Tregothnan: The story of The House at The Head of The Valley, The Boscawen Seat, Camellias of all Varieties and a Real Life Dinosaur Tree.

Tregothnan is the Boscawen Seat


Tregothnan, seat of the Boscawen family and residence of Lord Falmouth, is a vast estate set on the banks of the River Fal, around 7 miles upstream from Falmouth.

The estate is multifaceted, with forestry and woodlands, farming and agriculture, property rental, beekeeping, tea plantations and of course, the private garden and arboretum. Tregothnan is the largest private botanical garden in Cornwall, and unrivalled in terms of the diversity of plants and trees, and the rare collections it offers. The modern day estate is a hive of activity, rooted by the sweeping views and serene secluded groves of the magnificent garden.

The botanical garden is central to everything that is produced at Tregothnan, the team say, “it provides us with produce and inspiration; our range of English estate teas and herbal infusions are grown here, our Manuka and wildflower honeys are produced here, our seasonal British flowers and foliages are sourced here. The gardens… are the beating heart of the estate and we are constantly inspired by their resilience and beauty”.


The House at The Head of The Valley


Tregothnan is a Cornish name, aptly translating to “The House at The Head of The Valley”. The grand house is perfectly situated; it makes a romantic portrait, with the river valley seemingly curling around its feet.

Tregothnan is lucky to have an “equable climate, moderated by the vast Atlantic Ocean as the air rises above the ten mile ridge of Cornwall. The humid air loses its damaging saltiness and perfectly mimics the high foothills of the Himalayas. Tregothnan itself is on the banks of the deep sea creek that is the river Fal – truly a micro-climate that has supported many extraordinary species of fruit trees and an enormous range of rare plants for centuries”.


The history of the botanic gardens at Tregothnan


The first mention of Tregothnan’s fine botanical garden dates back to 1695, when intrepid female traveller Celia Fiennes was visiting her kinsman, Hugh Boscawen, and wrote about it in her book, ‘Through England on a Side-Saddle’. Fast forward to the nineteenth century and it was Evelyn Boscawen, the sixth Viscount Falmouth, and his brother, the Honourable and Reverend John Townshend Boscawen making an impact on Tregothnan. “They introduced rhododendrons, rare trees, shrubs and camellia plants to Tregothnan, and the camellias here are thought to be the earliest plantings of camellias in the open”.

Cornwall was a hotbed of horticultural innovation in this era, so much so that horticulturist Philip McMillan Browse states, “the most introduced plants anywhere in the world now flourish in Cornwall”. In fact, a fascinating artefact you’ll encounter on a walk around Tregothnan is the only known surviving Wardian case. It’s an ingenious mobile greenhouse that was introduced in the late 1800s to keep plant specimens alive on the long journey home. It’s a tangible symbol of the rich heritage of botanical collecting, and the importance of these expeditions to the development and evolution of Tregothnan.

The current Lord Falmouth is the Honourable Evelyn Boscawen, and he is supporting the next phase of growth at Tregothnan, just as his ancestors did before. Thanks to the plant hunting expeditions of days gone by, Tregothnan has an exotic feel, and this international flavour has been bolstered with the introduction of plants collected during expeditions to Japan and South America in 2007.


Tregothnan is an official ‘Safe Site’


Tregothnan is a globally recognised ‘safe site’, for the protection and propagation of rare and endangered trees. One of the most amazing stories from Tregothnan is of the Wollemi Pine that was purchased and brought to Tregothnan in 2011.

“When the specimen was found by a botanist in an Australian ravine, its discovery sent shockwaves through horticultural society. The pine was thought to have been extinct for more than 50 million years, so finding a living specimen was like finding a live T-Rex walking across a Texan desert.

The Wollemi Pine was brought to Tregothnan for cultivation and as a protected safe site for plants, the botanical garden was a perfect location to try and grow this mind-blowingly rare tree. 12 years later and the Wollemia nobilis (or Dinosaur Tree, as it’s more commonly known) has flourished and propagated back to life. Cuttings from Tregothnan’s specimen have been sent all over the world and the tree is now flourishing away from its endangered status”.


The link between Camellias and Tregothnan


The iconic Camellia Maze that grows at Tregothnan is the largest of its kind in the world, and very unusual – normally ash, beech or something more easily pruned is employed for the task. It’s a remarkable horticultural feat that highlights Tregothnan’s expertise with Camellias, and is incredibly beautiful in March when the blooms are at their peak. It is also a fitting tribute, as Tregothnan is the home of the Camellia in the UK.

“Tregothnan pioneered Camellia into Great Britain over two centuries ago. Camellia has thrived to such an extraordinary extent that the original introductions are now growing into their third century and still look youthful! Tregothnan is now the home of two of the RHS National Collections of Camellia – the Camellia reticulata and Camellia sasanqua.

For those of you that love tea as much as we do, you will know that tea is a type of Camellia – the Camellia sinensis. In the mid-nineties, the gardeners at Tregothnan suspected that because of the success of ornamental Camellia at Tregothnan, that the tea variety might also grow successfully in Tregothnan’s unique environment. Much research was undertaken including trips to tea regions around the world such as Darjeeling in India, and Japan, to understand more about the processes and pitfalls of growing and harvesting the precious leaves. Head Gardener, Jonathon Jones, completed a Nuffield Scholarship on the subject and then in 1999 the very first British tea bushes were planted”.



Tregothnan is the world’s first true British Tea


Tea is a tricky crop, and after some trial and error, the first harvest in 2005 yielded just a few grams of tea! However small scale this may seem, it was a momentous achievement, and the world’s first true British tea was born! It is amazing that for a culture such as ours, which is so intertwined with the image and rituals of tea, that Tregothnan was our first, and remains our only, native tea producer.

Two decades on and a huge amount of expertise has been accumulated on the subject of tea at Tregothnan. “Now up to 20,000 tea bushes are planted every year, in new tea garden areas across the wider estate in Cornwall. Out of 1,000 acres, only 150 meet these criteria, making this a small player on the global tea market. To counter limitations of scale, Tregothnan is positioned as a luxury tea brand.

In part we thank the true and unique micro-climate for the success of our tea gardens; the similar climate that makes Cornwall the richest garden county of Europe. The 18 metre deep sea creek is almost seven miles inland from Falmouth as it bathes the gardens in mist and relative warmth in the winter.

Here at Tregothnan our Cornish Tea Bushes luxuriate in conditions that are often warmer than Darjeeling in India and free from salt winds and other hazards that affect coastal regions. The flora around the tea includes the famous pink Magnolia campbellii that itself was introduced from Darjeeling and often heralds spring in Cornwall before it arrives in Darjeeling!”


A visit to Tregothnan


Tregothnan’s botanical garden is private, but once a year they open their gates for charity.This year Tregothnan was raising funds for Farm Cornwall, Sowenna Appeal, and Pentreath. The 2024 open weekend was blessed with beautiful weather, the sun shone and the temperature was balmy. Choirs performed at the entrance to the grand estate, the atmosphere was festive and the gardens looked phenomenal. The open day was busy, but with over 100 acres of garden to explore, there was plenty of peace to be found. Our favourite elements of the garden were the stunning bluebell display in Lime Avenue, the ponds in the Himalayan Valley, the spectacular Rhododendrons, and the playful Camellia Maze.

If you missed the open weekend this year then please pop it in your diary for next year. It’s a garden of such scale and captivating beauty, that it needs to be seen to be appreciated. In the meantime Tregothnan do offer private garden tours and river garden tea tours, which will enable you to soak up the magic of the Tregothnan estate.


Discover Gardens Near To Tregothnan

Caerhays Castle and Spring Gardens

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Tregrehan Garden

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