Tresco Abbey Garden

Phil and I are very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to spend a fortnight working at the fabulous Tresco Abbey Garden here in the Isles of Scilly. We’re already a week into our time here and are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Phil will be posting shortly about what we’ve been upto during our first week, but for now let me introduce you to the garden…

In 1834 Augustus Smith took over the lease of the Scilly Isles from the Duchy of Cornwall. He realised that the islands benefited from a climate much milder than that experienced elsewhere in Britain and soon set to work creating an exotic garden around the decaying archways and walls of Tresco’s ancient Benedictine priory. Tresco’s mild, frost-free winters allowed Smith to experiment with tender plants which would not survive on mainland Britain. These plants still needed protection from the salty Atlantic winds, and Smith dutifully surrounded the garden with shelter belts of Cypress and Monterey Pine. As the shelter belt matured Smith sort to increase his plant collection, corresponding with other influential gardeners of the time in order to introduce more and more plant species which were being discovered around the world and which could not otherwise be grown on mainland Britain.

Since then several generations of the Smith, and later Dorrien-Smith, families have continued to develop the garden and add to Tresco’s now world-famous plant collection. At times the garden has had to be restored, replanted and replanned as a result of extreme damage caused by storms and snows, but today the 17-acre garden is a beautiful, thriving, sub-tropical paradise unlike anything found on mainland Britain. The garden is lush and green all year round and, although not a ‘flower’ garden in the traditional sense of the word, there will be as many as 300 different plants in flower even in the depths of winter. Beautiful vistas await the eye at every twist and turn, most notably those featuring the old priory arches, the stone-like figure of Neptune or more recent artworks introduced by the current garden owner, Robert Dorrien-Smith. As well as a beautiful plant collection, Tresco Abbey Garden is famous for ‘Valhalla’ – a collection of figureheads and other artefacts from many of the shipwrecks around the Isles of Scilly.

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