The delights of Tresco

I had thought that I would write about the islands we visited in order, but knowing that you are all plant lovers, I decided to put Tresco first as the planting there is so unlike anything else in the British Isles.

On Tresco


The island of Tresco has a world famous garden, it is said that it is like the conservatory at Kew gardens but without the roof ! All the islands belong to the Duchy of Cornwall ( in other words, Prince Charles! )  These are some Echium growing in someones front garden, the bees were enjoying them, it was positively humming with them.

Fish sculpture

Following the signs to the garden – a fair walk from the quay – a lake with this sculpture of a shoal of fish is opposite the entrance.

Dorian -Smith children

This sculpture of the present Dorian – Smith children ( who are now grown up ) can be seen from outside the garden, even though it is placed at the far end of the Lighthouse Walk.

Welcome notice

A nice welcome to the garden, just before they relieve you of your money!


Once into the garden, just to the right of the entrance is a small museum called Valhalla, of figureheads from ancient ships that have been shipwrecked around the Scillies 100 yrs or so ago, the rocky shores causing many ships to go down. Thank goodness for modern sat. navs.

Shelter belt

This shows some of the shelter belt within the garden, the hedges must be at least 20ft high! The statue at the top of the Neptune Steps is of Father Neptune and behind me is Lighthouse Walk with the statue of the children on the boundary of the garden.

About to open

Doryanthes palmeri from Australia, about to open, probably next week when we are home!

Abbey wall

The garden was started in 1834 by Augustus Smith within the walls of an old 12th C Benedictine Abbey which existed until the reformation in the 16C. There are only a couple of the original walls remaining now. The island is leased from the Duchy of Cornwall by the Dorian – Smith family.


I liked the pattern made by the sunlight coming through the leaves of the Nikau Palm from New Zealand – Rhopalostylis sapida.

Lobster Claw

A wall covered with a Lobster Claw plant, Clianthus puniceus,  one that we need to grow indoors.

Busy bees

I don’t know what this plant is but the flowers were covered in bees. We are short of bees on the mainland, maybe they have all gone for their holidays too!


I think this Aloe is the same as one that I have in a large pot which comes into the conservatory for the winter, maybe if I keep it indoors for the summer, it might flower ?!


An absolutely massive agave, at least 6ft tall, it makes mine in a pot look really pathetic!


More Aloes, they were everywhere on the cliff face.

Succulent cliff

This is the photo I showed you in the last post to tempt you – South Africa cliff. The planting is amazing and you wonder how it can survive in the British Isles.


There are other areas of the garden with Australian, South American and Mediterranean plants all of which we grow as bedding plants or permanently in pots. It is wonderful to see how large they grow when they are set free!


There are lots of Phoenix canariensis in the garden, this is the Canary Island date palm and most have now grown to 40ft tall.  With the garden being terraced, the drainage is excellent and being shaped in a south facing semi circle, backed by huge trees and shrubs as a shelter belt, the conditions are just right for growing these exotic plants. I thought my Aeoneum was large and of course mine has never flowered, but over here everyone has them in their gardens and mine now looks very puny!


Another really massive Agave

Not sure!

I think the pink daisy flower is Oscularia deltoides, which they say can be rooted in pure sand.

Father Neptune

I made it up to Father Neptune at the top of the garden, working in this garden would get me fit!

Gaia, the Earth Mother

Gaia, the Earth Mother, nestles into the planting, Prince Charles now has a copy in his garden, he liked it so much.

Shell House

The Agave in the foreground is a metal water feature and the steps lead up to the shell house.

Shell house

The inside of the shell house with murals made from shells found on local beaches, they must have taken ages to make.


The Protea family are everywhere in the garden, we were too soon for the King Protea unfortunately, I think this one is P. lepidocarpodendron !

Leucadendron species


I think these last two photos are of a Leucadendron with very showy bracts, the flower is in the centre.

Palm trees

So many palm trees everywhere and not just in the garden here, on all the other islands too.

