The Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group

Three groups of plants – one group of enthusiasts worldwide

South West Branch Penberth Visit 5 April 2017

The South West Branch had visited the far tip of Cornwall a few years back, and this was a return to see how things have developed. A new pair of very knowledgeable, energetic and keen gardeners have been in post for eighteen months and are already making their mark on the garden at Penberth, and the Moules are still maintaining their stunning valley side garden to a high degree and it continues to develop. Plants grow at an amazing rate in this very mild maritime climate, and it must take constant vigilance to keep control.


Twenty four members and guests assembled at the front of the house to a welcome hot drink and biscuits, served by owner Lady Banham, whose grandfather first laid out the gardens at Penberth. From the front of the house we admired the wonderful view down the valley to the sea. At a plant stall by the house was Jeff Rowe, who with Claire Batten, has taken over gardening Penberth as well as running the Chelsea Gold Medal winning nursery, Penberth Plants, near by. He had brought a selection of plants for sale, especially Proteas, Watsonias and South African Ericas in which the nursery specialises, and purchases were duly made.

Lady Banham then introduced us to the garden and its history through generations of her family who each contributed to the planting. Lady Banham has developed an area near and below the house as her contribution.

After the previous gardener had retired, the gardens had lain somewhat neglected, and growth of the trees and shrubs as well as the brambles, had grown away unchecked.

Jeff and Claire, in the eighteen months they have been there, have done amazing things and one truly admired their energy and dedication in bringing the garden back from overgrowth and chaos, area by area. Parts of the garden now are in excellent shape, while other areas await their attention. Claire led us past many interesting plants of our genera, especially notably some very large Camellias. Many Proteas, Banksias and other exotics were also growing away, which we admired as we were led around by Claire.

The poly-tunnel erected to house their show plants was open for inspection, and the plants here will be off to the Chelsea Flower Show next month. They have been nominated as Master Growers for the next Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, which is not only prestigious in itself, but gives them pride of place in the Floral Marquee, and we congratulated them on this. In the hands of the amazing Jeff and Claire, the garden’s future felt very secure, and they are to be commended on what they have achieved so far in such a short time.

John Marston

You can download a copy of this report