Eighteen of us gathered in sunshine at Porthpean House where we were met by owner Martin Petherick and retired Head Gardener Tony Tregilgas. The Branch had visited in 1999, and had at that time been shown round by Martin’s mother, Charlotte, who is now confined to a wheelchair, but also came out to greet us. It is she, with Tony Tregilgas, who had planted and bred the Camellias which were the principal feature of the garden. They have now grown to a great size, and some have either been pruned or moved to let the light in, which has been successful. More rearrangement is still to take place.
We were fortunate to have two knowledgeable guides, Martin Petherick armed with his father’s planting book which was very useful in the naming of the plants we saw, and Tony Tregilgas who knew the Camellias as old friends. The setting of the house is spectacular, overlooking St Austell Bay and with Porthpean beach just under the edge of the garden. Hedges of Camellias had been planted as windbreak shrubs, and appeared remarkably untouched by the sea spray and wind which must batter them at times.
We set off into the garden and on the way, saw a large plant of the red reticulata hybrid ‘Miss Tulare’. Many of the original camellias were ordered from Nuccio’s nursery in California, as this was. Next to this was a plant of Rhododendron ‘Mother of Pearl’. Of note, further along the path was a large plant of Camellia ‘Charlotte Petherick’ of a beautiful semi-double pink, named after Martin’s mother who bred it, as also Camellia ‘Porthpean’, a deep red, flowering next to and above it. Of note among the many camellias were White Nun, Pagoda, and Nuccio’s Jewel’.
Alongside the path we came upon a valley-like area carpeted with bluebells and primroses - a wonderful sight and presumably not often seen together as the bluebells would normally be flowering later. Although the area had been intended as a primrose carpet the bluebells have invaded and spread, to Martin’s consternation, but we thought the effect lovely. Standing proudly in the centre of this area is a young tree of Magnolia ‘Apollo’, being set off beautifully by this carpet of colour.
We then entered a sheltered area with a well formed and profusely flowering Magnolia doltsopa on one side, and, on the other, a large plant of a good yellow form of Rhododendron maccabeanum. A large Magnolia given by Martin’s uncle which was a challenge to name in 1999, now appeared to be either M. kobus or its hybrid, M. x loebneri. A large R. aboreum hybrid which we had seen from the road, was also flowering profusely. The house is now used for holiday lets and as a venue for weddings etc, but Martin has hopes of moving back permanently in a few years from near Marlborough where he now lives.
We thanked both Martin & Tony for showing us around this lovely garden. Tony’s son is now Head Gardener and Martin has become an enthusiastic plantsman, so the future of Porthpean appears secure.