Camellias

In March 2018 Trewidden Garden was awarded the status of ICS (International Camellia Society) International Camellia Garden of Excellence. Trewidden now joins Mount Edgcumbe, Anthony and Trewithen as ‘Camellia Gardens of Excellence’ in Cornwall and other prestigious gardens further afield. In recent years a great deal of effort has gone into achieving this accolade and we are delighted to have been awarded this status.

Camellia x williamsii ‘China Clay’

Camellias at Trewidden

Camellias have been grown here since 1850 and three very old specimens still survive within the garden from early plantings. The wide range of cultivated varieties now growing here is the result of Michael Snellgrove, who was the Head Gardener from 1976 to 2001. He greatly expanded the collection sourcing many from the likes of W. Ackerman, Trehanes, J. Carlyon and Nuccio’s of Californa. From the late 1970’s to 2001, Trewidden operated a large wholesale nursery that specialised in Camellias to capitalise on the good growing conditions that exist in Cornwall. Trewidden was one of the first to grow the ‘Tea’ Camellia in the county, our Original specimen was propagated from Norman Haddon’s famous collection at Porlock, North Somerset in the early 1980’s.

Today the collection contains over 300 different cultivated varieties of which 200 have been positively identified and labelled. Those plants with aluminium labels that just contain a number written on them have yet to be identified, some specimens may have no label attached to them and they require accessioning in the future. During the period of the nursery operating, areas of the garden became quite overgrown so some Camellias stopped flowering due to excessive shade and labels were lost, hence our ongoing efforts to re-establish the collection.

Camellia x williamsii ‘Gwavas’

Camellias, a Brief History

The name for the plant genus Camellia is derived from Georg Josef Kamel (Camellus) (1661 – 1706) who, as a Jesuit Botanist/Naturist received this accolade due to his studies in the Far East.

Camellias are all smaller evergreen trees to shrubs and have their origins within the forest habitats of tropical to subtropical/warm temperate Asia. Most species are naturally found in mainland China with smaller numbers of species found in countries and islands contiguous to China.

Until the early 19th Century, Camellias were mostly known to the West from dried plant specimens and imported tea, although the earliest recorded plant flowered at Thornden Hall, Essex in 1739. From the mid to late 19th Century (1850’s – 1890’s) many more introductions occurred from the East and subsequently new varieties started to arise from these imports in Western nurseries.

Camellia japonica ‘Kimberley’

Most of the Camellias we grow in our gardens today are predominately sports or hybrids from three species, Camellia japonica, Camellia saluenensis and Camellia reticulata. Recently other species have been added to this mix to create a larger selection of garden worthy plants.

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