The rocky road to spring- how the Cornish gardens survived the winter of 2018

Couple walking at Cotehele

It’s no secret that the winter has been long and tough, not just for us, but also for the gardens in Cornwall. Gardens expert, Ian Wright talks about how this winter and its many storms have affected the gardens around Cornwall.

The snow, rain and wind have resulted in a very short floristic window. The weather this winter has obviously damaged the more tender plants in the Cornish gardens.

However, some of these tender plants have held out and are blooming a little later than usual. This means that early spring flowers will join up with later spring flowers. For example, we could end up seeing bluebells out at the same as camellias, or daffodils, compacting spring colour into a bright garden canvas for May and June. 

What's thrived and what's not survived? 

  • Snow damaged the more tender plants such as the magnolia campbellii's flowers, which the county is famous for. However, later magnolias have survived and they’re starting to make their appearance.
  • Daffodils have proven sturdy and have survived, just not in the vast numbers we’re used too.
  • Lots of tree ferns are browner than usual, and they will be ok in the future if the crowns were not frosted, but they might look raggedy for a while.
  • The camellia has proven this winter’s hero. They lost early flowers, but as they flower over a long period with a number of buds, there are still plenty of flowers. They’re not just spring flowers, and in Cornwall they can start to show as early as October and continue until June.
Camellia bud
Pink camellia bud at Trengwainton Garden
Camellia bud

The extreme wet weather has had an impact on gardeners as well. They’re having put off the winter tasks such as lawn maintenance and planting borders. Any attempt to do it while it’s so wet, would damage soil and grass. As a result it’s still too early to know what the long term effects of this winter are on the gardens. 

Our gardeners are internationally renowned for their high standards
National Trust gardeners at work at Cotehele, Cornwall
Our gardeners are internationally renowned for their high standards

This winter and the weather it’s brought has made us think about what we plant and were it comes from. We need to continue to safeguard the future of these gardens, and realising that some tender plants might not survive unpredictable winter weather, is a big part of that.  

These beautiful areas might had had challenges but it’s proven that gardens can be resilient when looked after, a big thank you to members and supporters who help us continue the work needed to keep these gardens going.

" Bring on spring, we’ve definitely earnt it this year. "

Great Gardens of Cornwall

The National Trust are part of a group called the Great Gardens of Cornwall. Here is a video exploring all the exotic and varied gardens around Cornwall.