Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Trengwainton Gardens, Penzance

Following on from my last post about 'The Jungle' at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, I thought it would be nice to show a series of photos from Trengwainton Gardens, near Penzance. We visitied the day after Heligan, way back at the end of May.

Whilst Trengwainton is very different to Heligan, I found it to be just as exciting. The gardens are renowned for their collection of rare specimen exotic trees and shrubs, and I was not to be disappointed. From a plantsman's point of view, this place is paradise!

Owned by the National Trust, this 26 acre garden boasts a wonderful microclimate thanks to it's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the gulf stream on the South Western edge of the UK. It is close enough to the sea to benefit from the associated mild winters, but far enough away to avoid issues with excessive salt scorch and exposure. The dense planting of woodland surrounding the gardens also provides an effective windbreak, ensuring that the many decidedly tender plants flourish within the grounds. 

One of the highlights of Trengwainton is its stream garden. This small watercourse has been brilliantly planted with marginal aquatic plants and moisture loving species. Immaculate hostas jostled with brightly coloured primulas and Zantedeschia aethiopica - both the standard white form and the ever popular 'Green Goddess'. We timed our visit to perfection - the stream garden was looking stunning!

Hostas and primulas - a perfect choice for moist ground in dappled light.
As a gardener, plant combinations such as this are always inspiring!
Zantedeschia, primulas and crocosmia in the Stream Garden.
Along with the healthy stands of Zantedeschia, other plants from the aroid family included Arum italicum  and Lysichiton americanus - the American Skunk Cabbage. The latter had finished flowering, but evidence of it's bright yellow spathes remained in the shape of the seed heads, covered in ripening fruits. Technically, this structure is termed an infructescence. How about that for a word to casually slip into conversation?!

Lysichiton americanus - the American Skunk Cabbage with ripening seeds.
Trengwainton has a remarkable collection of Tree Ferns, and I cannot ever remember seeing so many Dicksonia antarctica growing in one place! This species seemed to be self sowing itself, with young plants growing all over the place - testament to the mild and humid conditions. And not only were there lots of them, but some were big. Really big! In fact, some of the Dicksonia antarctica were the biggest I've ever seen.

Other species of tree fern were also to be seen. Dicksonia fibrosa and Dicksonia squarrosa both looked to be in good health. If only I could get away with growing them here in my garden!
Petasites in the foreground, Dicksonia antarctica in the background.
Some of the Dicksonia were enourmous! Cyathea dealbata in the background.
The prize for the most impressive fern had to go to Cyathea dealbata, of which there were a couple of simply gorgeous specimens. This fast growing species is notoriously tender. I could see no signs of pots being sunk into the ground for the summer months, so I assume they were permanent plantings. A mighty fine effort indeed! For a truly tropical effect, it is hard to beat the sight of the wonderfully luxuriant fronds and black trunk. I've been keen to grow this plant for some time, and if I ever find a small juvenile plant for sale I'd find it hard to resist!

Cyathea dealbata. I want it!
Backlit Cyathea dealbata fronds. Nice!
With so many trees and shrubs of note, it is hard to pick just a few to highlight here. However, I will make a mention of this Pseudopanax which was starting to produce it's adult leaves, as opposed to the long stiff leaves found on a juvenile plant. Close by, a large Fatsia polycarpa was busy pushing out a large flush of new leaves.

Silouetted pseudopanax
Fatsia polycarpa
The notoriously fickle Coryline indivisia appeared perfectly at home, growing on a sunny bank in a woodland clearing. This relative of the much more common, and much less demanding Cordyline australis, has a reputation for suddenly going to terminal decline for no apparent reason. The roots of this plant need a constant environment with no significant fluctuations in moisture levels or sudden changes in temperature. Consequently, it never survives for long in a pot, and needs very careful siting in the garden.
Cordyline indivisia
My final photo of this stunning garden is of an impressive Schefflera taiwaniana. This plant is gradually becoming more widely available and is highly effective within the exotic style garden. Commonly seen as a single stemmed small shrub, there were several specimens at Trengwainton that were moderate sized trees, and were certainly the largest that I'd set eyes upon. This particular species is on the wish list for my own garden, but I can only dream of a specimen the size of these!

Schefflera taiwaniana - not a bad size! Cyathea dealbata behind.


  1. I understand your excitement for this garden, which we visited for the first time last May. A gorgeous garden, beautifully planted and full of plant treasures!

  2. I haven't been down for a year or seven but I'll agree that it's a lovely garden with some fabulous specimen plants. Like you I've a hankering for Cyathea dealbata but the only chance I've got is to start with a young specimen and somehow protect it over the winter in my little shade house or the slightly bigger greenhouse I've got planned for this autumn. I've tried Dicksonia squarrosa in the past but it only lasted a couple of years before the cold finished it off. It is a very different climate down there - even if it's only 70 miles away from Plymouth

  3. Yes, the climate down in the far South West is very different. I've not grown Dicksonia squarrosa, but have a small struggling D.fibrosa here - just the one stunted frond this year, so it looks like curtains for this poor plant.

    My only hope with these tree fern species would also be to to buy small and overwinter under protection.