Tresco Abbey Garden
Many people will know of the Isles of Scilly because of the world famous sub-tropical Tresco Abbey Garden. Described as a perennial Kew without the glass, it shrugs off salt spray and Atlantic gales to host myriad exotic plants, many of which would stand no chance of survival even on the Cornish mainland less than 30 miles away. Even at the winter solstice, there are more than 300 plants in flower. All in all, the tropical garden is home to more than 20,000 species of plants from 80 countries, ranging from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa.
Tresco Abbey Garden was established by the 19th Century proprietor of the islands, Augustus Smith, originally as a private garden within the grounds of the home that he designed and built. Within the gardens are the remains of a Benedictine Abbey founded in 964 AD, although the majority of what remains today comes from the Priory of St Nicholas founded by monks from Tavistock Abbey in 1114. There were hardly any trees on the island and the gorse did not provide enough protection so Augustus planted "shelterbelts". The first were mainly deciduous trees such as, elm, sycamore, oak, and poplar, and later he planted Monterey cypress and Monterey pine which are fast growing and suited to coastal conditions.
By building tall wind-breaks, Augustus Smith channelled the weather up and over the network of walled enclosures. He also carved three terraces from the rocky, south facing slope looking towards St Mary's. The hotter, drier terraces at the top of the garden suit South African and Australian plants; those lower down provide the humidity that favours flora from New Zealand and South America.
The diversity of plant life to be found within the Abbey Garden is as extraordinary as it is unique. Fringing the lush grid of paths which criss-cross the gardens are a host of succulents, towering palm trees and giant, lipstick-red flame trees. Here you can find flowers of the King Protea and the handsome Lobster Claw. Walk amongst the great blue spires of Echium, brilliant Furcraea, Strelitzia and shocking-pink drifts of Pelargonium.
The garden is also home to a collection of shipwrecked figureheads, which are displayed at the Valhalla Museum.
At the entrance to the garden, there is a well-stocked gift shop and a large cafeteria.
Open every day from 10am to 4pm. Entrance: £12 per person (no concesssions); Under 16s are free.