Great news. For the first time, the garden and tea rooms will be open every weekend in December until Christmas. Enjoy strolling through the garden and treat yourself from the ‘Winter Warmer’ menu or a Sunday roast lunch.
The garden is magical in December. Winter takes over and there is plenty to see and enjoy. The garden is planted for year round interest and coloured barks, berries and winter flowering shrubs, such as the ‘Mahonia nitens ‘Cabaret’ (above) will give you plenty of talking points and photo opportunities. Trees and shrubs that are background structure through the spring and summer become the focal points. Cornus stems in all colours from deep purple to vivid yellow stand out in borders on the main lawn, and the coral-pink catkins of the Golden Alder (Alnus Incana ‘Aurea’) are stunning on a bright winter day against a clear blue sky.
If you have never seen the garden in winter you are in for a treat. There’s little sign of the showy flowers and high growth of summer, but the intense detail of colour, shape and texture in the winter interest plants makes a winter visit worthwhile.
If the weather is too bad, just head for the tea rooms and enjoy looking out onto the garden whilst you warm up with a light lunch or book ahead and treat yourself to Sunday Roast.
Opening hours December: Saturdays and Sundays (excluding Sunday 24th, Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st) 11am – 3pm. Access by donation.
Winter Warmer & Sunday Roast Menu
We hope to see you in the garden soon.
Winter iris bring a touch of blue
The early spring bulb meadow is an area of the garden that I keep coming back to. Early flowering bulbs tend to be low to the ground as they are hardy enough to cope with lingering, rough weather. When I crouch down to look at the early iris and crocus bulbs in February and March they are a blast of colour and fascinating detail. Stand up and look down on them and they can look a bit humble before they really get going.
I haven’t got time to spend all day crouching, so the solution is to look at where they have come from, and plant them in a similar way.
Iris histrioides ‘Angel’s Tears’
Iris histrioides – the winter iris
Take Iris histrioides, commonly known as ‘winter iris’. It’s typically a vivid blue iris in various shades. In Turkey, where they grow in the wild, they burst through the ground on naked stems and turn mountainsides blue. Inspired by this I’m planting more and more bulbs for early spring, so that in years to come we will have our own carpet of colour.
Some of the iris varieties here are unusual, so bulbs are expensive or impossible to find in bulk. That’s why I’m letting mine bulk up their numbers naturally, whilst under-planting with the easy-to-find Crocus tommasinianus. The light mauve of the crocus and deeper blue of the iris work perfectly together. I’m looking forward to the days when they have naturalised so abundantly that we need to thin them out.
I can’t recommend winter irises strongly enough. Look out for the readily available Iris reticulata in the garden centres or online. There will be a number of varieties to choose from. Plant them in the autumn a couple of inches deep and look forward to the day in February when they push up and turn out blue.
You don’t need a bulb meadow or mountainside to enjoy the power of these irises. They are perfect for well-planned pots partnered with violas or winter pansies. They also make an impact in small areas where their colour will pack a punch. Just make sure the drainage is good. They are pretty tough, even pushing their way through snow and ice. Get your camera ready for that; it makes a change from snowdrops!
Nick Haworth, Head Gardener