May 14, 2019
Last year we went to Cornwall to see magnolias and saw nothing through the driving snow. (Camellias at eye level, snow on their flowers, looked wonderful). This year the view was perfect, the magnolias magnificent, and the garden at Tregothnan glorious: from the house over the grandly austere parterre into the combe that zigzags down to the River Fal, with a ship moored exactly where you might build an eye-catcher.
It is an understatement to say that Tregothnan is spacious. The walks and glades among huge trees, magnolias and rhododendrons of course, but all the things you go to Cornwall to admire, stretch down valleys and over plateaux, follow streams and sneak into woods, it seems without limit. Then there is the startling sight of a hillside trim as a vineyard with long lines of shining green; Camellia sinenis, producing Tregothnan tea, the only tea, as far as I know, grown commercially in England. The Boscawen family, with Viscount Falmouth at its head, has been at Tregothnan for 700 years, and is still having new ideas.
I went down to ransack the archives of the Garden Society, the dining club formed one hundred years ago by such horticultural legends as Gerald Loder, Reginald Cory, Frederick Stern and Lionel de Rothschild to meet after RHS Show Days and discuss their new plants. Show Days at Vincent Square are alas almost extinct, and new plants much rarer than in the days of the great plant explorers. Today they would be accused of cultural appropriation or worse. The urge of gardeners to talk about their favourite plants is not so easily suppressed. The Garden Society dines on.