A Potted History of Trewidden Gardens and the Bolitho Family

Many Cornish gardens are linear, running down a stream or drive. The various members of the Bolitho family, along with their Head Gardeners, have made Trewidden Garden very different and truly special by creating a mysterious and wonderful square(ish) garden with a maze of paths meandering through it.

You will find ponds dotted here and there together with reminders of the industrial mining heritage of the site. Each part of the garden is intimate and different, whether it be the newly restored walled garden, the rock garden with its collection of Erythroniums, the Tree Fern Dell or the pond garden with the Whale’s Tail.

The garden is also home to one of England’s best collections of Magnolias and Rhododendrons – as well as a collection of over 300 Camellias.

Below you will find a short and interesting history of the creation of Trewidden Garden.

Thomas Bolitho (1740 – 1807)
Thomas Bolitho, who was a merchant, moved from Wendron to Penzance in about 1769. His eldest grandson, Edward Bolitho, purchased Trewidden thus starting the creation of Trewidden House and Garden.

Edward BolithoEdward Bolitho (1804 – 1890)
Around 1830, Edward Bolitho bought Trewidden which was once the site of an ancient tin mine. Known as ‘Trewidden Bal’, the old opencast mine may have been one of the earliest in the Duchy, dating back to Roman times or even before. Evidence of it can be seen today in the Tree Fern Dell and the Burrows, where spoil dug out of the mine was dumped.

Edward started the garden in the second half of the 19th Century by firstly planting woodland cover before filling it with plants newly introduced from Asia and the Southern Hemisphere. He was fortunate to have an outstanding head gardener, George Maddern, working for him. George worked at Trewidden for 45 years, planting and shaping the garden to roughly the size it is today.

T.B. BolithoThomas Bedford Bolitho (1835 – 1915)
Edward’s son, Thomas Bedford Bolitho, continued his father’s work enhancing the garden.

In particular, he filled the old opencast mine with tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica), newly imported from Australia by Treseders nursery and bought for £1-2 for 2-3 foot ferns.

This is known as the Tree Fern Dell and has been described as the best stand of tree ferns in the Northern Hemisphere.

Mary Williams (1894 – 1977)
Mary Williams, who was the daughter of T. B. Bolitho, came home to Trewidden after the demise of her husband in 1955. She gardened with enormous enthusiasm and joy for the remainder of her life.

Mary WilliamsBeing an exceptionally knowledgeable gardener in her own right, Mary became greatly influential in the continued development of the garden. She was also responsible for the re-founding of the Cornwall Garden Society.

Mary had been brought up at Trewidden and planted the Magnolia hypoleuca on the North Walk herself; it is now the largest in the UK and has been designated as a Champion Tree.

The garden was also a source of pleasure for patients when Trewidden House was used as a Red Cross convalescent home during the Second World War.

Alverne BolithoAlverne Bolitho (1961 – )
Alverne Bolitho, son of Simon Bolitho of Trengwainton and a cousin of Mary Williams, inherited the property when she died.

He continues to develop the garden with the help of head gardener Richard Morton and his small team. They aim to keep the garden a place of peace and beauty, of constant surprise and delight.

It is under Alverne’s stewardship that the garden was opened to the public so others can now also enjoy it.

Head Gardeners

Trewidden has been lucky with its head gardeners and the length of their stay here throughout history. After George Maddern and John Crapp, Harry Tully was here for 37 years.

Michael Snellgrove followed and was head gardener for 26 years, developing a successful Camellia business – one of the primary reasons the garden is filled with over 300 varieties.

Alison Chough, trained by the National Trust at Cotehele, was the next Head Gardener for seven years before Richard Morton took over the role in 2007.

Head gardeners

 

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