Every year we visit a winter garden but this year as a special treat to make up for such a wet, windy winter we decided to indulge ourselves by enjoying three. We aimed to visit Dunham Massey in Cheshire, Cambridge Botanic Garden and Anglesey Abbey.
The first was a National Trust property in Cheshire, Dunham Massey, a fairly recent addition to the new fashion of gardens designed to be at their best in the coldest time of the year.
When you approach the entrance to the winter garden here you pass an avenue of pleached trees with the most magical silhouettes. Years of heavy pruning has produced such interesting shapes.
We visited Dunham Massey a few years ago when the Winter Gardens were first opened so we entered with great anticipation. A couple of small mixed borders of winter interest give hints of what is to come. We remembered passing an open woodland area with native narcissi beneath the immature trees before being confronted by the two massed plantings of of Betula utilis “Doorenbos” one of the best white trunked birches. On one side of us the birches were in rows on the other they were planted randomly. What a sight it was like walking into mist. Snowdrops beneath white birches bring cheer to any cold day.
As in any winter garden scent plays an important role. Shrubs and bulbs team up to gently seduce the visitors with their various perfumes. Winter Honeysuckle, Viburnums, Cornus, Witch Hazels and Skimmias all have a part to play.
We were caught by surprise when we found this startlingly white sculpture amongst the shrubs and bulbs.
Other trees had bark to delight and catkins to enthrall.
Bulbs have to star in any winter garden and here they are planted en masse under trees and amongst shrubs.
At this time of year shadows are long and very noticeable features of any mature garden.
Seed heads which have overwintered and survived to add interest now seem to attract the winter light. The best must be those found on various hydrangeas, with their dried flowers like parchment.
I shall finish this visit with a few general views of borders to help give a sense of the atmosphere created by the National Trust’s gardeners at Dunham Massey.
For our next winter garden we will be off to Cambridge where we will be taking a look at the University Botanic Garden.