Wild and exotic

A young palm tree grows among a carpet of bluebells at Glendurgan in Cornwall

Beautiful and intriguing exotic plants and banks of restful wildflowers are tucked into three sheltered valleys leading down to the Helford River.

We're very lucky to have a very gentle climate to grow plants in at Glendurgan. The three valleys of the garden are sheltered from the worst winds and the rare frosts we experience 'drain' down to the river at the bottom.

" There was, at Glendurgan, no original design for the grounds, but it gradually worked into what it is now"
- Sarah Fox to her son George, 1890

Carpets of wildflowers

Glendurgan suffered a severe storm in 1990 which felled over 70 trees in a matter of hours. This left large areas of the garden open where previously they'd been covered in trees. The garden team at the time took the bold decision not to replant with trees but instead to manage these open areas for wildflowers to flourish. This means only cutting the banks twice a year and raking off all cut material to stop nutrients building up. Wildflowers like low-nutrient soil where they'll happily grow but domineering grasses won't.

Today you'll see primroses and violets from mid-February, daffodils in March then bluebells at the end of April / early May. The final act is a haze of towering aquilegias or columbines in May. When all of this is over the wildflower banks are left for seeds to spread. This creates a perfect home for many different types of wildlife including moths, butterflies and beetles.

Bank of aquilegia
Different coloured aquilegia flowers rise above surrounding wildflowers and grasses on a bank at Glendurgan in Cornwall

Tall trees

Looking into the valleys of Glendurgan from the upper paths it's hard not to be grateful to the first members of the Fox family who lived here for planting such handsome trees. Some of their chosen specimens would have been relatively new to Great Britain at the time. There's a mixture of mature conifers (some of which have rich autumn colours), sturdy broad-leaved trees like the impressive Tulip tree and also smaller flowering trees such as magnolias and dogwoods.

Tulip tree in autumn
The thick trunk and branches of a tulip tree is silhouetted against an autumn sky with yellow leaves at Glendurgan in Cornwall

Intriguing exotics

Although the tree collection at Glendurgan is 'exotic' (not native to Great Britain), there are also plants which clearly hail from foreign shores. You'll see tree ferns with their fibrous trunks, palms with tough, shiny leaves, bananas with their large, paddle-shaped leaves and also rigid, spiky succulents.

This part of Cornwall is so damp that moss and native ferns grow easily on the trunks of older trees. We've taken this further recently by adding exotic epiphytic plants to various trunks and branches. Epiphytic plants don't need soil to grow in, taking the moisture and nutrients they need from rain and the air around them.

Epiphytes growing on a fallen tree
A fallen tree has epiphytic plants growing off it at Glendurgan in Cornwall