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Tresco Abbey Garden

The sub-tropical Abbey Garden is a glorious exception; a perennial Kew without the glass, home to thousands of exotic plants from around the world flourishing right here on the Isles of Scilly...

Here off the coast of Cornwall, Spring comes early, autumn stays late and winter hardly exists at all. Truly a subtropical paradise, Tresco Abbey Garden is brimming with plants that would stand no chance at all just 30 miles away on the Cornish mainland.

The beautiful garden, built in the 19th century around the ruins of a Benedictine Abbey, is home to species from across the world’s Mediterranean climate zones, from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa.

It’s quite easy to while away a day meandering among sheltered glades of tree ferns or strolling along sunny terraces, gazing out across the borders to the ocean views beyond. Even non-gardeners cannot fail but wonder at the array of scents, sights and sounds that await around every corner.

The face of the garden changes throughout the year. In spring flowers bloom weeks ahead of those on the mainland – the perfect tonic after a long, cold winter. In the autumn the reds, golds and ambers of the seasonal foliage contrast with the magnificent proteas, aloes and camellias. Even at the winter solstice there are usually more than 300 species of plant in flower.



Tresco Abbey Garden is open daily from 10am until 4pm. Please note: the Garden remains open throughout the year, but the Garden Visitor Centre and Cafe is closed during the winter (early November until March).

There are daily tripper boats to Tresco from the neighbouring islands of St Mary’s, Bryher and St Martin’s, and regular trips from St Agnes. Please see island boat boards for details.

The treasures to be found within the Abbey Garden are not limited to the floral kind, either. The Valhalla Museum within the Garden is home to shipwrecked figureheads collected across the Isles of Scilly and now part of the National Maritime collection.

At the entrance to the garden is the Garden Visitor Centre with its tempting café and suntrap courtyard, a well-stocked gift shop and an exhibition telling the history of the Abbey Garden.

Entry to Tresco Abbey Garden and the Valhalla Museum is:

  • Adults: £15
  • Over 65s: £14
  • Under 16s: £5
  • Under 5s: Free
  • Weekly Pass: £25

Important Note on Accessibility: Please note that, in line with the other off-islands, there is no public transport available on Tresco. Depending on tides, your boat may land some distance from the Abbey Garden. Whilst the garden does have a number of sets of steps, there is also an accessible route along shingle paths suitable for wheelchairs. A limited number of mobility scooters are available to hire (booking strongly advised). For further information on accessibility around the garden, please call the Garden Visitor Centre on +44 (0)1720 424108.



The subtropical garden is home to species from across the world’s Mediterranean climate zones, from Brazil to New Zealand and Burma to South Africa.

Fringing the lush grid of paths which criss-cross the gardens are a host of succulents, towering palms and giant, lipstick-red flame trees. Here you can find flowers of the King Protea and the handsome Lobster Claw, great blue spires of Echium, brilliant Furcraea, Strelitzia and shocking-pink drifts of Pelargonium.

Tresco Abbey Garden was established by Augustus Smith in the 19th century, originally as a private garden within the grounds of his home, adjacent to the remains of a Benedictine Abbey founded in 964 AD.

Augustus Smith created tall windbreaks around the garden, channelling the weather up and over the network of walled enclosures and terraces he carved from the rocky, south facing slopes 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.


Abbey Garden Scholarships & Bursaries

The Abbey Garden is an incredible place for horticultural students to gain invaluable experience. Garden curator Mike Nelhams is involved with various scholarships and bursaries which can help students gain placement in this prestigious botanical site. Find more info here.


Illustrated Tresco Map

Welcome To Abbey Garden

Click on the illustrations to discover some of the Abbey Garden's remarkable collection of botanical treasures.


Eucalyptus Collection

The Eucalyptus Collection can be found above the Kitchen Garden but there are also many specimens planted throughout the gardens.

Aeonium Dell

Locally known as Scilly Cabbages, succulent Canary Island aeoniums have made themselves at home in the gardens.

