With its sub-tropical microclimate, Penzance forms a giant hothouse for exotic plants. Throughout history, landowners and garden designers have taken advantage of the unique conditions to create simply sublime displays of natural beauty.
Here are the local gardens you won’t want to miss…
In brief: Originally created with exotic plants gifted by local estates, the Morrab Gardens date back to the 1880s. Tucked away in the heart of town, they combine shady walkways with bright open spaces.
Don’t miss: Stroll around and you’ll find an ornate cast iron fountain, Victorian bandstand, ponds and war memorial; all hiding among the palms, olive trees and bamboo.
Find out more: morrabgardens.org
In brief: Surrounding the Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penlee Park contains species from all over the world. Once owned by the Branwell family, it was purchased by the town in 1946 as a living memorial to locals lost during the Second World War.
Don’t miss: The tranquil Memorial Garden is in bloom nearly all year and contains a small chapel for quiet moments. During summer, the park runs a packed outdoor theatre programme.
Find out more: penleehouse.org.uk
In brief: Packed with the finds of 1920s plant hunters, Trengwainton includes jungle pathways, woodland, kitchen gardens and lawns. Visit in spring when the magnolias burst into bloom, or in early summer for the bright rhododendron display, with flashes of colours from pale lemon to hot pink.
Don’t miss: Just past the manor house (privately owned) is a terrace, which faces out over Mount’s Bay and makes a prime spot for lunch. You’ll also want to look for the second hand bookshop and gallery hidden away in the old head gardener’s cottage.
Find out more: nationaltrust.org.uk/trengwainton-garden
In brief: Still owned by the Bolitho family, Trewidden spans 15 acres of informal paths, champion trees and walled gardens. As you wander, you’ll find traces of its ancient mining history, including an old surface working transformed into a tree fern dell.
Don’t miss: Essentially a maze of paths, Trewidden is best discovered by freely wandering. Highlights include the pond garden (with its whale tail sculpture) and the surprise police phone box near the north walk.
Find out more: trewiddengarden.co.uk
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens
In brief: Set in a sheltered valley near Gulval, just outside Penzance, Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens form a modern landscape for art and plant lovers alike. Sub-tropical planting sits alongside installations by artists including David Nash, Tim Shaw and Penny Saunders.
Don’t miss: Travel underground to see the sky from James Turrell’s elliptical viewing chamber; fantastic on a clear winter day when twilight falls early. The Kitchen is a relaxed dining space in the grounds and serves excellent food during both daytime and evening.
Find out more: tremenheere.co.uk
St Michael’s Mount
In brief: This island paradise hardly needs an introduction: anchored just off the coast at Marazion, it’s one of Cornwall’s top attractions. As well as the castle, shops and harbour, you’ll find remarkable gardens forged from the steep granite terraces.
Don’t miss: Just inside the gardens is the Laundry Lawn: an Atlantic-view stretch of grass that’s made for picnics and post-lunch napping. Climb up through the West Terraces (one of the hottest areas of the island) and look out on the horizon from the top.
Find out more: stmichaelsmount.co.uk