were there at the end of spring when the garden was filled with many different greens highlighted by an occasional splash of colour.
Trelissick is a huge garden. It’s not a place to try to see in just one visit.
Those who live near by, can take it in a section at a time, a season at a time.
We would, if we could.
At the end of an hour or so of enjoying the garden and its trees, we came upon a small NT gate house. From there, steps lead down to the River Fal and the ferry, a popular way for people to come to the garden from north of the river. There’s also a river side path that’s always freely open to the public. This path area is thickly planted to give the main garden protection from the wild Cornish winter winds.
We decided to take the river side woodland walk and go on through the farm, leaving more wandering in the main garden until the afternoon. We’ll show you something of that relaxing walk in our next episode about Trelissick and then we’ll come back to explore more of the garden after that.
Jennie and David
All photographs copyright © JT and DY of jtdytravels