Explore the unexpected...
For many of our visitors it is astonishing that a garden exists here, but despite the gales and salty winds, the Gulf Stream tempers the climate so that frosts are a rarity and the rock acts as a gigantic radiator – absorbing heat by day and releasing it at night, creating a micro climate in which all sorts of unlikely plants flourish.
Puya, agave and aloe rear out of the bedrock, agapanthus wave their heavy heads, and binding threads of rosemary, lavender and coronilla tumble down the terraces. Come and experience life beyond the castle walls...
The gardens trail
Make your own journey of discovery through the winding pathways and steep stone terraces and unearth some of the Mount’s surprises along the way.
Whether you’re finding your own way through flower-lined pathways, clambering up steep, Victorian steps or simply taking it all in from up high on the battlements – lose yourself in an island garden sure to surprise…
To preserve and protect the gardens, we open them to the public at specific times throughout the year. Here’s a quick taste of what lies behind the gates:
Follow a trail of discovery
Leave the village behind and step through the garden gates onto the island’s Laundry Lawn, where green grass meets the blue Atlantic. Throw your picnic blanket wide, or wander to the wartime pillbox at the sea’s edge – where soldiers once kept lookout for German aircraft in World War II. Stand back and take in your first glimpse of the garden, nestled beneath the castle’s walls.
Wend your way along the grass avenue flanked by kniphofia and cordyline to the East Terraces, falling in tiers down the steep cliff face. Filling the shallow terraces of traditional dry stone granite walls, you'll see abundant blooms of pelargonium, gazanias and lithodora which thrive in the acid, free draining soil. Further up the hill, peer into the ornate garden well, where islanders once collected rainwater.
From here, trace your way to the Top Walled Garden where a strong planting of pericallis, parahebe and tulbaghia combine to make a glorious wave pattern, echoing the sea.
The newly planted Middle Walled Garden will become a wash of silver from the foliage of cineraria and artemisia, broken through with prairie-style plants including pennisetum, whose delicate fronds will dance in the breeze. Romantics can hunt out the yellow blooms of the medicago plant, plucked and placed into the wedding bouquet of the first Lady St Levan. Its cuttings have been used in family bouquets ever since.
Step on down to where the gardens brush the coastline. Here you'll find the Bottom Walled Garden where bay, ajuga, tradescantia and fuchsia vie for attention in a perfectly formed, but often overlooked, corner of the garden.
The West Terraces harbour some of the hottest spots in the gardens, with recorded temperatures reaching 40C+ as the granite pumps out its accumulated heat and the sun beats down. A giant agave rubs shoulders with leucodendrum, aeonium, aloes and ginger lilies. At the very top, the Seagull Seat is the perfect vantage point to gaze out at the horizon, as well as being a place where lovers once met, hidden away from the castle's watch.
Discover the species and uncover the stories that makes our garden unique – pick up a leaflet from the ticket office, or listen to one of our gardening team talks every day at 1pm when the garden is open.
Children can learn more about the sub-tropical species of the garden as they follow the clues of our trail. Successful explorers can even win a prize at the end. Pick up a copy of our garden trail at the garden entrance.
Want to take home a slice of our garden sanctuary? Our gift-shop sells a selection of plants to please the most green-fingered visitors.
Developing the gardens
Worn stone walls harbouring a multitude of succulents, towering rocks rearing up above you with granite ledges bursting with colour. Our garden might be rooted in history, but it is full of vitality and life. Discover their unique past and how our gardening team maintains and refreshes the garden today.
Building a garden on the edge
In 1780, the four Miss St Aubyns, daughters of the 4th Sir John, initiated the building of the Walled Garden in red brick. This delightfully intimate and domestic space, with a summerhouse for quiet contemplation, is full of interest and colour.
The Victorian East and West Terraces are more exposed to the elements, but are home to spectacular plants – the orange exotics of kniphofia and strelitzia reginae, the unusual blooms of erythrina and echium and the Jurassic looking puya and fascicularia. One of the most dramatic views out to sea is from the Tortoise Lawn, where the 3rd Lady St Levan kept her tortoise for many years during the 1960s.
Bright and striking, subtle and serene, the Mount’s collection of species shipped from far-flung Mexico, South Africa and beyond cling to the rock, a tapestry of textures and colours offering a botanical bounty like no other. Marvel at the colours around you and breathe in the heady scent of rosemary, coronilla and lavender as it drifts on the breeze.
Drawing on its unique microclimate, garden designer Michael Harvey, alongside Lord and Lady St Levan, consider every corner of the garden, giving each section its own individual lease of life.
A bold recipe of colour and form, with many plants dramatic enough to be appreciated both up close and high above from the battlements, the design remains sensitive to the garden’s most crucial element – the granite resting at its heart. Absorbing heat over the day and releasing it by night, granite is the lifeblood of the Mount’s garden, creating a unique environment that even the most unlikely of species can thrive in.
Our Head Gardener, Lottie Allen, and her team of three work in all weathers to care for the garden and surrounding landscape. With skills ranging from propagation to pruning to abseiling down the rockface, the team enhance the garden's unique atmosphere and beauty.
The Mount garden was designed for domestic enjoyment. Now the garden attracts over 65,000 visitors from April to September. To safeguard the delicate tapestry of paths, terraces and steps from too much erosion, we have to restrict the number of days that the garden is open.
Discover our opening times.