The winter months....
The Gravel Garden... Even during the winter months the Gravel Garden is a tapestry of shapes and textures. The dark seed heads of Sedum and Verbena bonariensis are left standing among green, silver and gold foliage. Buff and straw coloured grasses catch the pale winter sunlight, and carpets of thyme and Lamb’s ears line the gravel paths, along with sweeping patches of glossy Bergenia leaves, in shades of burgundy, maroon and purplish-red.
The Water Garden... The tall, cone-shaped silhouettes of Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood) and Taxodium (Swamp Cypress) greet the visitors entering the Water Garden. The two giant Gunnera have been ‘tucked in’ for the winter and most of the perennials will be cut down before Christmas. On either bank of the first pond the bright red and olive-green stems of Cornus (Dogwood) and orange Salix alba ‘Britzensis’ (Willow) immediately draw the eye and provide colour throughout the winter. At the far end, a thicket of Rubus cockburnianus (Ghost bramble) reveal their white-washed arching stems, after having shed their leaves in early December.
The Woodland Garden... On mild, still winter days the air at the entrance of the Wood Garden is filled with a sweet scent, coming from the two Sarcococcas, on either side of the path. Sarcococca confusa (Sweet Box) and Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna (Christmas Box) both have glossy, evergreen foliage and small, white, tassel-like fragrant flowers. One or two small twigs in a vase can be enough to fill a room with scent, and the foliage is superb as a ‘filler’ in floral displays. Nearby, a group of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ seems to glow, even on the dullest day. This striking selection of European common dogwood has yellow stems flushed with coral-red and slowly spreads by suckering shoots. Like other dogwoods grown for their beautifully coloured stems, they benefit from pruning in late winter/early spring, as it is the new shoots that provide the best winter colour.