UK : Cornwall : Trengwainton Garden #1

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In the hills behind the Cornish coastal town of Penzance, in the small village of Madron, is the National Trust Property of Trengwainton Garden.   Although the manor house at the top of the garden is still a private residence, the garden is open to the public.  We walked up the long gentle slope of this rather narrow garden by a winding path through dense plantings; we returned by the main driveway bedecked with Rhododendron on one side and a small stream planted with bog plants on the other.  The moorland misty rain had returned, but that didn’t dampen our enjoyment of this lovely garden.

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This garden is known for its collections of magnolias, rhododendron and camellias.

Although some had finished flowering, there were plenty left for us to enjoy.

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I love azaleas; so simple and simply beautiful, especially when jewelled with rain drops.

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Because spring had come late to Cornwall, there were still some magnolia flowers to enjoy.

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Both sides of the winding pathway are densely planted with a wide variety of plants…

plants that have their origins in many places across the globe.

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The ‘gulf stream’ climate here is perfect for the Australian native, Dicksonia.

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Many new season fronds were just beginning to uncurl.

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The unusual Fuchsia excorticata is a native plant of New Zealand.  Sometimes known in Cornwall by the common name of ‘Sunburn Tree’, the trunk of this large fuchsia is characterised by its red peeling bark.  This flower has an unusual blue pollen. The flowers are followed by dark purple, almost black berries, which some people say are delicious either raw or cooked.

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Some of the branches of the older trees have grown into strange shapes as they have sought the sun.

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Delightful rhododendron bells draw attention to themselves against swathes of dark green foliage .

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We think this plant belongs to the Malvacaea family of plants.

Does anyone know the name of this beauty?

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I’ve added two more photos of this flower in the hope that someone will identify it.

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In any case, it is a joy to behold!

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One densely planted part of the garden is backed by a large Pieris japonica.

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A closer look at the tree shows the beautiful softness of the combination of pinks and light greens.

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And a much closer look, shows the tiny bell like pink flowers of Pieris japonica.

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There are over 70 species of Hosta that can be used as dense and attractive ‘fillers’ along garden edges.

But, beware!  They are much loved as food by snails and slugs!

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On the other hand, they also act as beautiful receptacles for rain drops.

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As the spring flowers were beginning to fade in the garden,

so the summer flowering groups, like the hydrangeas, began to bloom.

It’s is certainly a garden for all seasons.

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The path crosses a small bridge where a pond is the highlight of the view.

It’s a good place to take a quiet rest

as the water bubbles out under the bridge over a small waterfall.

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The light, misty rain persisted, but only enough to give rhododendron flowers a refreshing glow.

The name comes from Ancient Greek:  rhódon meaning “rose” and déndron meaning ” tree”.

This photo gives a real hint of the reason for the ‘rose’ tag.

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Some rhododendron trees in their native habitats can grow very large indeed.

Even here, some were large enough to shelter beneath their branches.

That gave time to enjoy shapes of trunks and patterns on bark.

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Above us, hung more of those delightful Rhododendron bells.

There are over 1000 species of this plant, so gardeners are spoilt for choice.

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Finally the house came into view.  We had reached the top of the path.

This property, not open to the public, was once the residence of the powerful and very wealthy Cornish Arundell Family,  From small beginnings in the early 1200’s, when their only possession was the manor of Treloy in the parish of St Columb Major, the Arundells reached the height of their wealth and influence in the late sixteenth century when this house was built.  By then the family owned twenty-eight manors in Cornwall as well as manors and other properties in Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

The house was altered and extented in the 18th and 19th centuries and is now a Grade II listed building.  In 1814, this estate was bought by a Jamaican sugar plantation owner, Rose Price.  However, by 1833, his fortunes were diminished when his slaves in Jamaica were freed by the Emancipation Act.  In 1867, the house was bought by the Bolitho family.  Members of that family still live here.

The gardens were given to the National Trust in 1961 and are very well cared for by that organisation.  We’ll explore a very different part of this garden in our next Cornwall episode.

Jennie  and David

Photography copyright © JT and DY  of jtdytravels

UK: Cornwall: Trelissick Gardens # 1

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Flower beds line the short entrance walk into the main gardens.

Purple iris were brilliant against the greens.

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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.

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Colours, shapes and textures were carefully blended in the garden design.

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There were delightful small plants, too, like this Scilla peruviana.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Northern Ireland, Rowallane Gardens

‘Rowallane is one of the foremost gardens in the British Isles… it’s a unique garden, a place to lose yourself” in the woods and meadows of a 52 acre estate, or, as the Irish call it, a’demesne’. So said the brochure for this National Trust property just south of Belfast, near the town of Saintfield.  With that sort of invitation, Rowallane was a definite on our ‘must visit’ list. And what we found was indeed worthy of being called a great garden.

The garden’s history began when the Reverend John Moore began planting here in the 1860s. He continued to develop the garden until 1903 when his nephew, Hugh Armytage Moore, inherited the property. The National Trust took over in 1955 and they have been restoring, maintaining and developing the garden ever since.

As we entered through the gates, we quickly left behind the busy road to drive along an enchanting avenue of trees that gave promise of the woodland walks to come – as detailed in the brochure.. However, that was not to be for us. Why? 
The whole property was totally waterlogged by all of the rain that had tumbled down over Ireland in June. As one young Irishman said to me,”Ireland is a beautiful country – but what it needs is a roof!”   That’s very true, but you can’t have amazing green countryside and lush parks and gardens without rain. What we needed was what every self-respecting Irish person has available in the boot of their car at all times – Wellington boots!  But gumboots, as we call them, we did not have. We had all the rest of the wet weather gear required – but we did not have those essential gumboots! 

