The Winter Garden – beauty in strength.

Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart… She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth. ~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

It always seems strange that I spend half my life in the other half of my world so to speak.  Less than a month ago I was going into a Spring garden in South Africa, and today I sit, late Autumn, beside a fire in the Orangerie writing this to you.  The garden is dormant.  No blossoms and the smell of that intoxicating star jasmine, but a stark beauty is visible through the lead windows.

The Winter Garden is like no other time of the year.  Autumn has passed and all is stripped bare.  For me, it is a time of masculine qualities, like Michaelangelo’s ‘David’, naked, self-asserting, with a dynamic energy and confidence in self.  The bones of design and form are revealed in the Winter Garden. The Gardener’s blueprint exposed and some of these designs are more beautiful at this time of year.  Symmetry is revealed.  Textures of paths and statuary seems heightened.  If one is fortunate for snow and ice, fountains freeze, the earth turns white … lonely cries of a murder of crows screech in the silent sky.

  Trentham Gardens Staffordshire

Apart from the landscape design, what else do I love about a Winter garden?”

  • Love the winter flowers, like the Helleborus, in shades of white, cream or dusky hues of pinks and aubergine.

  • Cyclamen    – those pretty bonnets that brighten up the gloomiest of dark days.
  • Dogwood     – like fire sticks – Kew Gardens is a favourite to find them.
  • Heather        –  feathery, heath loving warriors of the wintery weather.
  • Quince          –  Red blossoms that seem more fitting for Spring but they cheer up no end.
  • Witch Hazel  –  Just love the name, all spells and wiry witchy stuff.

The grasses are a favourite, like mops of wet hair under dew and snow.  Really shaggy and yet in the summer, with full blown roses, the combination in true Oudolf style, is inspirational. I am a great fan of Piet Oudolf, have been for years and the winter landscapes have been ideas for my own gardens in the past.

  Wisley gardens

The dramatic seasons in the Northern Hemisphere each have qualities akin to their own.  We all look forward to Spring and the blossoms, Summer and the halcyon days, the drama of Autumn and then … winter.  Winter in an urban city is not easy.  Winter in the garden, in nature is humbling and beautiful, to be enjoyed for the hard work done during the year.  A time of response.  Planning your garden to be enjoyed at all times of the year is the making of an excellent gardener.

My favourite for last.

The lost gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

A sleeping beauty.  Winter rest, landscaped wonder.

Gardens in the images above are part of the National Trust.  

  • Stow
  • Trentham Gardens
  • The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Wisley Gardens is part of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Hope you are inspired to create the perfect garden to be enjoyed all year round.