Real gardens: Trebah

Trebah is a garden that leaves you wishing you were a child again so you could run through the forests of giant rhubarb and clamber through the ravine, pretending you were an explorer. Actually, when I visited  few years ago, I found myself secretly doing this anyway. This tropical ravine garden in Cornwall will leave you breathless. It isn’t just that the setting is sublime, or that the planting is so lush and exotic, or that so many of the trees, shrubs and plants are so rare. There is something extra to this garden, a little bit of magic.

Image by Claire Croft.

Planted in a ravine on the Helford estuary, the garden makes the very most of warm currents from the Gulf Stream. But Darren Dickey, the head gardener, tells me the site is so beautiful and fascinating year-round, that it remains open even on Christmas Day.

Image by Claire Croft.

Image by Claire Croft.

In the spring, the Rhododendron Valley lights up the centre of the garden, and as the Gunnera begins to sprout, the Camellias and Azaleas burst into bloom. There’s a water garden, with a colourful display of candelabra primulas, arum lilies and irises, as well as 50,000 daffodils around the site. A rare Magnolia campbellii is covered from masses of pink flowers from February, followed by an incredible Handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata var vilmoriniana), which is draped with thousands of creamy white bracts in May.

Image by Colin Boylett.

Image by Colin Boylett.

Image by Colin Boylett.

In the summer, children (and childish adults) run through the Gunnera plantation and among the blue mophead hydrangeas in the valley, down to the huge lake with blue Monet bridge and the beach.

But if you thought Trebah was just a one-trick pony tropical garden only worth visiting in the warmer months, you would miss another beautiful dimension to the site. During the winter, a scented plant collection guides you through the garden. Darren’s particular favourites include the Incense Bush (Ageratina ligustrina), Christmas box (Sarcococca), Lonicera fragrantissima and various forms of Mahonia. Other plants of interest include the coloured stems of the acers, and early-flowering camellias such as C.sasanqua ‘Crimson King’. Sixty thousand snowdrops, crocuses, winter aconites and cyclamen also spread under the trees and palms.

Image by Colin Boylett.

Image by skipthebudgie.

This is a garden you really must visit. So have a look at the Trebah website to find out more.

Images provided by Trebah Gardens, Claire Croft, skipthebudgie and Colin Boylett. You cannot reproduce these photographs without prior permission of the photographers.

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