Multi-stemmed Monterey cypress from California

The Monterey cypress is a vital part of the gardens’ shelterbelt as well as being a beautiful tree.

The Shell House

The Shell House was designed and decorated by Lucy Dorrien Smith in 1997.

Agave Fountain (sculpture) by Tom Leaper

The Agave Fountain was created by Cornish artist Tom Leaper in 1996.

The Kitchen Garden

The Kitchen Garden supplies the Dorrien Smith family with fruit, vegetables and cut-flowers – there’s bees and chickens too!

Garden Visitor Centre

Visit the shop, cafe and The History Room including Colossus exhibition.

South African proteas

No other garden in Britain can boast such a variety of beautiful South African proteas on display.

South African aloe bed

Aloes are not only useful for their healing properties – they are beautiful too!

Chilean puyas

The exotic puyas may be spikey leaved but they have extraordinary flowers in the spring.

Canary Island echiums

The Canary Island echiums put up tall spires of purple blue flowers and seed themselves throughout the gardens.

The Queen Mother's Tree

Agathis australis from New Zealand.

Norfolk Island Pine Grove

One of the most iconic trees in the garden with its regular foliage.

Silver trees from South Africa

The Silver Tree from South Africa gets its shimmer from the hundreds of tiny hairs that cover its leaves.

Canary Island palms

The Canary Island palms on the Middle Terrace are the tallest in the British Isles.

Mexican agave bank

Some agaves produce a flowering stem nearly 10m high – if you’re lucky you might see one here!

South African watsonias

Watsonias flower in drifts through the gardens in the summer.

Gaia (sculpture) by David Wynne

Tresco’s Earth Mother - Gaia was sculpted from South African marble by David Wynne.

Evergreen oak hedges

The tall hedges of evergreen oak protect the garden from salt-laden gales but they are a challenge to trim!

Tresco children (sculpture) by David Wynne

Tresco Children made by the sculptor David Wynne is one of the gardens’ highlights.

Palm Circle

A collection of trachycarpus palms.

Tree ferns

In the lower parts of the gardens tree ferns from New Zealand and Australia flourish.

St Nicholas Priory, the ruins of 12th century Benedictine abbey

St Nicholas Priory was founded in the early 12th century by Benedictine monks and it was where the first plants of the Abbey Garden were planted in the mid-nineteenth century.

Chilean wine palm

With its large barrel-like trunk full of sweet sap, the Chilean wine palm is one of the most important specimens in the garden.

Pebble Garden

Colourful in the summer with seasonal bedding.

Succulent cliff

Aloes, aeoniums and an array of scrambling Lampranthus, it is difficult to believe that the Succulent Cliff is in England!

Giant Banksia integrifolia

This champion specimen of Banksia from Australia was once reduced to a stump by snow but now it’s back – better than ever!

Figurehead of SS Thames

This figurehead was taken from SS Thames, wrecked on Scilly in 1841; made of wood, it was painted white and covered in sand to make it appear to be stone!

King Protea

The King Protea is the national flower of South Africa and one of the most striking blooms on Tresco!

Diversity Of Species

  • Bomarea

    Beautiful climber with clusters of orange flowers. (Latin: Bomarea Caldasii)

  • Angel's Trumpet

    Exotic, narcotic shrub with large trumpet-like flowers. (Latin: Brugmansia)

  • Monterey Cypress

    Large evergreen tree - a vital part of Tresco's windbreak. (Latin: Cupressus Macrocarpa)

  • Mexican Dahlia

    The Bell Tree Dahlia with pink-lilac flowers. Latin: Dahlia Imperialis)

  • Fascicularia Bicolor

    Mound-forming bromeliad with spiny leaves, red bracts and blue flowers.

  • Chilean Wine Palm

    Large, barrel-trunked palm tree, full of sweet sap. (Latin: Jubaea Chilensis)

  • Agave

    The ultimate architectural plant - species can produce a flower spike 10 metres high. (Latin: Agave sp.)

