It’s time to put down those left-over mince pies, don your walking boots and take a bracing walk through a winter garden bursting with vibrant stem colour, interesting barks, blossoming bulbs and wafts of winter scent.
Some walks should provide plenty of inspiration to gardeners. RHS curators Colin Crosbie, from RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, and Paul Cook, from RHS Garden Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire, offer their own favourite winter gardens to explore...
Paul Cook recommends: RHS Garden Harlow Carr, North Yorkshire (www.rhs.org.uk)
“This year at Harlow Carr we’ve extended our existing winter walk, which runs east to west to catch the best of the morning and late afternoon sun which lights up the fiery stems and outlines the sculptural shapes of the bare trees. Clipped yew and a backbone of conifers and berrying shrubs lend a formal tone to the vibrant cornus and salix stems, Iris reticulata and daphnes under-planted with heathers. The walk becomes less formal as it leads into the beautiful mature woodlands, where giant trees are outlined against the wintry sky and snowdrops, winter aconite cluster below and around boulders cloaked in moss and lichens.”
Dunham Massey, Cheshire (www.nationaltrust.org.uk)
“It would be hard to come up with a list of great winter gardens without mentioning Dunham Massey which has Britain’s largest at seven acres. It provides a much-needed burst of scent and colour to walkers and garden lovers alike in the coldest months. Glowing-stemmed silver birches, acers and dogwoods are set off by shrubs and evergreens and, after Christmas, a mass of snowdrops, iris and cyclamen carpet the ground. Ornamental Japanese trees mingle with witch hazels and scents waft about the garden.”
Cambo Gardens, Scotland (www.camboestate.com)
“Plenty of winter gardens are known for their snowdrops, but at Cambo in Scotland, they do things a little differently. A beautiful walled garden where the herbaceous plantings and grasses are left standing, delicate seedheads and stems outlined in frost, is a great start. It’s the 70 acres of beautiful deciduous woodland full of snowdrops that is the real star attraction though. Meandering through them in late winter and early spring along the woodland stream is a pleasure not to be missed. Cambo even holds a snowdrop festival and a series of illuminated walks that light up the woodlands after dark.”