Cornwall has been described as the garden capital of the world but, as an exhibition at the Cornwall Spring Flower Show in 2016 demonstrated, the county owes its wonderful springtime splendour not to native species - but rather to a small band of intrepid plant hunters who brought back seeds.
The fabulous range of Camellias, Magnolias, Rhododendrons and Daffodils that brighten up our gardens and our lives from February onwards would not be here were it not for the likes of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, George Forrest, Ernest Henry Wilson and Captain Richard Rawes who braved untold dangers and adventures to bring them back to Britain.
Sponsored by a number of wealthy estate owners including JC Williams of Caerhays Castle and George Johnstone of Trewithen House, their incredible exploits helped to transform a country that had the smallest natural flora in the world to one that can now boast the widest range of any nation on earth. Given that 70% more plants grow in Cornwall than in the rest of Britain put together, it is hardly surprising that an event like Cornwall Spring Flower Show provides the ultimate testament to all that the plant hunters achieved.
“I suspect most of us take the extraordinary shrubs and plants in our gardens for granted but the truth is we wouldn’t have them if the plant hunters hadn’t travelled so widely,” said Pat Ward, who putt the exhibition together for the show. “We’re staging the display in its own marquee with lots of beautiful photos and samples of flowers. Hopefully, visitors will enjoy it and learn a lot more about Cornwall’s horticulture in the process. I’m also doing a ‘six easy steps to competing’ guide as well.”
Photo: Camellias and magnolias aren’t native to Cornwall but were introduced by plant hunters
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Whilst the chill winds and lashing rain of mid-winter do their worst out there, let us cheer ourselves up.
The Garden House, Devon invites you to discover its sumptuous collection of snowdrops and enjoy the early signs of spring between 11am and 3pm on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th January, and every weekend during February (when its tea-room also reopens). The snowdrops - amassed by co-author of Snowdrops: A monograph of cultivated galanthus, Matt Bishop - are displayed and labelled in herbaceous borders and naturalised with other early flowering bulbs throughout the ten acre, sheltered garden that is maintained and developed by The Fortescue Garden Trust.
Adults: £5. Children Free. For further information, visit www.thegardenhouse.org.uk
7.30pm - The Alverton, Tregolls Road, Truro
Jeremy Wilson - The Secret of Camellias
Jeremy Wilson has enjoyed a varied horticultural career that has included tending a Capability Brown wildflower meadow for Cambridge University; managing a large collection of species rhododendrons for English Heritage at Belsay Hall in Northumberland; and planning and designing 10- to 20-acre gardens at private estatess in Hampshire and Oxfordshire as Head Gardener. He now runs his own nursery - Strete Gate Camellias in Devon - which never fails to impress with its collection of more than 500 varieties including 100 varieties of scented plants.