Umbrella Pine

I was really taken with the shape of this tree, I know there is an umbrella pine, does anyone know if this is it?

Seeding bulb

I feel I should know this, I think a little bulb, which is seeding itself merrily along a gravel path.

Retama monosperma

This is where my note taking got muddled, is this Hakia eliptica from Western Australia or Retama monosperma from North Africa ? From a distance it looked like broom and I thought, what is that doing here? Closer,  it was obvious I was mistaken, the flowers were different and the perfume totally different.



Lots of Echium surrounding a grassy glade.

Golden Pheasant

I know you all probably think I’m quite paranoid about pheasants, but when they start following you around expecting to be fed, even though they are such gorgeous Golden Pheasants, it really is getting beyond a joke!!


Another Leucadendron, this time with spiky bracts, Leucadendron eucalyptifolium.

Long Walk

A view along the Long Walk which runs right across the whole of the garden.


Last look

Our last look at the garden before leaving, are you inspired to create something similar?


We walked back to our boat via the beach with its silver sand, such a lovely place to live, but maybe not with the winter gales!


Looking northwards to the Northern Rocks, which are now a nature reserve for seals, puffins and cormorants.

Barbara Hepworth

We are almost back to the quay now, but what’s this, it looks remarkably like a Barbara Hepworth sculpture to me, did she ever get here I wonder?

Boat home

This is our small boat to get us back to St. Mary’s.

I couldn’t possibly grow these plants in my heavy clay and with all the shade that I have but I can admire the determination that started the garden and that has carried it on through a few disasters. In  January 1987 a snowstorm brought temperatures down to -8c, made worse by a 25 knot easterly wind , with the wind chill factor it felt -25c. The snow lasted 15 days but the temperatures stayed the same for some time. They say the garden literally fell to pieces and collapsed into oblivion. The Botanic Gardens around the world came to their rescue and plants and seeds came from far and wide, gardeners the world over are very generous and share what they can when one of their friends is in trouble. Then of course in 199o came the hurricane, when they lost so many of their huge trees in the shelter belt, in all they lost 800 trees. Seeing the garden as it is now, you would never know the problems that they have had to overcome, they did have a sprinkling of snow this winter, but, thank goodness, no damage was done this time.        I hope you have enjoyed your trip to Tresco, I can highly recommend a visit if you ever get the chance.




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24 Responses to The delights of Tresco

  1. Cathy says:

    These pictures are amazing, Pauline, a real feast for the eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your experience – I look forward to the rest!

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you Cathy, I thought it was all amazing too! The rest will follow as soon as I can but I must do some weeding first while the sun is shining!

  2. Jayne says:

    I enjoyed the visit through your photos. Most astonishing that they’ve endured so much hardship and still carry on. Worth the price of admission and more!

    • Pauline says:

      So glad you enjoyed the trip Jayne. I think maybe I would have given up after the first disaster, but definitely after the second, but then it is a private garden and is their business employing quite a number of staff. It is wonderful what they have achieved just off the coast of the UK, you really do feel that you have been transported to the southern hemisphere.

  3. Alberto says:

    Hi Pauline, I am officially in love with Aoneum, I remember seeing it for the first time at Kew. The place is so nice and relaxing and makes me feel something on my stomach because I’m soon leaving for a few days to Malta, and your beautiful pictures just keep reminding me to get ready… 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      Good to hear from you Alberto when you must be in the middle of packing, I hope you have a super time and will wait to see your photos! We had a break in Malta quite a few years ago now and really enjoyed it and the planting which seemed to be very exotic at the time!

  4. Jackie says:

    Such beautiful photos, Pauline. Thank you for taking us on a virtual tour – it looks absolutely fantastic – and the colour of that sky – Wow!!

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Jackie, thanks for leaving a message, so glad you enjoyed your tour of Tresco, it really is a wonderful place. The sky was an amazing blue, but unfortunately the next day it was foggy, we knew then that we were still in the UK!!

