A Gulf in class: No county can touch Cornwall for the quality of its gardens in spring

It's all thanks to the warm sea air of the Gulf Stream, says Emma Townshend.

Gardens in Cornwall are big business: local business people in Falmouth have been campaigning for years to remove some rare seabed corals called "maerl" and drain a deep channel for gigantic cruise ships to approach this pretty town. When asked recently why anyone should actually want to get off the boats and spend money, the first tourist attraction they named was the Eden Project, closely followed by the Lost Gardens of Heligan.

Evidently, gardens in Cornwall are also delectable. Especially now it's finally decided to be spring. And nowhere does the season arrive with more gusto than in this seaside county, where magnolias and camellias have been doing all sorts of springy things for weeks now. There's something about Cornish gardens at this time of year, mainly powered by warm Gulf Stream sea air and lots of rain, where long branches hung with lichens give the valley-sides a rainforest feel.

You can see for yourself: Katherine Lambert is a gardening writer who lives near Truro, and her new book, Gardens of Cornwall (Frances Lincoln, £16.99),is crammed with 24 of the county's very best. The gardens of Anthony, Cotehele and Mount Edgcumbe kick us off. Super-romantic in feel, old-stone statuary and rambling roses add a twist to the magnolia-powered mix.

Other stars of the Cornish canon follow, such as Trelissick and Glendurgan (both National Trust, incidentally – this is one county where membership comes into its money-saving own). Trebah is one of my favourites, with sweeping beds,all equipped with perfect views of the Helford Estuary. And though Lambert allots eight pages to images of the Abbey Gardens on Tresco, I could happily look at 80 pages, so glorious is the mix of giant agapanthus and utterly foreign palms, all growing outdoors.

Lambert also includes some wilder cards: I've mentioned Tremenheere before, the imaginative creation of a local doctor who has planted rare palms on a hillside site above Penzance while also installing a James Turrell skyscape. And Barbara Hepworth's tiny garden in St Ives packs a mighty punch for its size – another garden with art at its heart that will send you home convinced you justhave to get some ratty geraniums.

So Lambert provides a great starting guide to the county's horticultural splendour. Yet stray a little off her version of the beaten track and there are even more good gardens to see. On a Sunday afternoon drive, posters flutter in the breeze marking gardens signed up to the Yellow Book scheme, tempting you down windy lanes to find extraordinary plots created by amateurs that are rarely open to the public. Godolphin Hill, open in Helston on 17 June and 1 July, for example, is the eco-garden belonging to a moth expert, who will show visitors his collection of beautiful lepidoptera.

At Bonython Manor, on the Lizard, Mrs Nathan and her team are making an extremely pretty garden with some wonderful touches, including a sweet orchard of local Cornish varieties where you can help yourself to tea and home-made cake, and a South African garden on a grand scale. I would also beg you to visit Potager, a garden-cum-café near Constantine outside Falmouth, in the ruins of an abandoned nursery (potagergarden.org). The sense of peace in a lazy hammock there is unbeatable.

So in conclusion: don't wait to arrive by cruise ship. Save the maerl! Come this year, by road, train or shallow-draught ship, and enjoy the finest spring fling that Gulf Stream gardens have to offer.

Spring gardens beyond Cornwall

Achamore

Wild gnarled trees and rare subtropical plants co-exist in a garden of quiet beauty on this tiny white-sand island east of Islay, negotiable by bicycle or foot. Entrance fee payable in honesty box, gigha.org.uk/gardens

Arduaine

A coastal garden on the Scottish mainland south of Oban crammed with rhododendrons, this is in full colourful blast by May. £6 adults, free to National Trust members, nts.org.uk/Property/Arduaine-Garden

Bodnant

Thought not quite by the Welsh coast, Bodnant still benefits from mild Gulf Stream breezes that allow a spectacular range of plants to be grown. £8.95 adult, NT and RHS members free, bodnantgarden.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Sacha Baron Cohen is definitely not involved in the Freddie Mercury biopic, Brian May has confirmed
film
News
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
News
news
News
Boyband star Brian Harvey is on benefits and on the verge of homelessness
people
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Training Coordinator - Financial Services

£32000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful, inte...

Recruitment Genius: Supply Chain Administrator

£8000 - £10800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Supply Chain Administrator is ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor