How exotic: Tropical plants in Cornwall

We asked some of the top gardens in Cornwall to reveal their favourite exotic plants. Here's what they said...

Enys Gardens
A plant that's very important to Enys Garden is the Chatham Island Forget-Me-Not, Myosotidium hortensia. A plant common to Chatham Island off New Zealand, it was first introduced into the UK at Enys at the end of the 19th century. It was definitely in the garden in 1901 as the gardener’s chronicle notes it. The plant is perennial with large glossy deeply veined leaves and its striking blue flowers are born in late spring/summer.

Lost Gardens of Heligan
The Cornus capitata, the Himalayan Flowering Dogwood, is one of our favourite plants because it highlights the importance placed on new plant introductions during the Georgian and Victorian eras and the pale yellow flowers and ‘lychee-esque’ fruit on these stunning trees create such a beautiful sight. Brought back from the lower slopes of the Himalayas, by 1832 the main drive to Heligan was lined with some 400 examples and gives a wonderful example of the fashion of the time in celebrating social status through horticulture.

Trewidden Garden
Butia capitata or Jelly Palm was most likely planted in the 1890’s and is registered as a Champion Tree as it is the largest example growing outside in the UK. Our plant at Trewidden never really flowers well as it’s just a little too cool in Cornwall but it is a very graceful specimen with pinnate curved, silvery green leaves. Native to South America it gets its name Jelly Palm because its red berries are used to make a conserve-like jelly.

Eden Project
One of our favorite plants is Camellia sinensis, the tea plant and at Eden we have around 600 bushes. The plant has its origins in southern Asia and tea is derived from its young shoots and leaves which we handpick in mid to late spring to give the first crop. Because Eden is an educational charity we feel this particular plant is a great example of the connection between plants and people.

Poppy Cottage Garden
Our favourite plant at Poppy Cottage is Dodonaea viscosa Purpurea, the Purple Hop bush. The plant was originally introduced into Cornwall from southern Australia but on the sheltered Roseland Peninsula it thrives in the mild climate and it’s an all round star. Its narrow bracts turn a stunning shade of purple in summer and bronze in winter which makes the foliage interesting at all times of the year.

Mount Edgcumbe House
In the Mount Edgcumbe garden you’ll find the Alibizia jublibrissian var rosea. More commonly known as the Persian Silk Tree, this wonderfully exotic species flourishes under Cornish skies and, now at the grand age of 30 something, has reached an impressive height of 15ft. More commonly found in areas as diverse as Iran and Japan, the tree has fernlike leaves and a pink fluffy flower head. At night and during periods of rain, the leaflets slowly close, bowing downward as if the tree were sleeping.

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