'A perennial Kew' - home to 20,000 exotic plants with species from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa
The tropical gardens at Tresco Abbey in the Isles of Scilly have long been a popular place with tourists visiting the islands. The gardens were originally planted by Augustus Smith in the early 19th century, when he was lord proprietor of the island. The ruined abbey buildings seemed to be an ideal spot for a garden, which soon grew from a small formal area into a seventeen acre site of terraces, walkways and fish ponds.
Augustus Smith was responsible for importing and planting many of the exotic species seen in the gardens today. Over a period of forty years, he developed the gardens to include various species of palm trees and succulents alongside various other exotic plants. This included the first planting of trees and shrubs to form the Long Walk.
The Dorrien-Smith family have continued to develop the gardens since the latter part of the 19th century. One of the first and most important adaptations was the construction of a windbreak composed of Monterey pines and cypresses. This provided additional shelter for further exotic varieties from such places as New Zealand and South Africa. The ruins of the abbey itself are particularly attractive due to the attractive climbing plants which have been encouraged to festoon the old stones.
The mild climate of the Scilly Isles has enabled many plants, normally only grown under glass in the British Isles, to thrive here. There are banana trees and citrus trees, which fruit regularly. Many of the more tender varieties are found in the Well Garden and around the series of small pools from which the West Rockery climbs upwards. Throughout the gardens are a number of viewing points offering wonderful vistas of the sea and gardens.
Tresco Abbey Gardens are open all year. A boat trip from Hughtown on the main island of St Mary’s takes the visitor to Tresco, where there are a number of hotels and guest houses catering for visitors. During the summer season, there is also helicopter access.