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History of Trengwainton Garden

Gravel path through colourful rhododendrons at Trengwainton Garden Cornwall
Rhododendrons at Trengwainton | © National Trust/Marina Rule

When walking through Trengwainton at the height of its spring and early summer colour, it’s hard to imagine a time when this and other British gardens were completely devoid of the exotic blooms of magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias. Discover more about the history of the award-winning blooms brought to Trengwainton by 1920s plant collectors.

Where did they come from?

When the Bolitho family donated Trengwainton Garden to the National Trust in 1961, it was the significance of the plant collection that made it so special.

Some of the rhododendrons you see at Trengwainton were largely grown from seed gathered in north-east Assam and upper Burma by Frank Kingdon-Ward on his 1927-8 expedition.

Thanks to his passion and bravery, plants that started life on the side of a hill in the Far East, now have their home in the far south-west of Cornwall.

Rhododenron macabeanum against a blue sky, Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall
Rhododenron macabeanum, Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall | © National Trust/Marina Rule

Unique to Trengwainton

One of the glories of the collection is Rhododendron macabeanum, whose creamy yellow blooms flowered for the first time in Britain at Trengwainton.

It was the skill of head gardener Alfred Creek that ensured the success of these tender seedlings here, but it was his successor GW Thomas, who made a number of new rhododendron crosses.

Hybrids that are unique to Trengwainton are the rhododendrons R. ‘Morvah’, R. ‘Fusilier’, R. ‘Golden Horn’ and R. Miss Pink'.

Champion trees

The plant collection also includes some champion trees (the largest tree of its species) in the shelter of the five sections of walled gardens.

They come with the tongue-twisting names of: Craibiodendron yunnanense, Dodecadenia grandiflora, (this has been recently identified as the long lost Eucryphia ‘Madron’, bred at Trengwainton in the 1950s and now being propagated) and Hoheria populnea.

Magnolia Lanarth Trengwainton Garden|Cornwall
Magnolia Lanarth at Trengwainton Garden, Cornwall | © National Trust/Marina Rule

Other notable trees

Nearly 50 of Trengwainton’s trees feature in The Tree Register, which is a record of notable and ancient trees in Britain and Ireland.

Metasequioa glyptostoboides came from seed sent to Trengwainton from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, who had been given the earliest collection of this previously unknown plant.

Magnolia x veitchii was planted by Sir Edward Bolitho in the 1920s, as he first developed the walled garden into an ornamental garden.

Pink azaleas and rhododendron surrounding a wooden bridge at Trengwainton Garden

Discover more at Trengwainton Garden

Find out when Trengwainton Garden is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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