winter gardening



This is a phrase I hear a lot at this time of the year and I find it slightly unnerving. In fact, if I’m honest it’s a phrase that goes completely against everything I believe in when designing a garden. Seasons should feature in gardens, they should be celebrated, yes, even winter. By putting their garden to bed, a lot of people mean tidying it all up, removing all fallen leaves and cutting everything down so that they can forget about it all until the spring. But even if it is true that everything slows down and that most plants and creatures go dormant, there is still life  winter. There is still much to be admired and there are some plants that are in fact at their peak in winter: Sarcococca, Witch Hazel and Viburnum Bodnantense provide fragrance, Hellebores are definitely worth coming close too and many more. I love visiting gardens in winter when everything is quieter and not so in your face.

Some herbaceous stand proud throughout the winter and display elegant seedheads and silhouettes and look enchanting covered with frost (a lot of ornamental grasses, verbena bonariensis, hydrangeas, etc..) .

So don’t put your garden to bed.  On the contrary, leave a pile of logs and fallen limbs in a corner, don’t completely eradicate the mess, leave a bit of it for hibernating mammals and insects. Leave some seedheads on, and don’t remove all the fallen leaves but push them away from the lawn into the beds to provide the more tender perennials with a natural mulch.

winter seedheads.jpg



Gardens look great in winter.  Well, they should anyway. If yours doesn't, here are some tips to let the magic in...

  • Get the structure right.  My gardens have a high ratio of herbaceous and deciduous trees but I always try to get the bone of the garden right with a few strategically placed structural evergreens so that the garden doesn’t look dead in the deep of winter.
  • Don’t cut everything back, retain some seedheads standing tall and proud throughout the winter. Ornamental grasses, perennials such as Verbenas, and shrubs such as Hydrangeas look great even after the flowers have died and very elegant under a layer of frost. Plus they are a valuable food source for birds and provide an overwintering home for ladybirds and lacewings.
  • Attractive bark and silhouette. Choose some trees that look great even after they’ve lost all their leaves such as betula utilis var. jacquemontii, which will brighten up any garden with their brilliant white stems and slender, elegant silhouettes. Multi- stemmed Amelanchier and Acers will also provide interest and look like sculptures. Dogwoods are excellent if you have a large garden and can plant them en mass somewhere with their bright coloured bare stems (as per picture here).
  • Introduce fragrance. Some shrubs are a must (for large gardens only): Viburnum bodnantse “Dawn”, Sarcococca confusa and hookeriana and Hamamelis x intermedia and mollis will surprise and entice you with their exquisite fragrance when all your senses seem to have gone numb with the cold.
  • Get inspiration. Some gardens reveal their true inner beauty on cold and bright winter days. They are worth visiting even when it’s freezing: Hyde Hall in Essex, Anglesey Abbey and Bressingham Gardens (where this picture was taken) in Cambridgeshire.