Home to a National Magnolia Collection, the gardens here at Caerhays are a spring-time wonderland for visitors.
The 120 acre woodland gardens are English Heritage Listed Grade II*. The origins of this historically important collection of Chinese plants can be traced back to the work of the great plant hunters Ernest Wilson (1876 - 1930) and George Forrest (1873 - 1932).
As Caerhays is a spectacular spring garden, public opening is normally from February to the beginning of June. Groups are welcome throughout the year, with prior booking.
There are structured walks around the garden giving views over the estate and grounds, the lake, and out to sea. Guided tours of the gardens by the head gardeners are available and usually last around 1½- 2 hours. These must be prebooked.
Dogs are welcome in the gardens on leads.
J C Williams of Caerhays (1862 - 1939) gave up politics in 1895 and became passionate about gardening. He was quick to recognise the importance of the plant hunters' work and contributed £300,000 (in today's terms) of his own money towards Forrest's 1911 and subsequent expeditions, as well as being involved in the joint funding of many other trips.
In return, Caerhays received a wealth of seed from newly discovered species of Chinese rhododendrons, magnolias, camellias, azaleas, acers and evergreen oaks to mention but a few. A large number of these unique plants can be seen growing in maturity at Caerhays today.
The arrival of this plant material opened up opportunities for JC and his successors, Charles and Julian Williams to engage in an extensive programme of hybridisation work which is still going on today. The origin of the truly hardy, free flowering and easy to grow x williamsii strain of camellias dates from J C's original cross between Camellia saluenensis and Camellia japonica in 1923. Williamsii hybrid camellias now number many thousands of varieties and are still hybridised and grown throughout the world.
We have lots of photos in our 'what's in the garden section' of J C and Caerhays' achievements in hybridising magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias. Visitors to the gardens will see some of our latest hybridisation work as well as the ever expanding NCCPG National Magnolia Collection which now numbers around 80 species and over 500 hybrids