For some time, The Lost Gardens of Heligan have been high on our list of inspirational gardens to visit. So on a rather windswept weekend earlier this Spring, we set off to The West Country to finally visit this magical garden.
The story of Heligan Garden is well documented, it was part of the Tremayne Estate in south east Cornwall for over 400 years. During the second half of the 18th Century, Heligan was at the vanguard of horticultural development. Then came the onset of the First World War, this saw all the gardeners at Heligan being sent to fight, most of them never returned and the gardens fell into disrepair and remained hidden until the end of the century…
The restoration of Heligan in the early 1990’s was the largest garden restoration project of its kind in Europe. A fascinating aspect of this story is the number of ancient plants and trees that were uncovered during the restoration – incredible specimens of so many different varieties were found to be still alive amongst the dense undergrowth.
An impressive number of mature Chusan Palms – Trachycarpus Fortunei were found to be amongst the surviving trees – these incredibly hardy palms can grow to up to 65 feet high. It is difficult to age palm trees as they don’t produce rings like other trees but the consensus is, that the vintage palms at Heligan will be at least 120 years old.
The Chusan Palm or Chinese Windmill Palm, first came to Europe in the early 1830’s. Plant hunter Philip von Siebold, brought back seeds from Japan. Of the few plants that germinated, one was transported to Kew Gardens, where it lived inside a greenhouse for many years. Of course, we now know that the Chusan Palm is one of the hardiest palm trees in the world and is now grown outside throughout the UK, in all but the very coldest regions. Trachycarpus Fortunei will happily tolerate windy coastal climates and is now a popular sight in many UK coastal towns.
Interestingly, the Chusan Palm’s trunk doesn’t increase in diameter as it grows, it remains around 10-15cm whilst growing vertically and is incredibly strong, The covering of fibres give the trunk a furry coat, which looks much softer than it feels to the touch. These fibres were used for making rope in its native Far East. Trachycarpus Fortunei can eventually grow to lofty heights of up to 65 feet at maturity.
These beautiful hardy palms are an intrinsic part of the Heligan landscape and were a most exciting and unusual sight at the time of their original planting. Heligan led the way with the planting of the Jungle Garden, in the art of growing tropical plants in the UK climate, truly ground-breaking and a must-see garden for anyone interested in horticulture. Heligan spans 200 acres – we will discuss many other aspects of this remarkable garden in future posts. If you do venture down to Cornwall to visit Heligan and you have the time, we’d also recommend visiting Overbeck’s in Devon, a coastal, tropical garden in Salcombe.
Paramount Plant specialises in Hardy Palms and other tropical and Mediterranean plants and we currently have 8 different sizes of Chusan Palms for sale online for delivery throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
For further details of growing these magnificent hardy palms in your own garden, please contact our expert team who will advise you.
Paramount Plants & Gardens Ltd
131 Theobalds Park Road
London EN2 9BH
Tel: +44 (0)20 8367 8809
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