Gardens to visit

PUBLISHED: 11:43 18 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:40 20 February 2013

Ghost brambles emerge from the sea of winter-flowering heather.

Ghost brambles emerge from the sea of winter-flowering heather.

Wakehurst Place's winter garden

Winter can be a time of inspiration in the garden. Even in these bleak winter months you can create an area of colour and scent. Although most gardens are closed at this time of the year, there is a handful across the country that have a designated winter section, just perfect for a magical stroll in the crisp air.

We are fortunate to have one here in Sussex, at Wakehurst Place. Their colourful winter garden comes into its full glory in January. To the west of the mansion, adjacent to the walled garden, you will find vibrant stems, architectural greens, scented flowers, textural barks and skeletal parchment-toned grasses in a series of carefully designed beds and borders. Brimming with a vast array of plants, it is sure to brighten the dullest winter day.

In one bed, yellow and green variegated shrubs contrast with a carpet of pastel winter-flowering heathers. Varieties are chosen to give a flowing blend of pinks, mauves and whites from December through to March. Spires of bare, spiky, silver ghost brambles complete the eye-catching effect.

By the lawns, mass-planted dogwoods and willows, with their scarlet and golden stems, have been placed to catch the rays of low winter sunlight. The unusual black stems of hydrangea 'Nigra' act as a striking foil, intensifying the sight. This blaze of colour can easily be adapted in the home garden. Although here it is on a large scale, the principles are translatable in a domestic setting. Using a controlled, limited palette of two or three plants in blocks, lends drama to a scheme.

Another bed shows the power of monochrome. Magnificent white-barked birches are underplanted with inky black mondo grass dotted with emerging snowdrops. A trick to increase their whiter than white sheen is to wash the trunks in warm water with a soft brush in October and a couple of times during winter.

Opening times

Wakehurst Place, Ardingly
Daily from 10am. Admission £9.50


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