To the average suburban gardener, Trewithen can appear somewhat overwhelming. Home to twenty champion trees, even the viewing platforms seem inadequate for myopic eyes to see the canopies in detail.
Nearer the ground, rhododendrons in multiple variety hold centre stage, together with some viburnum gems.
Perhaps the real significance of this garden lies in its history, with the unique collection of trees and shrubs spanning the centuries.
The present park was laid out in the eighteenth century. Later, John Hawkins, who inherited the estate in 1829, was a founding member of the RHS.
At the beginning of the twentieth century George Johnstone, another great horticulturist, took the helm. He travelled to New Zealand, Australia and Japan before the First World War and also sponsored some of the great plant hunters including E.H.Wilson , George Forrest and Kingdom Ward: names we associate with numerous plants found in our gardens today. Copious seed found its way to Trewithen.
During WW1 the estate’s mature beech trees were felled to provide props in the trenches, where many Cornish gardeners lost their lives. With their deaths came the demise of many great gardens.
Finally, in the true spirit of gardening, it was fascinating to find Camellia X williamsii ‘Donation’. Originally given to Trewithen by Colonel Stephenson Clarke, who raised it at Borde Hill in Sussex, the parent plant died, but the Trewithen specimen survived to be a primary source of ‘Donation’ around the world.
This week as I passed on a few of my garden plants (not, I hasten to add, in the same league as ‘Donation’) I thought of those past garden enthusiasts.