Our own garden has been sadly neglected while we’ve been renovating our flat The Bell Tower, so this week we took advantage of the late summer weather and headed off to Trebah in search of inspiration.
Trebah, like neighbouring Glendurgan, occupies a wooded valley leading down to the Telford river. Both gardens were founded by members of the influential Falmouth shipping family, the Foxes. In Trebah’s case, it was Charles and Sarah Fox who began planting the site in 1838. They created the basic shape of the garden as it stands today, planting hundreds of pine and oak trees to provide shelter for more unusual specimens. Successive generations added more and more exotic plants, trees and shrubs from around the globe.
In 1907 the estate was bought by Charles and Alice Hext. Charles died just 10 years later but Alice continued to develop the garden, creating what is now known as the Mallard Pond and even stocking it with pink flamingoes.
Following her death in 1939, Trebah entered a new era. The beach was covered in concrete and the site used as a training ground for troops preparing for the D-Day landings. In June 1944, 7,500 men from the 29th US Infantry Division embarked from Trebah and made their way to Omaha Beach in Normandy.
Trebah changed hands a number of times in the years after the Second World War until it was bought in 1961 by Cornish racing driver and car designer Donald Healey. He was responsible for the removal of much of the concrete from the beach.
In 1981, Tony and Eira Hibbert bought the property as a retirement home and began the long process of restoring the garden to its former glory and today Trebah is run by an independent trust.
Trebah has an enviable location overlooking the Helford river and is full of exotic planting including literally acres of hydrangeas and gunnera. We often recommend it to our guests because, along with Tremenheere Sculpture near Penzance, it’s one of the few genuinely dog-friendly gardens in this part of Cornwall.
You can easily explore everything the site has to offer in a morning or an afternoon. We usually have a gentle meander down the valley, checking out what's currently in season (it's all about the hydrangeas at this time of year) before having a cup of coffee or an ice cream and watching the boats on the river.
As well as the main garden, Trebah is now home to The Court Garden, created on the site of a former tennis court. It has a more formal layout with a series of raised beds filled with plants that encourage pollinators and engage with the senses. It’s free to enter and is situated outside the main garden, making it ideal for those with limited time or mobility issues. There's also an excellent cafe and a lively programme of events, including exhibitions and theatre performances.
If you'd like to read more about Cornwall's gardens you can find more information here.