Winter! A difficult season for us gardeners. Shortened days, cold weather and lots of tidying. A time of year when it’s easy to miss the beauty of the garden whilst scurrying around wrapped up like an eskimo trying to keep warm. You have to look closely to see the beauty of the garden in winter – it’s all in the detail.
The bones of the garden really become apparent at this time of year; you start to fully appreciate the Messel family’s design of the garden. Structural hedging and tree placements come into their own, the pivotal nature of the cedar of Lebanon as a key view point down the central axis of the garden becomes a prominent feature.
We have a plethora of hedging around the garden which frames views and vistas as well as defining areas. These are enhanced with a light frost or flurry of snow and some winter sun showing the clean lines us gardeners aim to achieve throughout the hedge cutting season.
The cutting down of the summer borders allows the walled garden to be viewed as whole with the awakening of the bulbs brave enough to face the cold weather as they break through the frosty ground preparing themselves for our Spring display.
The bold planting of the many Cornus stems are a bright cheery burst of colour with the winter sun shining behind them at an otherwise dull time of year.
The many other stems around the garden which are often overlooked when there is abundance of other things to see are worth hunting out. The attractive peeling papery chestnut bark of the Acer griseum, the snakebark stripes of the Acer davidii, the shining white bark of the Betula utilis var ‘Jaqumontii’, and the beautiful shiny peeling bark of the Prunus serrula. Winter is their moment to shine and shout ‘look at me’.
Seedheads left up over winter bring a structural accent to borders as well as providing a much needed habitat for the bugs and food for birds. Compliment these with ornamental grasses and it will provide some much needed winter interest to any garden.
Wafts of scented Daphne bhoula, Sarcococca confusa and Lonicera fragrantissima float on the breeze whilst walking around the garden; these heavy scents are typical of winter flowering plants trying to attract as many pollinators as possible at a time when they are at a low. A slightly more unusual winter scented plant to try in your garden would be Osmanthus delavayi ‘Pearly Gates’
When next having a winter walk around Nymans look out for the four winter S’s and appreciate the more subtle tones of winter.