Visit to Caerhays Castle

To see the best Magnolias in the country this is the place to go. Caerhays Castle in Cornwall is home to one of England’s national Magnolia collections and what a magnificent collection it is!

Unfortunately my photos don’t do it justice as the weather was misty, wet and at times, just pouring with rain. Us gardeners are a hardy bunch though, so it didn’t dampen spirits, but keeping the lens dry was another matter.

In the company of some esteemed gardeners, Martin and I were taken round the gardens with Charles and his wife, Lizzie.  Bearing in mind Charles’s ancestors were responsible for employing two of the famous plant hunters G. Forrest and E.H.Wilson, it gives you some idea of the time and expertise that has gone into making this collection.



It was such fun listening to the maestros debating the naming of certain trees. Robert Vernon from Bluebell nurseries, Robert Hillier, Charles and his head Gardner Jamie Parsons! I was struggling enough pronouncing mollicomata!




One of the oldest Magnolias was planted in 1870 and is one of six champion trees being monitored. A champion tree is the largest and most splendid of their species grown within the British Isles. To think this was the year that Charles Dickens died – now that’s some history!


Walking at a hearty pace Charles showed us new areas of the garden he is clearing, creating large spaces on hillsides for more Magnolias. This is so familiar to Martin and I and compares well with our progress at Belvoir where our Magnolias are now looking their best; we are certainly a month behind Cornwall.


To choose a favourite would be difficult but the last Magnolia we saw was called Lanarth (pictured below), with beautiful large deep pink/red flowers displayed on bare branches. Another star of the show was ‘JC’; already we had picked up the lingo! This Magnolia was bred by Charles’ Grandfather, John Charles.


I am passionate about trees, they are the backbone of any garden design. It is so important to see them as a mature specimen to appreciate their real potential. Visit Burncoose Nurseries to see all the varieties available and much more.