by Mike Nelhams

Publisher:  Truran (2006)
ISBN  1 8502 200 2

Paperback £9.99


Abbey Garden is the result of the dedication of five generations of the Dorrien-Smith family and their gardeners who have created this jewel of a garden in the beautiful Isles of Scilly.  In 1834 Augustus Smith leased the whole of the Isles of Scilly from the Duchy of Cornwall.   This book describes how, on Tresco, Smith started the garden and how each subsequent generation has shaped its development.

The author, Mike Nelhams has worked at Abbey Garden since 1983; first as the Head Gardener and now as its Curator.  Mike describes his own experiences on the island including the work required to restock the gardens following a spell of unprecedented snow and severe cold weather in 1987 and then just three years later having to deal with the 1990 hurricane that destroyed most of the essential tree shelter belt that had been developed over the life span of the garden.

In this book the individual plants grown on Tresco are certainly not overlooked.   There is a description and sample list of plants flowering on the island on New Year’s Day and Mike provides his own A-Z choice of plants that for him demonstrate both the great range of species grown and the character of the Abbey Garden.

The many photographs in this book are of excellent quality and well presented.  They include pictures of individual plants, recent events on the island and historical pictures of the Dorrien-Smith family through the generations.  The book is a must for anyone planning a trip to the Abbey Garden on Tresco but for those fortunate enough to have already crossed over the water to experience these beautiful gardens it will serve as a memoir of their visit and as a resource to explore further how the garden has been developed and to examine the great range of plants that flourish there.

Chris Parker
The reviewer is a student of horticulture at Duchy College, Rosewarne and has secured a work placement at the Abbey Garden for summer 2007.