The first sight of the garden after coming through that avenue is of a green and lush treed park. What we couldn’t see was the layer of water lying under the grass.  It looked so inviting, but walking here for a closer look at all the conifers, rhododendrons, azaleas, and many other shrubs and trees was just out of the question.

This lingering bloom spoke of the spring that had just been and the promise of the next spring to come. Rowallane is renowned for its spring rhododendron and azalea display with the red flowers of the many lofty tree Rhododendrons and massed banks of lower growing varieties in a wide spectrum of colours. These are probably at their best in May. And with so many deciduous trees amongst the plantings, this must be a spectacular park when in full autumn foliage.

This famous rhododendron collection has been skilfully grouped with other shrubs and trees in the undulating site creating a scene that’s a delight to the eye. This garden is not only for plantsmen but also for the artist within us all.

After the Reverend Moore had transformed the barren hillsides into a wooded parkland and created the walled gardens and ‘pleasure grounds’, his nephew added the skills of a true planstman to develop the garden we see today. His vision was to create an informal garden, one which would be a wildlife-friendly environment, and one which would include plants from all corners of the globe, many of them rare.

He used the landscape of the drumlins to add form to his design.  The drumlins (from the Irish word droimnin meaning ‘little ridge’) are in the shape of an inverted spoon or a half buried egg. They were formed long ago by glacial ice compacting the underlying moraine. So although the climate is wet, the plants have naturally good drainage from these rounded ridges. They add interest and shape to Moore’s plantings throughout the park.

At the time of our visit, it was raining intermittently and the grounds of Rowallane’s large park were just too boggy for walking.  So we missed out on seeing the natural Rock Garden with its plantings of a wide range of alpines, heathers and dwarf rhododendrons and where meconopsis and primula were in full bloom. We also missed out on the meadows where wildflowers and masses of orchids grow. And we couldn’t walk through the farmlands that include higher drumlins that afford fabulous panoramic views over the Down countryside towards the Mountains of Mourne. Nor could we stretch our legs walking along the paths through the woods of mature trees. Many of those trees were planted in the latter half of the 1800s and early 1900s and include many rare trees and shrubs.  Next time perhaps!

In the years after the National Trust took over, one of the foremost consultants for the garden’s restoration was Lady Jean O’Neill, chairman of the National Trust Gardens Committee. This renowned plantswoman was widow of one time Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O’Neill. After her death on July 15th 2008 at the age of 93, her obituary in the Telegraph on 3rd August said of her that she was:

” a passionate plantswoman, capable of identifying everything from a blade of grass to a rainforest liana… Never claiming to be anything but an amateur, Lady O’Neill developed, and retained throughout her life, a photographic memory both for botanical detail and for the overall “look” of a plant; her recall for the latter would enable her to make a swift, positive identification where a professional botanist could only do so on completing a long technical process.

Her wide knowledge won the admiration of (many in the horticultural elite of the time). Jean O’Neill was also greatly interested in the history of plants, particularly of those which arrived in the British Isles from the New World.”

What better person than this to lead the restoration of Rowallane in keeping with Hugh Armytage Moore’s vision. It’s good to know that in the capable hands of the National Trust’s gardeners, the maintenance of this great garden will continue for many years to come for the pleasure of all. And for this alone, it is worth being a National Trust member, as we are.

On our day at Rowallane, one of the few dry areas was the old stone and brick stables, built by Reverend Moore.

The soft earthy colours of the stable wall makes a good background for the plants in the larger walled garden.

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Even the stones themselves provided horticultural interest with ferns, mosses and lichens finding a niche to grow.

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A different patterning of the stones and bricks was used to build the outer surrounds of the outer walled gardens.

Another of the Reverend Mooore’s projects was to improve the house. During 2012, it has again been under renovation, to provide better offices for the National Trust’s regional headquarters and better facilities for visitors and conferences.

In 1903, when the ‘demesne’ of Rowallane was inherited by Reverend Moore’s nephew, Hugh Armytage Moore, the garden itself inherited a very knowledgable and keen plantsman. Not only is his name well respected in Irish horticulture but also, in 1942, the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain awarded him the ‘Victoria Medal of Honour’. He raised many of the plants in this garden from seeds collected from various parts of the world, particularly in China and the Himalayan regions, by such well known plant hunters as Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Frank Kingdom Ward. He established important connections with Botanic Gardens throughout the world particularly in Edinburgh,Scotland and Kew, London.  And throughout his years cultivating plants, he gave many new cultivars and hybrids the name ‘Rowallane’ such as the Candelabra Primula ‘Rowallane Rose’.

This is the original Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Rowallane’, grown by Hugh Armytage Moore from seed collected in the wild by Ernest Wilson in Eastern Asia where viburnum originates. This tree is just one of many in the gardens that bear witness to the horticultural skill and expertise of this great plantsman.

Unfortunately, we saw this special Viburnum just at the end of flowering – the petals, somewhat damaged by rain.

But we could see how these flat-topped pure white flower clusters are made up of an outer ring of large, sterile florets surrounding a central mass of small, fertile flowers.

Although the boggy conditions meant that we did not experience all that this great garden has to offer, we were able to spend a lot of time in the two excellent walled gardens. Our trigger fingers were kept busy photographing some fascinating plants and flowers – some of them with that real ‘wow’ factor.  In my next journal, we’ll look at some of the plants that attracted our special attention that day.  It was so pleasing to see that these walled gardens are kept in excellent condition by the National Trust gardeners.  We know that many gardens are not being well maintained in these times of economic downturn, but Rowallane has kept up its very high standards. We recommend it highly.

Photography © JT for jtdytravels