Enjoy the coming of Spring at Caerhays and Burncoose


- Credit: Archant

One of Cornwall’s most spectacular spring gardens opens for the 2014 season for four months from Monday 17th of February, giving visitors a chance to see magnolias starting to burst with life and colour as spring begins to take a hold in Cornwall.

Caerhays is one of seven great gardens of Cornwall where the progress of the beautiful magnolia campbellii is constantly monitored to indicate the approach of spring.

When each of one specimen tree in every garden has at least 50 blooms, spring will have arrived in Cornwall.

Last year, this happened on the 19th of February, which is a full month ahead of the official start of spring in England.

“So the race is on,” said Charles Williams, owner of Caerhays, which is home to one of the national magnolia collections.

Charles Williams, who is chairman of Great Gardens of Cornwall, has teamed up with leading country house hotel and bespoke garden tour specialist, The Nare, to share this national wonder.

“It is always an exciting time of year and enjoyed as much by the staff here as by our visitors, who, over the course of the spring, will be able to enjoy over 500 varieties of magnolia,” he said.

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Caerhays is an informal woodland garden overlooking the sea and covering 120 acres, including a network of footpaths that allow visitors to explore the quiet beauty and historic collection at ease.

Old Park Wood:

Old Park Woods on the Caerhays estate was opened up for public access last year, adding 30 acres of woodland garden that had not been accessible for 30 years.

New paths have been created and visitors can enjoy the beauty of long-established plants, some of the magnolias are around 80 years old.

This spring, work begins on adding many more camellias, rhododendrons, magnolias and other trees and shrubs.

Over 30 new magnolia hybrids which have been raised at Caerhays will be introduced and around 100 rhododendron species collected mainly in China and Nepal by modern-day plant hunter Alan Clark are due to be planted in Old Park.

The Nash Arch:

Caerhays has entered into a ten-year agreement with Natural England which will help to maintain public access along a network of existing paths.

The Higher Level Scheme (HLS) agreement replaces an earlier environmental scheme operated under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS).

An HLS capital grant will enable the estate to provide new public access to Battery Walk Wood, which offers spectacular views of the western side of Porthluney Cove.

Within Battery Walk Wood, said Caerhays owner Charles Williams, “stands a magnificent, castellated tower gateway designed by the famous architect, John Nash, and built at the same time as the castle itself*.”

Changes to the old coastal road which the structure straddles, in the 1860s, left the gateway isolated and today it is shrouded by trees and undergrowth.

“With Natural England’s funding and guidance, the plan is to carefully remove the tree cover to expose and then fully restore the Nash Arch as a dominant architectural feature in the historic landscape setting of Porthluney Cove,” said Mr. Williams.

Burncoose – 30 years on:

2014 marks the 30th anniversary of Burncoose Nurseries, which has grown into the country’s biggest specialist plant nursery.

Burncoose is part of the Caerhays estate and specialises in magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias, many of which originate in China and were brought back to Cornwall by the great plant hunters Ernest Wilson (1876 - 1930) and George Forrest (1873 - 1932).

It is a range that is constantly growing and improving, with a staggering 250 new entries in the nursery’s 2014 catalogue.

There are nearly 4,000 ornamental trees, shrubs, herbaceous and conservatory shrubs at Burncoose, where rare plants and those previously unknown to UK gardeners continue to be introduced.

It is not just a nursery. There are 27 acres of spectacular gardens which are enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year. That number is set to increase, as in 2014, entry will be free (usually £3). A loyalty card has also been introduced, which will give visitors discounts on plants they buy.

Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its 101st year in 2014. The Burncoose exhibit is a regular winner and this year will celebrate with a displayed theme “101 plants from China”.

RHS lectures:

Every year, Caerhays and Burncoose Nurseries hold a range of lectures in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society, presented by Charles Williams.

On Friday, 21st of March, Mr. Williams will present a lecture on the national magnolia collection to cover why it is important to have a National Collection and includes a ‘behind the bushes’ tour of the gardens.

“It is suitable for beginners and ideal for all,” said Mr. Williams.

On Friday 25th of April, he will present a lecture on ‘creating a new woodland garden.’

This lecture will cover the basics of planting a woodland garden from scratch, to revamping an old overgrown one.

“The tour will cover the whole garden and ignore the regular routes that visitors would normally take when visiting the gardens,” said Mr. Williams.

Also coming up at Burncoose - Friday 11th April, gardening in coastal or windswept locations and Friday 9th May, scented rhododendrons.

Entry prices:

To celebrate 30 years of Burncoose Gardens, entry will be free.

Caerhays Garden entry costs £8 per adult, £7 for seniors and £4 for a child aged four to 16. Under fours enter free. Local people** qualify for a £2 per head reduction.

For more information please phone 01872 501310 or check the website – www.caerhays.co.uk