  • Furcraea

    The furcraea flowers once in its life - often synchronised with other furcraeas in the garden. (Latin: Furcraea longaeava)

  • Chilean Puya

    A mountain bromeliad with extraordinary blue flowers. (Latin: Puya Alpestris)

  • Proteaceae Family

    Australian member of the Protea family, named after Sir Joseph Banks. (Latin: Banksia - Genus)

  • Australian Wattle

    The brilliant sprays of yellow flowers used to be cut and shipped to florists. (Latin: Acacia Longifolia)

  • Correa (Genus)

    Tough shrub with delightful tubular bell flowers. (Latin: Correa sp.)

  • Spear Lily

    Lush green foliage with a large, red flower spike. (Latin: Doryanthes Palmeri)

  • Proteaceae

    Golden-flowered shrub with a scent like musty pineapple. (Latin: Dryandra Formosa)

  • Eucalyptus

    The great tree species of Australia with vibrantly -coloured flowers. (Latin: Eucalyptus ficifolia)

  • Proteaceae

    Low shrub with rosemary-like leaves and small red flowers. (Latin: Grevillea Rosmariniifolia)

  • Hakea (Genus)

    Small tree with creamy white flowers. (Latin: Hakea sp.)

  • Myrtaceae

    Shrub with deep red bottlebrush flowers. (Latin: Kunzea Baxteri)

  • Proteaceae: The Waratah

    The flower of New South Wales - crimson and gorgeous. (Latin: Telopea - Genus)

  • Purple Aeonium

    Succulent with rosettes of dark purple/red leaves and yellow flowers. (Latin: Aeonium Arboreum Atropurpureum)

  • Canary Island Aeoniums

    Succulent with rosettes of green leaves and yellow flowers. (Latin: Aeonium)

  • Canary Island Echium

    Tall biennial with splendid head of small blue flowers. (Latin: Echium Pininana)

  • Mediterranean Cistus

    White flowered mediterranean evergreen shrub. (Latin: Cistus Ladanifera)

  • Canary Island Isoplexus

    Medium shrub with orange/ yellow racemes of flowers. (Latin: Isoplexus)

  • Madeira

    Large leafy umbelliferous plant - a sort of Madeiran cow parsley! (Latin: Melanoselinum decipiens)

  • Madeiran Bush Echium

    Shrub with fantastic blue flowers in late-spring. (Latin: Echium sp.)

  • Canary Island Palms

    Large palm trees which dominate the Middle Terrace. (Latin: Phoenix Canariensis)

  • Mediterranean Scilla

    Mediterranean bulb with deep violet - blue flowers. (Latin: Scilla Peruviana)

  • Protea Compacta

    Shrub with bright pink or white flowers.

  • Candelabra Aloe

    Succulent shrub with fiery red-orange flowers. (Latin: Aloe arborescens)

  • Belladonna Lily

    South Africa bulb with rose-pink flowers in late-summer and autumn. (Latin: Amaryllis Belladonna)

  • Brunia (Genus)

    Endemic South African genus with round white flower heads. (Latin: Brunia albiflora)

  • Fire Heath

    Brilliant red heather - often the first flower after a bush fire. (Latin: Erica Cerinthoides)

  • Natal Bottlebrush

    Smallish tree with attractive red flowers. (Latin: Greyia sutherlandii)

  • Homeria

    Corm with pale golden yellow to peach or pink flowers in the summer. (Latin: Homeria sp.)

  • King Protea

    National flower of South Africa. (Latin: Protea Cynaroides)

  • Wild Dagga

    Orange, furry flowered shrub with aromatic leaves. (Latin: Leonotis Leonorus)

  • Silver Tree

    Found naturally only on the slopes of Table Mountain above Cape Town. (Latin: Leucadendron Argenteum)

  • South African daisy

    Wonderful "weed" with purple daisy flowers. (Latin: Senecio glastifolius)

  • The Pincushion Protea

    Striking member of the Protea family - flowers loved by the Cape sunbirds. (Latin: Leucospermum Cordifolium)

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