Winter Gardens

Winter Gardens - willow tree at Hodsock Priory
Bright stems of dogwood and willow are a winter staple, but the winter garden at Hodsock Priory trumps
theirs by having a graceful willow tree. It forms a beacon which beckons the visitor onward along the path. 

I hate February - it's tagged onto the end of a long winter and prevents my birthday from happening. I decided a different approach was needed this year and embarked on a mini-break to scoot around a number of gardens. My slough of despond improved no end.

I've always enjoyed seeing gardens in winter, but previously I've only managed the odd one or two per year. Seeing several over a few days was inspirational and gave me much food for thought. VP Gardens is currently exhibiting a wonderful shade of brown on the whole and the gardens I visited amply demonstrated it needn't be so.

Photo of path contrasts at Hodsock Priory
Hodsock Priory

For a pleasing winter garden, its hardscaping must work even harder than usual. I have the pictured low garden wall already, but this simple cobble contrast in the pathway is an idea I can take from its grander surroundings and make my own. I'd like to have that snuggly warm greenhouse too.

National Botanic Garden of Wales Summer & Winter scene
The same scene at The National Botanic Garden of Wales - summer 2013 is on the left and winter 2015 on the right.
It shows how effective the hardscaping and curving paths are in the design. Get rid of that picnic table though!

Belgian Fence at Aberglasney

It was my first visit to Aberglasney and it won't be the last. Naomi and I had the privilege of the delightful Head Gardener, Joseph Atkin as our guide. Bright stems and bark are the usual recommendations for winter, but we were both struck by the pictured Belgian Fence which makes the trained apples (on one side) and pears (on the other) look fabulous.

Photo showing the use of the landscape surrounding Aberglasney garden

Aberglasney reminded me the surrounding landscape has an increased importance in winter and it of course has the glorious beauty of west Wales to use. I have a more enclosed feel to my garden, but I'm glad I can 'borrow' the trees from the public land next door. They help to make my small urban garden seem much larger.

Repetition at Easton Walled Gardens & Hodsock Priory
Easton Walled Gardens (left) and Hodsock Priory demonstrate the value of repetition in different ways

Finally, here's my colour notebook from my trip. I see I need to put one together for bark and texture too - the perfect excuse for another tour this time next year.

Collage of winter flowers, cones and ironwork
From top to bottom, left to right we have (all at Hodsock Priory except where indicated):
Lonicera fragrantissima; witch hazels at the National Botanic Garden of Wales; Easton ironwork detail
Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca' (your ID help is much appreciated); Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus'; Lonicera again
Cyclamen coum; Chimonanthus needing smellovision! and Parrotia persica

Garrya elliptica at Hodsock Priory
Garrya elliptica at Hodsock Priory - a shrub I'd dismissed previously as a bit gloomy, but my trip made me think again

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  1. I think of February as the beginning of the end of winter. We have a garrya which is a star turn at this time of year but fades into the background over spring and summer,

    1. Hi Sue - I've only seen them looking sorry for themselves and rather dusty - the one by Magdelene College on the way to Oxford Botanic Gardens from the station springs to mind. It shows they can be transformed when it's right garden, right place.

  2. Lovely photos! Thanks for sharing!
    Have a great day!

  3. Thank goodness for your sake that February is such a short little month which will be over in the blink of an eye. I particularly like your photos of Aberglasney - very inspiring. There is a marvellous Garrya eliptica in Norwich which I must photograph (I say this every year; and every year I fail to get out of the warmth of my car to take a photo).

    1. Sarah - I was most taken with Aberglasney. I deliberately didn't show the usual view of the Cloister Garden as that's the usual one seen. The garden is so much more than that. They have a fab cafe too - the cawl is wonderful on a cold February day!

  4. The other benefit visiting winter gardens is that you often have them almost to yourself. Which certainly makes me feel just a smidge smug. Lots of people don't know what they're missing. You've taken some lovely photos here.

    1. Thanks Helen - smidge smug is a great way of putting it :)

  5. Beautiful photos. I can't help noticing there is almost no snow! Sitting here with 4 feet of snow outside my windows, covering all of my yard, and more falling as I type, these pictures remind me of April and May in my home of northern New England.

    1. MW - welcome :) Crumbs - 4ft of snow! I always giggle to myself when we have our usual light covering or just a few inches here in the UK. We simply aren't prepared for it like you are in the USA.

  6. Re the Cedrus ID...
    So far I have a possible Cedrus atlantica glauca, plus the chat on Twitter (Ursula from Easton Walled Gardens) says you can't get a confident ID without using a magnifying glass to look at the needles.


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