Teeming Down at Tremenheere

Anyone who has spent time holidaying in Cornwall will know that the county’s weather can be relied upon to dictate your itinerary from start to finish. Rarely does a day start as it means to go on: ‘four seasons in one day’ is not so much a concept as a way of life on the most south-westerly tip of England.

If you are determined to adhere to your plans, then you had better be prepared for all weathers. It’s often the case that one coast is shrouded in mist or fog whilst the other basks in sunshine. On family holidays when I was a child, my dad would often drive around the county searching desperately for the sun. There is, you see, very little to do indoors and certainly nothing to compare the glories of the Cornish coast and countryside. Hence no day out is safely embarked upon without a raincoat, sweater, thick socks, wellies, sunglasses, a brimmed hat and sunscreen, packed just in case. (Umbrellas are generally as useful as a chocolate teapot in Cornwall, since the wind blows incessantly.)

Me and The Beau, with a very blurred St Michael’s Mount in the distance.

Despite being well prepared for rough weather, the deluge which preceded last week’s visit to Tremenheere Sculpture Garden was enough to put the most ardent garden visitor off. It had been teeming down since lunchtime, rendering even the most sheltered spots soggy and cold. My niece Martha had declared that Sunday May 23rd would be a unicorn-themed day, marking the occasion by wearing a blush-pink dress covered in net roses and a headband adorned with a rainbow horn. Accessorised with green wellies and a blue anorak, it was a look her great-grandmother might have called ‘fetching’.

Martha Moo’s multifarious wet-weather gear.

Being a Cornish girl, Martha was completely unfazed by the atrocious conditions, shaming us adults into sticking with Plan A. After dithering in plant sales and then delaying further by loitering around the tea hut clasping hot chocolates, we finally commenced our walk. Entering the woodland garden at the bottom of the valley, it struck me immediately that some gardens might be better experienced on a rainy day. There were very few visitors for starters. (This is always a bonus, although why is it that even in an almost empty garden, there is always someone wearing a bright red cagoule standing exactly where you wish to take a photograph?). Then there were the colours; bright, clear and slicked with water. The sound as each drop of rain bounced eagerly through the canopy made the whole space come alive. Martha sped on ahead, filled with excitement as I wasted time wiping splashes from my glasses. ‘It’s just like a tropical rain forest!’ she exclaimed, and she was quite right, as children often are.

Tree ferns and scheffleras growing in Tremenheere’s lush, sheltered valley.

The tree ferns at Tremenheere are remarkable, less for their abundance, which is greater elsewhere, than for their great variety. I am insufficiently expert to identify them all, but I recognise Dicksonia antarctica due to its relative abundance in Cornish gardens, and Cyathaea medullaris because of it’s slender black trunk and gigantic, gauzy fronds. These are plants that only grow well in climatically blessed localities such West Cornwall and the south-west of Ireland. Here they are spared the coldest temperatures by the Gulf Stream and shielded from the wind in thickly-wooded valleys or ancient quarries. Gardeners attempt to grow tree ferns elsewhere – myself included when I lived in London – but except in very charmed locations I always feel they are existing rather than thriving.

Pieris japonica, with Crinodendron hookerianum just behind and to the left.

As we climbed out of the valley I was stopped in my tracks by a fabulous Pieris japonica with flamingo-pink leaves. When wet, the foliage possesses a sheen similar to that of capiz shells. How much more beautiful are these shrubs, so loved by my Cornish grandmother, than the horrible, coarse Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’? I detest this poor, misused plant. Like the child of a pushy parent, it has been grossly overstretched in terms of its true capabilities. It is touted as the perfect shrub for almost any situation, which it patently is not, to the point that it’s destined to be loathed by anyone who inherits it. I fear ‘Red Robin’ may be the Leylandii of the next gardening generation. Anyway, I digress. Lower down the valley I had spotted an ageing whorl of mahonia leaves, slowly developing the classic colours of autumn. It was so beautiful and unexpected among the verdure that it barely seemed real.

A whorl of mahonia leaves turning autumnal colours in the damp shade of the wooded valley.
Clearings between the trees allow for rhododendrons, astelias, scheffleras, ferns, impatiens and arisaemas to thrive.
A new cantilevered deck offers incredible views across Mount’s Bay

There have been developments at Tremenheere since my last visit, and I suspect there may be more planned for the future. A section of the garden on the eastern boundary, overlooking St Michael’s Mount, has been cleared to make room for a new sculpture called ‘Holding Breath’. Call me a heathen – it’s been said before – but this artwork is not my cup of tea. However, the sleek viewing platform next to it very much is. A deck cantilevers out from the hillside, projecting towards the Mount’s Bay. The planting beneath it is interesting, a bank of swishing grasses, shrubs and perennials which I need to study in more detail on a dry day. On this visit it was all about keeping moving and completing our circuit before closing time.

