The Winter Garden brings together coloured stems, bark and foliage texture with winter flower and fragrance. Above all, the handling of light is crucial for the success of the overall design. The level site was landscaped to provide a shallow valley into which a gently curving path runs. The site is open to the south so that the light of the setting sun in winter floods into the valley.
A band of Cornus sericea var. flaviramea with its brilliant yellow bare winter stems jostles agains its scarlet relative, Cornus alba 'Sibirica', cutting across the Winter Garden on both sides of the path. The setting sun illuminates this swathe, licking across the garden and catching fire the brilliant orange stems of Salix alba ‘Chermesina’.
Fragrance entices you into the Winter Garden, as the entrances are planted with combinations of the lemon meringue-scented honeysuckle Lonicera x purpusii, many intoxicating Viburnum species and the lily-of-the-valley perfume of Mahonia japonica.
Trees with winter blossom such as Prunus davidiana alba provide striking pivotal forms while tree barks add fascinating variation – the mottled snakeskin bark of Acer capillipes, the rich amber-coloured paper peelings of Acer griseum, and the shiny pink, buff and yellow bark of Betula albosinensis var. septentrionalis ‘Hillier’s form’. Underneath the trees and shrubs, densely-planted golden winter aconites (Eranthis hiemalis) provide an excellent food source in February for any bees tempted out by warm weather. The striking leaves of Bergenia species add deep maroon tones to the plantings. The Winter Garden is at its best from December to April. Shrubs such as the Dogwoods and Willows are then pruned hard back provide brilliantly coloured new growth for the next season.
A list of plants used in the Winter Garden can be downloaded as a pdf using the link to the left. Copies of the list are also available at ticket offices.