  5. It is such a magical place, isn’t it. Lovely to re-visit via your photos, thank you for sharing, it is over twenty years since I went. We sailed there and anchored in the sound, arriving at dawn, and hailed a water taxi to take us to Tresco. I remember the vivid, alien planting so well, and the dramatic, very un-English, light. I loved the shell grotto, so wonderfully over the top, but the gaia sculpture wasn’t there, or at least I don’t remember it, and she is fairly memorable!

    • Pauline says:

      We went about 8 yrs ago Janet and it was lovely to be back once more, we were even given the same bedroom! . How wonderful to have sailed there yourselves and arrive at dawn-wonderful. As you say, the sculpture of Gaia is very memorable, you certainly can’t miss her! So glad to have brought back happy memories for you.

  6. pbmgarden says:

    A beautiful and informative post Pauline. Enjoyed seeing the sculptures, plantings and that blue sky and water. Hard to believe it has had to recover from such catastrophes. I like the Echium and, dare I say from an ocean away, the pheasant is so pretty too. susie

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks Susie, glad you enjoyed it. The pheasant is beautiful isn’t he, I just don’t seem to be able to get away from them! It was a lovely break and with the plants and the amazing blue of the sky and water, it made us feel we were somewhere exotic.

  7. Christina says:

    this is a garden I have always wanted to visit, but haven’t quite managed even though we used to holiday quite often in Cornwall. It might surprise you that they can grow a lot of plants that I can’t over-winter outside even here in central Italy. I think that really puts in perspective just how amazing Tresco is. Thank you so much for sharing your visit in such an informative way. Christina

    • Pauline says:

      Tresco hardly ever has frost Christina, due to the influence of the Gulf Stream, its that, that makes all the difference. It certainly gets battered by the wind, but the windbreak that is planted protects it from the worst. We came home rather brown, but we are wind burnt, rather than sun burnt! It is such an amazing garden and it was wonderful seeing it again in such good weather. Glad you enjoyed the visit.

  8. Christina says:

    Oh, I forgot to say the ‘tree’ insn’t an umbrella pine, that is the tall tree in my images of the large island. I think what you saw isn’t a tree at all but another kind of agave; I’ve seen them in southern Italy and they look amazing. Christina

  9. Anna says:

    Oh what a special place it must be Pauline. Have thoroughly enjoyed seeing your photos and reading about the day you spent on Tresco. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us 🙂

  10. wellywoman says:

    Thanks for this tour of Tresco. It brought back very happy memories. In fact I could just go and book a trip there now. The gardens and islands are so magical. It’s incredible what they can grow there.

    • Pauline says:

      Glad to have brought back happy memories WW, we were so lucky with the weather and the crossings. The scenery is beautiful, I even took my sketch pad with me and hope to turn my sketches into paintings later. Tresco certainly is an amazing garden with an unbelievable climate

  11. Annie_H says:

    Well thats convinced me to go to Tresco, looks amazing. I love that picture 3rd from the end with the bright yellow gorse against that blue sky, I can smell those coconut-scented flowers. There were some really unusual flowers which you’ve captured brilliantly.

    • Pauline says:

      Annie, I really can recommend Tresco if you ever have the opportunity to go, the planting is so unlike anything on the mainland and the scenery is so beautiful too. We were quite lucky with the weather, a few very sunny days with a couple of misty days thrown in!

  12. What a beautiful experience for you. Bonnie Prince Charlie can boast another feather in his cap (Aren’t there three feathers in his coat of arms?) Such beautiful sculpture and would love to see a garden full of protea.

    • Pauline says:

      Lovely to hear from you Patrick, I’ve missed you! Yes, you’re right Charles does have 3 feathers in his coat of arms.Tresco really was an amazing garden with planting so different from anything we can grow on the mainland, you wouldn’t think it was just 30 miles off the coast, but they have totally different weather conditions which makes it all possible.

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