Last year temperatures fell to a record low of minus 7 at the estate near Probus, so Head Gardener, Gary Long, has taken advantage of the last few days of sunshine by protecting his most delicate plants.
Gary said: “The days of a mild Westcountry winter seem to have disappeared recently and it’s easy to be caught out. Traditionally autumn means clearing up fallen leaves, a lot of hedge trimming and some planting of spring bulbs, but in the last few years I’ve had to completely re-think “putting the garden to bed” for the winter to ensure we still produce the beautiful spring blooms we’re so famous for.”
Trewithen has many tender and half-hardy plants ranging from newly introduced wild species from places like China, Taiwan and Australia, to bananas, palms and agapanthus now common in many Cornish gardens.
Gary said: “Many plants can handle cold temperatures, some are happy as low as minus 11, but in our damp, usually mild maritime climate, it’s the combination of cold wet soil and cold temperatures that cause most damage – add in cold winds and the tender plants can struggle.”
Gary explained that shelter from wind and protection from frost are both improved with a layer of fleece, ideally kept away from touching the foliage as this could allow frost to sit on the leaves and cause cold damage.
Gary will be wrapping the Trewithen bananas’ stems in fleece but not the leaves, which will succumb to the cold but grow back in the spring. The tree ferns will be protected by securing a bundle of straw to the crown and covering it with a plastic bag.
He added: “Anyone worried about tender pot plants can protect them either by bringing them into a cool greenhouse or conservatory or, if they are too heavy to move, by wrapping them in horticultural fleece, adding some bubble wrap if a hard frost is forecast.
“For years we have been pushing the boundaries of what is hardy in the South West, but the recent cold winters have made me realise we do not have quite the Mediterranean climate we had thought. However, with a bit of preparation and ‘TLC’ we can all still grow plants in Cornwall that text books say we can’t!”
More information about Trewithen Garden and details of Gary’s winter preparations are available on the Trewithen Garden website, www.trewithengardens.co.uk.