Being uncharacteristically silly inside ‘Holding Breath’. The dogs look completely ashamed of their humans.
My beloved sister; still radiant, even when soaked to the skin.

With its rapidly evolving landscape, burgeoning collection of sculptures, excellent restaurant and cornucopic nursery filled with plants grown by Surreal Succulents, Tremenheere is rapidly becoming one of our favourite places to visit in West Cornwall. Dogs on a lead are permitted in the garden, which is a big advantage for us. Come rain or shine this garden has something to offer – shelter in the valley or inside James Turrell’s mesmerising elliptical chamber entitled ‘Tewlwolow Kernow’, magnificent views of the Cornish coast, plants that you’ll rarely find growing outside elsewhere in the UK and great food to sustain you on a visit that could easily fill a full day.

A great swathe of Zantedeschia aethiopica sporting such a sheen it looks like it’s been sprayed with baby oil.

We returned to our cars, dripping wet and a little chilly, very happy that we’d stood up to the weather and gone ahead with our Plan A. Our only disappointment was that the nursery and shop were closed on departure, so any indulgent purchases will have to wait until our next visit. TFG.

You can plan a visit to Tremenheere by visiting their website. You can also read previous blog posts I have written about the garden here (2014) and here (2019).

Aeonium ‘Superbang’, the one that got away …. this time.

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13 thoughts on “Teeming Down at Tremenheere

  1. Sorry, long quote but can’t help my self – resonates so much my ears are ringing. “How much more beautiful are these shrubs, so loved by my Cornish grandmother, than the horrible, coarse Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’? I detest this poor, misused plant. Like the child of a pushy parent, it has been grossly overstretched in terms of its true capabilities. It is touted as the perfect shrub for almost any situation, which it patently is not, to the point that it’s destined to be loathed by anyone who inherits it. I fear ‘Red Robin’ may be the Leylandii of the next gardening generation.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well you looked as though you had fun anyway! We visited yesterday for the OH’s birthday. In the sun. A great lunch followed by a walk around the garden (though I think we should do it the other way round in future, we were so stuffed!) I got the exact same photo of the mahonia leaves, but missed the Pieris. Like you, I find a lot of the artwork underwhelming, though I did like the quirky ceramic faces! Like it or Lump it. ( I actually bought a red jacket so that I could be the one getting in the way of other people’s photos for a change!) I reckon your yellow jacket would do the trick too 😊 The new viewpoint is nice – good that they make the most of St Michael’s Mount. And two Aeonium managed to slip into the car with me, but the succulent I fancied was an Echeveria, a mere £75, even more expensive than your Superbang at £65!

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  3. Great post, it was almost as good as being there. Thank you

    I’m afraid the most covetable thing is your nieces wellies! I’d rather have them than any of those plants.

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  4. It appears that you all had a good time despite the weather. I love those tropical looking fern trees. I almost wish I could grow one. As luck would have it mine would outgrow my livingroom ceiling height then what would I do with it?? Either that or I would kill it straight away. Sigh, a plant I will admire them from afar. Your niece is a hoot. I bet life is never dull around her. Your sister is a beauty. You are blessed.

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    1. I think you have the measure of Martha Moo! She is a free spirit and no mistake. She has incredible energy and imagination. Meanwhile my sister underestimates herself. I love this photograph of her. Thank you for your lovely comments 🤗

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  5. Lovely jungly photos! Wow your niece… that girl has serious style 🙂 Tres dernier cris ! I have had these gardens on my radar for a bit, but will stealthily visit without the kids in tow, so I can hopefully spend an exuberant amount of time in Surreal Succulents, and visit a couple of reclamation yards en route. Have a great week, Lulu of Long Mizzle x

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    1. There are some very interesting outlets in Penzance now with vintage bits and pieces if that interests you. The Surreal Succulents nursery is expanded and well stocked. We found some of the other nurseries a bit depleted due to the sheer volume they are selling at the moment.

      With or without children it’s a great garden. Take your time and try to make time for something to eat as it’s always delicious!

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  6. We have enjoyed several great garden holidays in Cornwall – and after an even longer drive than yours! The gardens and the whole county are perfectly beautiful and all of that was made possible by wonderful rain!

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  7. So grateful to have stumbled onto your site this morning! We visited Cornwall a few years ago, and loved it. Couldn’t agree more about the photinia-our last house had six (!) planted in the back yard. I got rid of all but one, and that only survived by reason of its size. Cheers from rainy Vancouver, Canada

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