Digging Deeper - Spring in sight

Wisteria grows on the exterior of the Trelissick's old walled garden

Surely most garden lovers would agree that our favourite time of year is now upon us. Spring is the season full of promise of good things to come; however cold, windy and wet it may have been over the last few months, warmer, brighter days are on their way.

It may be hard to believe right now, but just take a look at the gardens as they visibly change week by week. The soft, tender growth of new foliage bursting through the soil contrasts beautifully with the first flashes of colour that the snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils bring. Spring is, at the very least, in sight.

Throughout the year, the weather takes its toll on the garden, dictating the work that we can (and can’t) carry out, and this is never more true than in the winter and early spring months. Even by Cornish standards, this winter has been an especially soggy one, resulting in our lawns becoming saturated. You may have noticed that some areas are roped off; not only are wet lawns a slip hazard, they become more prone to long-term damage. As the soil becomes compacted by the pressure of even the slightest footfall, the turf is much more susceptible to dying back due to lack of oxygen. Protecting them now means that they have more chance of flourishing for the rest of the year. Where you see grass roped off, we appreciate your help in taking care of these fragile spaces by keeping to the paths.

The main lawn is currently roped off to ensure it can be enjoyed during summer
Gardening work being undertaken at Trelissick in early spring
The main lawn is currently roped off to ensure it can be enjoyed during summer

In a classic Cornish garden such as Trelissick, camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias are the undeniable stars of the moment. The Spring Walk near the house is the perfect place to see many of them at their best, under planted with hellebores and the gorgeous spring flowering bulb Scilla liliohyacinthus. And be sure to see Rhododendron ‘Russellianum’ – you’ll find a majestic specimen at the top of the main lawn, covered in crimson blooms. To see magnolias at their best, head over the bridge to Carcaddon. It’s pretty hard to beat Magnolia denudata and Magnolia x soulangeana, although the more understated but no less beautiful Magnolia stellata remains one of our favourites. 

While the plants put on a glorious display of colour, the hard work put in by the garden staff and volunteers continues. Borders and beds need mulching before new plant growth emerges, leaves are collected for next year’s leaf mould and hydrangeas must be pruned. We’ve been busier than ever this winter thinning trees and shrubs, and allowing air and light to penetrate once dark spaces, such as the border nearest the house on the entrance path. As always, a queue of plants sits patiently behind the scenes in our nursery, awaiting a spring planting session and their inevitable move onto the main stage of the garden. 

Our sweeping mixed herbaceous borders are just beginning to wake from their winter dormancy. They start the year as wide expanses of bare soil, with nothing but a backbone of trees and shrubs visible, but spring bulbs and herbaceous perennials are already beginning to emerge. Come May, the wisterias burst into flower, creating a subdued backdrop of soft mauve and turning our thoughts to early summer with the anticipation of lush growth, colour and texture that’s still to come. The garden is a constantly moving portrait, making use of a palette of plants that never stands still, and spring is just the beginning.


Spring - Month by month

Magnolia flowering in Trelissick garden, Cornwall


March provides a breath of fresh air in the garden following the subdued winter. Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils have already emerged at this point providing carpets of delicate flowers. However, the magnolias steal the show in March with their beautiful blooms. The harsh snowy weather at the beginning of the month has unfortunately stunted this year's blooms, but there are still a number of hardy buds that survived to display their beauty.

Rhododendron magnifcum in Trelissick garden, Cornwall


Rhododendrons and camellias have been flowering sporadically over the preceding months however during April they truly begin to shine. Rhododendrons across the garden burst to life with each tree or shrub boasting a plethora of blooms. This is also when deciduous trees cloak themselves in new leaves having been bare since late autumn, with cherry and some apple trees blossoming.

Wisteria in bloom in the garden at Trelissick


Cornish wildflowers and bluebells swathe the banks of the garden. Wisteria flowers cascade from the wall the climber clings to providing a gorgeous display of lilac hues. The orchard's trees become heavy with blossom in anticipation of the autumn's harvest. Pollinators such as honey bees make the most of this bounty and the garden comes alive with the hum of their activity.