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Things to see at Glendurgan Garden

A thatched hut at Glendurgan Garden in summer
The thatched hut at Glendurgan | © National Trust Images/Hilary Daniel

Three valleys join into one at Glendurgan and within this garden, a beautiful and intriguing blend of exotic and native plants thrive. There are impressive plants and natural beauty to be discovered, including a little-known orchard and the re-creation of a small 19th-century school room. At the heart of the garden is the historic maze, just waiting to be tackled before you head down to Durgan beach for an ice cream.

Wildflower Week

Visit from the 11th - 19th May to see Glendurgan’s bounty of wildflowers fill the sloping sides of the valley - including aquilegias, orchids, yellow rattle, and of course - bluebells.

Camellia Walk

Just past the visitor welcome building, some mixed planting, recently replanted by the garden team, provides a splash of colour no matter the season.

The path leads to the Camellia Walk, where early varieties start flowering in late autumn, but early spring is the time to see them at their best.

The Holy Bank

While following the upper path it's possible for you to catch a glimpse of the River Helford in the distance. Here, there are trees with religious connotations, such as the Glastonbury thorn (Crataegus 'Praecox') and Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum).

Sitting on the South end of Holy Bank is a stunning magnolia, Magnolia x veitchii 'Peter Veitch', which is surrounded by carpets of virbant wildlfowers in Spring.

Seasonal flowers

Look out for daffodils and primroses at the start of the year, which give way to bluebells, wild garlic, violets, gladioli, aquilegias and wild orchids as spring and early summer arrive.

Two people using the boat seat surrounded by flowers and shrubs
The boat seat at Glendurgan | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Olive Grove and Orchard

The olive grove and apple orchard are tucked away en route to the school room. The Fox family produced a bounty of fruits, and the apple orchard is a gesture towards the historic fruit production.

Today, there are local Cornish varieties of apples plus figs, pecans and kiwis. Mown grass paths allow you to wander among the apple trees.

Apple Shed

Tucked away near the beehives is our Apple Shed, a space to unwind and reconnect with nature. Design a bug hotel, write a poem, learn about apple trees or try on bee-keeping outfits. Listen to the bees buzzing while you enjoy a picnic in the shade amongst the trees.

Consider the bees

Three beehives were installed here in 2019 so be aware of the resident honeybees. A section of the apple orchard is roped off to keep visitors a safe distance from the bees and to allow them to do their work.

School Room at Glendurgan

Sitting at the top of one of Glendurgan’s three valleys, reached via the path through the olive grove, is the old school room. The small, thatched building was re-created by the Fox family, the garden team and local schoolchildren in 2002, but four of the windows are from the original building of 1829.

On damp days the tiny building provides shelter with a fine view down Birch's orchard.

Giant’s Stride

Not far from the school room is the Giant’s Stride erected in 1913.

The idea is that, by grabbing the handles of the rotating ropes and running around the pole, the more airborne you become.

Explore Glendurgan's lower valley

The inspiration for developing the lower valley came from decades of travel by members of the Fox family and gardeners at Glendurgan; and it now reflects the character of distant countries such as Bhutan and New Zealand.

Temperate climate

The plants that continue to thrive here, including giant rhubarb and impressive bamboo, do so due to the similar temperate climate experienced in their origin country.

There are also tree ferns with their fibrous trunks and large-leafed banana plants.

Epiphytic plants

This area of Cornwall is so damp that moss and native ferns grow easily on the trunks of more mature trees. The garden team has added exotic epiphytic plants to various trunks and branches.

Epiphytic plants don’t need soil to grow, they take moisture and nutrients from rain and the air.

Visitors exploring the maze at Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall
Visitors exploring the maze at Glendurgan Garden | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Glendurgan’s Maze

At the heart of the garden is Glendurgan’s ancient cherry laurel maze. Planted on one side of the valley, this living puzzle has been entertaining visitors who have been getting lost along its winding paths for nearly 200 years.

Some people, however, prefer sitting opposite and watching others complete the puzzle.

The Cherry Laurel

The cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is vigorous enough to withstand regular trimming and footsteps around its roots. Palm trees mark the four corners of the puzzle and a thatched summerhouse sits in the middle.

Cherry Orchard at Glendurgan

The cherry orchard is the perfect spot for a break and to take in the surroundings. As well as handkerchief trees, ornamental cherry trees and varieties of magnolia, the main highlights are the snowdrops and Lent lilies in February and March followed by carpets of bluebells in April and May.

Mown grass paths are ideal for wandering along during summer and the benches are a place from which to spot butterflies and dragonflies.

The Tulip Tree

Glendurgan's tree collection including mature conifers, magnolias and dogwoods, but the most impressive is the Tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera.

At almost 190 years old, the tulip tree proudly sits towards the top of the valley garden, providing a gorgeous display.

In late June, its cup-like flowers appear in hues of lime green and orange, while as autumn approaches the giant green leaves take on bright gold tones.

Manderson's Hill

If you prefer a woodland walk, take a stroll up through the trees to the maze viewing platform. Enjoy watching visitors tackle the maze from above.

Heading down the valley, there will be opportunities to catch a glimpse of the sparkling waters of the River Helford through the trees.

Pink, blue and white wild flowers bloom on a slope at Glendurgan, Cornwall, overlooking trees

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