Fieldnotes: Pinetum Gardens

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Lovingly created and maintained for the past forty years, Pinetum Gardens is a thirty acre estate situated just outside the centre of St Austell in Cornwall. Spread over a whopping ten individually themed garden spaces, the estate boasts one of the largest plant collections in the county- and yes, that includes the Eden Project!

I was lucky enough to be invited to review the gardens last weekend and, seeing as I'm still on a mission to keep exploring all the wonders the South West has to offer, I just had to say yes to this lovely opportunity.

So before I get into my trip, here's some basic information to start off with...  

Opening Times: The gardens are open every day, all year round from 10am until 6pm with last entry at 5pm. Signs around the site said that they were open every day until dusk which is a bit vague, so it might be worth checking on the day you visit if you think you'll want to stay a little later.  

Tickets: General admission is £10 for adults, £9 for seniors and £5 for young adults. Under 11's go free and anyone with RHS or National Trust Membership can claim 10% off their ticket price.

Dogs are more than welcome at Pinetum Gardens, as long as they stay on a lead around the site. We saw plenty of happy pooches taking a stroll (and a good sniff) around the flowerbeds so I would say, as long as your dog is well-behaved enough not to trample everything into oblivion, they'll have a lovely little potter about here.

Parking is free and in ample supply here. There's an overflow car park just in case things get a bit busy but, when we visited at least, the parking situation was fairly self-explanatory and we managed to hitch up with no trouble whatsoever. Another fab thing about these gardens is that walking the path through the site will wind you back round to the car park at the end, so no need to worry about the dreaded trek back to the car after your visit.

When you go to buy your tickets, you'll have to go past the café and into the little gift shop- so you'll be aware of the facilities from the get-go here! The café serves breakfast, morning coffee, lunches and afternoon teas (which we were very lucky to be treated to, more on this later) and everything is very reasonably priced, so don't feel forced into bringing your own flask and homemade sandwiches if you don't want to.

In the courtyard, outside the shop and café. All that greenery!

It's really easy to find your way around the site. One thing in particular that we noted is that accessibility for disabled or elderly visitors is fab too; not only can you hire mobility scooters here but the most of the pathways and gardens seem to have been specifically designed for wheelchair users to pass through with ease. We saw multiple signs notifying visitors about whether the path ahead was easily accessible or not and there where lots of benches and seating areas dotted about the site, just in case you did need to take a break!

However, I did risk a slippy little path getting that shot on the right- the pond in the Japanese Garden was as clear as a mirror!

It was simply stunning to walk around. We were lucky enough to have the garden all to ourselves, so we made sure we had a proper nose around so we could take in all the varieties of flowers.

Coming out of the Japanese Garden, we found ourselves in the main parkland that links the site together. Walking through the wildflower-strewn parkland and down to the lake was a magical experience in itself! We saw plenty of spots that would be absolutely bloomin' perfect for a laidback picnic in the grass or a quick game of rounders with your mates...

*Bonus garden points- you're more than welcome to feed the ducks and geese at the lake here! 50p paper bags of bread can be bought from the garden shop- something that I wish we'd have done as this little duckling was quite disappointed to waddle away empty handed (or is it empty-beaked?)

Walking the path around the lake and up to the Winter Garden, you'll find a fleet of stunningly bright birch trees. The colour of these trunks all standing together really took me by surprise as I turned the corner!

I took a good whiff of the Elderflower to make sure it wasn't as good as ours!

After we'd walked the winding path round the Winter Garden, we crossed the parkland once more and entered the Arboretum. This area was in stark contrast to the creeping bushes and spooky tall trees to be found in the Winter Garden- it kind of reminded me of something out of Jane Austen and it felt a lot quieter than the rest of the gardens.

I'm no flower expert but I think these were enormous pink peonies- they smelt  d i v i n e  in any case!

I came across these monstrous plants as we wandered through our next stop, the Water Garden- how beautiful is that blend of green and white?

Standing under this giant, dinosaur-esque leaf was simultaneously the most peaceful and terrifying thing I have ever done in a garden...I was convinced something was going to drop down and crawl on my head!

After we'd had our fill of all the beautiful sights and sounds of the gardens, we stopped for a look around the plant shop. This little furball was basking in the warm sunshine by all the pots and plants and kept peering up at us as we perused what we were going to buy!

In the end, I picked up a little pot of a coastal perennial called Armeria Maritima. It's a little pink flower that usually grows on cliff edges by the sea and I just had to have it when I saw it because it instantly reminded me of all the sunny Cornish coastal walks I've been on since moving down here.

After we'd wandered our way around the entire estate and purchased a couple of plants to take away, we were kindly treated to a complimentary Cornish cream tea at the Garden Kitchen café.

I must say, this was one of the best cream teas I've ever had- and I've had a fair few! The tea was perfectly brewed and the clotted cream was delightfully decadent. It was the perfect way to round off our visit to the gardens and I for one certainly enjoyed having all the park's chickens and geese waddling round my feet as we tucked in!

All in all, I absolutely loved my trip to Pinetum Gardens and I highly recommend it as a place to visit if you ever get the chance to go! As you know, I love any trip to gardens or park land but this trip felt particularly special because we were allowed to walk around these gardens at our own pace and in relative peace and quiet.

If you've read my Fieldnotes on The Eden Project (which is just up the road from Pinetum) you'll know that, whilst I did enjoy elements of my visit there, I did get an overwhelming sense that we were being steered in a certain direction all the way around the site. Which I didn't like.

At Pinetum however, you are free to roam around for as long as you like within the opening hours, which means you can potter about amongst the flora and fauna in whichever direction and at whatever pace you desire. What's more, they actively encourage picnics and dog walks on site, meaning you could spend the entire day in the grounds here if you wanted.

If you are planning a visit to Cornwall soon and would love to see some spectacular garden scenery, perhaps take a rain check on The Eden Project and pop down the road to see it's neighbour, Pinetum Gardens, instead. I guarantee you won't regret putting aside such a busy and noisy tourist attraction for this calm and tranquil setting!

Have you ever been to Pinetum? I'd love to hear what you thought of it in the comments below, particularly if you've ever spent the entire day there!

In the meantime,
All the love,

Siân x


  1. Hello Sian. Totally agree. We visited twice in June while on holiday with friends over 4 days which shows how much we enjoyed it. In addition to the wonderful gardens, the owner Chang and his staff were all very friendly, helpful and informative. We had lunch both times which was delicious. Although our friends live in Surrey and will have to wait until next June to revisit, we're only an hour away so will definitely be back several times before then. Best wishes Molly

    1. Thank you for your comment Molly! I totally agree, everyone there is very friendly and informative- which makes for an ever better day out! Hope you get to go back soon, we've definitely got plans too return too :) x

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    Love, Kate x

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