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History of the Gardens

Trewithen means ‘house of the trees’ and with 30 acres of woodland gardens and over 200 acres of parkland, it’s a name that suits.

Here, every plant tells a tale. Among the blooms and branches surrounding us are the stories of people, places, and moments in time. The camellia carried in the satchel of a roaming plant hunter, now the parent of descendants worldwide. The South Australian tree ferns shipped as ballast in the belly of a clipper vessel. The Champion Trees that began life as delicate seedlings tended by long-lost gardeners. Trewithen’s gardens are a living legacy.

Among the many highlights you’ll find here is our impressive collection of camellias – over 200 varieties sourced on plant hunting trips in the early 20th century. The gardens are also home to the UK’s finest cultivated specimen of Magnolia campbellii subsp. Mollicomata, which was introduced from China and now stands at over 65 ft high.

But history also lies in what we no longer see. The vast, open view from the house – stretching down across the South Lawn – is a lasting reminder of the First World War. At this time, the 300 beech trees that once grew here were “requisitioned” and cut down to be used as trench props by British and Canadian troops.

Sunlight through the trees at Trewithen Gardens

In the space left behind, George Johnstone, who inherited the house in 1904, was able to create the vista and glade that we see today. Between 1910 and 1932, Johnstone worked with plant hunters to gather astonishing and specialist seed collections. These were shipped back to him in England and successfully cultivated at Trewithen – leading to a botanical reputation that endures to this day.

While Trewithen has a fascinating history, the beauty of all gardens is that they are alive and ever evolving. Today, our team of gardeners continues to work at creating pockets of surprise and delight – from our dedicated Silent Space to thought-provoking pairings of sculpture and flora.

Sunlight shining through grasses at the Trewithen Estate in Cornwall

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