I have been into the garden this morning to pick a few flowers to brighten the Visitor Centre.
The rain is not only incessant but particularly cold as well today and Camellias don't like wet soil, in fact they prefer good drainage at their roots. The Cornish climate suits them to perfection - the soil is generally acidic and the amount of rainfall generally is about right and spread throughout the year.
Camellias were introduced to Europe at the end of the 18th century and received with tremendous enthusiasm by the wealthy elite. They reached their height of popularity in the Victorian era and no garden was complete without them. Perhaps it was the lack of gardeners to maintain them after the First World War, or simply the end of a social era, when all things Victorian were considered aesthetically displeasing, that the Camellia fell into anonymity.
The list of plants at Trebah by E Thurston in 1930 reflects this trend, and only two species are recorded (Camellia sasanqua & Camellia sinensis). In contrast John Petry, who had worked at Trebah since World War 2 and eventually became Head Gardener, recorded some 37 varieties in 1980. Nowadays it ranks as one of the very best of all flowering shrubs and we have over 70 different varieties with extensive plantings along Camellia Walk, Petry's Path and Badgers Walk.
By Nicky Wharton, Garden Archivist