Cornwall’s coast and countryside is home to a plethora of outstanding gardens – a fusion of rare, sub-tropical plants, giant palms, Cornish grasses, succulents, bamboo, camellia and hydrangea. Come autumn, there’s a medley of texture and colour as nature presents the beauty of these verdant gardens in a riot of rich pigments, deciduous trees and ferns – offering a final touch of drama before giving way to winter.
Anthony Woodland Garden, Torpoint
Cornwall’s best-kept secret, renowned for its superb collection of Camellias, Maganolias and Rhododendrons, the Antony Woodland Garden spans 100-acres – a haven to discover – running along the edge of the Lynher Estuary. Come October, there is a surge of autumnal colour to explore amidst 100-year-old Asiatic magnolias that tower over Westdown Valley, filled with fading rhododendrons and year-round vibrant camellias. Enjoy interesting pieces of contemporary sculpture, stunning river views with secluded coves – frequented with egrets, cormorants and oyster catchers – and a beautiful woodland walk that is accessible as part of the entrance to the garden.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Saint Austell
Due to its scale and diverse plantations of trees, Heligan in autumn offers the dreamiest scene of colour; explore the extensive grounds of this historic garden and wander through the Lost Valley, covering acres of paths carved out through jungle-esque terrain, hand-carved tree ferns of New Zealand, prettiest flora and fascinating glasshouses. These wonderful gardens had been swallowed up by neglect and completely disappeared – it took a hurricane and some intrepid explorers to reveal the beautiful bones of a classic Cornish garden, and in 1991 excavation to restore the gardens began.
Trewithen Gardens, Truro
Trewithen means ‘house of the trees’, the name is perfectly apt for the Georgian house with its spectacular south-facing glade, wood and parkland setting where you’re invited to explore 30-acres of gardens renowned for the display of Rhododendron’s, Magnolias, Champion trees and classic Maples, along with rare shrubs and exotic ferns. Come autumn, the woodland glades are surrounded by a sea of burnt umbers and golden hues. There are plenty of viewing platforms dotted around so you can drink in the golden glow amidst the canopy of branches and their gently falling leaves. Weave through the gravel pathways to a sycamore avenue and take in the huge variety of beautiful specimens.
Located just a short drive from Truro, along the Tresillian River, you will find the gorgeous botanical Tregothnan gardens, arboretum and tea plantations. Rooted in centuries-old history, the verdant space thrives with Rhododendrons, rare trees, shrubs and some of the earliest plantings of Camellias in the open. There’s a diversity of rare plants and trees to discover to a backdrop of sweeping vistas and peaceful secluded groves. Recent plant collections from Japan and South America give the gardens an international vibe with the space acknowledged as an official safe site for endangered trees from all over the world – including some ‘Red Book’ varieties which are larger than any remaining in the wild. The botanical collection is brought to life during the autumn months when the colours transition to their most vivid hues.
Whist the botanical garden remains private, it is well worth a visit during the open-garden weekend each year.
Set in the sweeping countryside, National Trust-owned Trelissick is an impressive wooded-garden that comes alive with autumn colour from late September. The house and garden is set in an estate with stunning coastal views and superb woodland walks. Explore 30-acres of elevated gardens under a canopy of trees, discovering winding paths and summer houses along the way. Dotted throughout the grounds are an impressive collection of Rhododendrons and Camellias, but it’s the vibrant display of Hydrangeas that steal the show – a sea of colour that extends beyond the trees. The original house dates back to the 1750s – a statuesque building with neoclassical columns and south-facing rooms, now open for public view.
Glendurgan, Mawnan Smith
Explore this historic and exotic wooded-valley garden that leads down to the River Helford. Described by its creators as ‘a small piece of heaven on earth’ with three flourishing valleys to lose yourself in, the National-Trust owned Glendurgan boasts a plethora of exotic plants. From the sun-loving varieties that enjoy the upper banks to the striking flowers that thrive in the jungle-esque lower valley. In Autumn there is an abundance of rich colour, filling the sloping sides of the valley. Wander through the gardens to the unspoilt hamlet of Durgan on the River Helford. There’s also a gigantic tulip-tree, a pond brimming with wildlife and a huge maze that has been enjoyed for almost 200 years.
Trebah Garden, Mawnan Smith
Trebah is a vast and flourishing sub-tropical garden in Mawnan Smith, just 20-minutes’ drive from Falmouth.
Discover vibrant and lush planting, tallest trees, giant palms, bamboo thickets, camellia-cladded pathways, Rhododendron and Hydrangea valleys, along a Water Garden built around a natural spring that flows downhill and a beautiful Mallard Pond with a quintessential pale blue arched-bridge. Follow the gently-sloping paths to Trebah’s private beach where you can enjoy refreshments to the sound of the sea. There’s also the brand new Court Garden – a pretty space constructed on the site of a former tennis court – sheltered by warm stone walling, it’s planted more formally than other areas of the garden – a peaceful spot to take a moment’s rest and soak up the riot of autumnal colour within a diverse range of trees, plants and flowers.
Potager Garden, Falmouth
Soak up autumnal hues at this pretty former-market garden whilst enjoying a wholesome vegetarian feast in the brilliantly-transformed café which was converted from a greenhouse. Nestled in the enchanting Constantine countryside, Potager garden is a gorgeous space to spend time amongst the seasonal colour, surrounded by beech hedge rows and birch woodland, maple and cherry trees, plum and crab apples, along with sweetly-scented grey lavender. The site was once a four and-a-half acre abandoned plant nursery before being cleverly transformed into a picturesque haven to eat, relax and enjoy the plants. The gardens are constantly evolving with a wealth of beautiful plants and flowers, making Potager a real draw to visit throughout the seasons. The kitchen team, headed up by Daisy Hillier, use organic produce from the gardens to create vibrant and delicious seasonal recipes. There’s also an outdoor pizza oven, a sunny courtyard and several studio spaces for creative workshops.
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Marazion
The stunningly beautiful Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens are set in some of the most dramatic landscape, within a sheltered valley overlooking St Michael’s Mount, near Penzance in west Cornwall. An absolute dream to explore, the thriving gardens are designed with large-scale exotic plants including oversized shrubs, gigantic palms, stunning textured grasses, sky-scraping bamboo and an array of brightly coloured succulents to complement nature already there – all carrying the unifying theme of sculptural forms, textures and colours, designed to harmonise with the landscape and work in synergy with the sculptures.