Winter Gardens to Visit
As the days begin to lengthen - almost imperceptibly at first - I can think of no better way to get back in trim and shake off those post-Christmas blues then to visit some of Britain's wonderful winter gardens - and believe me there are plenty of them, spread throughout pretty much all of the British Isles. It is something I have been doing for years and can honestly say it really lifts the spirits and fills you with inspiration for tackling your own patch in the weeks and months ahead. So here are some of my personal favourites, I hope you enjoy them …
Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens - Dorset Open throughout the winter from 10am until 4pm, Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens contains an astonishing mix of exotic plants set within a magnificent 30-acre Grade I listed, sheltered, woodland valley garden. Subtropical plants thrive here because of the garden's close proximity to the English Channel, which helps to keep the worst frosts at bay. Evergreen magnolias, bamboos and winter flowering shrubs, including Daphnes and Sarcococca, are just some of the plants to be enjoyed during a winter visit.
There is a Colonial Restaurant, shop and plant centre on site. Winter walks from the garden include Chesil Beach and St Catherine's Chapel. Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Bullers way, Abbotsbury, (Near Weymouth) Dorset DT3 4LA. Telephone 01305 871130:
Email; firstname.lastname@example.org: www.abbotsburygardens.co.uk
As you would expect from a RHS garden, the level of botanical care and attention at Harlow Carr is second to none. A winter visit will provide you with plenty of inspiration and ideas to take back to your own garden. Woody plants such as trees and shrubs provide the mainstay of interest at this time of year, and there are specially created winter walks, but winter-flowering bulbs and grasses also play their part too. There is an Alpine House which is home to over 2,000 Alpine plants and a great place to escape any cold easterly winds! Of course when it is time for a warming cup of tea, there is also Betty’s Café Tea Rooms too!
RHS Garden Harlow Carr is open daily from 9.30am – 4pm throughout the winter.
Waterperry Gardens date back to the 1930's when Beatrix Havergal established her Ladies Horticultural School here. It is a lovely garden to visit at anytime of year, but in winter its eight acres take on a reflective, rather tranquil air and provide a calming contrast to nearby Oxford. Soon after New Year hellebores and aconites start to push through the soil whilst flowering Viburnum fragrans and Viburnum x bodnantense release gentle fragrances to the air.
In late January and February snowdrops form dense white carpets throughout the garden, suggesting that spring should not be too long in coming. The recently restored Orangery boasts an ancient Seville orange dating back to before Havergal's time. There is also an art gallery and small rural life museum on site. Waterperry Gardens are open from 10am - 5pm throughout the winter.
At the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the largest single-span glasshouse in the world, designed by Sir Norman Foster, is the perfect place for a mid-winter garden experience and offers a little bit of exotic escapism from the worst of the weather.
The Tropical House is home to some of the most endangered plants on earth and has representations from Australia, Chile, The Canaries, California, Africa and the Mediterranean. It is bursting at the seams with palms, pineapples, coconuts and hundreds of orchids, whilst outside there are lakes, streams and plenty of walks through the magnificent Regency water park. Open every winter day from 10am until 4.30pm.
Kew Gardens is of course worth visiting at anytime of year, but I love visiting in winter, because it provides an oasis of colour and interest in an otherwise pretty much black and white garden world. In January at Kew there are explosions of colour everywhere, sulphur yellow witch hazels, vibrant purple early-flowering crocus, sweet-smelling pink daphne flowers, yellow mimosa and that’s all before setting foot in the glasshouses, which are simply magical in winter – warm too! One of Kew’s early year highlights is the Orchid Festival which runs this year for a month from 8th February and includes some spectacular orchid displays from Indonesia.
Open daily from 9.30am to 4pm.