With less than a week until the end of February, there seems to be no end in sight to this miserable weather, and apart from the snowdrops and a few camellias, there's little in bloom right now in most parts of Britain. But it's a very different story further west and I've been following the Cornish gardens story on Twitter to put a little spring into my step, because a group of gardens in southwest are tweeting about their magnolia blooms as they come into flower @Gr8Gardens.
|Caerhays Castle has spectacular spring blooms and is home to the Williamsii camellia|
Caerhays Castle has much to commend it - location, history and a glorious selection of early spring blooms. The early 19th century castle is surrounded by 60 acres of woodland garden with fine views over the sea and many rare species brought home from Chinese plant-hunting expeditions. Famous worldwide for its early season displays of camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons and home to the Williamsii camellia, which was propagated here. Open daily until 16th June (10.00-17.00) - well worth making a special effort to see.
|Glendurgan garden is on the Helford River - famous for its laurel maze|
Glendurgan is one of several National Trust properties in the area, renowned for its early spring displays, but also for its laurel maze (above). The gardens sit in a deep ravine overlooking the Helford River and and provide plenty of scope for exploring. Open daily (except Mondays) from 10.30-17.30, it is one of several properties in this immediate area that appeal to garden lovers, including Trebah (below).
|The crenellated gatehouse at Lanhydrock near Bodmin|
Combine Lanhydrock (above) with Trewithen (left) as they are within a short drive of each other and you'll be stunned by the early spring displays. Lanhydrock is another National Trust property which remains open throughout the year (10.00-18.00 or dusk, depending on the season) set in glorious parkland, and with a fine, manicured garden surrounding the 17th century house. There is a striking formal lawn at the front of the house with topiary yews and at the rear is the Higher Garden, filled with fine collections of azaleas, camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons. The surrounding parkland makes it an ideal garden for long walks.
Trewithen is another of Cornwall's great woodland gardens (Grade II listed), open from 1st March to 30th September (10.00-16.30). There's 30 acres to explore here, and from the beginning of the season, when the daffodils bloom, there's always something in flower. Part of the joy of this garden is that so many of the plants are well established, so spring displays are quite spectacular. There's also an 18th century secret walled garden that opens occasionally, but do check website to see when.
If you're going to Glendurgan, you can't miss Trebah - another spectacular spring garden which also leads down to the Helford River. Renowned for its rhododendrons, and later in the year, its hydrangeas, this garden also has the tallest Chusan palms in the country and remains open year round. Hard to believe that it's only 25 acres because there is so much to see here. Open daily from 10.00-17.00.
Heading further west en route to Penzance you come to Tremenheere, Trengwainton and Trewidden - each one very different, but all worth visiting. Tremenheere only opened in 2010 but has one of the finest views over St Micheal's Mount you'll find anywhere in Cornwall - an exceptional garden, with wonderful planting and a great sense of expectation, as the landscape begins to mature. Open daily from 10.00 on Easter Sunday, closed Mondays until then. Trengwainton is owned by the National Trust and offers a wonderful walled garden as well as excellent spring displays (open daily 10.00-17.00); and Trewidden, famous for its magnolias and created by successive generations of the Bolitho family, has taken on a whole new life since it opened to the public 10 years ago (open daily from 10.30-17.30).
|Trebah, like Glendurgan, has a ravine garden leading down to the Helford River|
|Tremenheere is a newly opened and with a heart of its own - well worth watching as plants mature|