Life in the garden never stands still, as every good gardener appreciates. However, the months leading up to Christmas can be a time for ‘taking the foot off the spade’ so to speak and to indulge in some creativity. Especially, leading up to the festivities of December. As this photo shows, we certainly didn’t hold back on the garland over the front door that ushered in the season of goodwill and cheer!

Ben created a truly magical and brilliant piece of art, which was made entirely of both dried seed heads and various evergreen branches from the wood. The colours were varied and subtle and apart from a slight dusting of gold onto the hydrangea heads, there was not an unnatural decoration within. The whole effect sparkled and we particularly loved the fury ‘baubles’ of the clematis heads. Despite heavy rain, wind and snow the garland survived intact. This was all made possible by Ben’s ingenious talents at creating a stable base for the garland.  At the end of this year, we plan to share this knowledge with a Garland Making Course. Please remember to watch the Calendar on our website for the dates of this!

So, a new year begins and against the ghostly silhouettes of the stark white Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, creating a dramatic and clean backdrop to even the dankest cold day, are tall shrubs, seed heads and evergreen structures still dancing across the borders infront of them. These stand centinal as the harsh and extremely cold and frosty winds batter them endlessly, in the past few months. It never ceases to amaze us here in the gardens, what extremes of weather we get in what is considered a sheltered spot! Bearing that in mind, we always need to watch and be prepared for the variations thrown at us.

So, with this in mind, some of the jobs of Winter have included the following projects. To clear and prepare the new area within the Spring garden. In the centre can now be found a reclaimed steel wash bowl and stone seat, adding a restful and tranquil spot to contemplate the many Spring bulbs as they appear in the coming months. New planting and moving of exisiting plants have ensured we have a fresh new garden to visit for our Spring opening in April.

At last the bridge has been restored and repainted, using a green that we think will blend in with the dappled Summer foliage that surrounds the banks of the brook as it stretches out along the banks either side. Already the shoots of daffodils and scilla beneath the spreading canopy of the Parrotia persica to the side of the bridge are all well on their way!

Other projects have included, reclaiming the ground behind our Yew hedge back into what once was a Spring Garden. The ground is shaded by a pretty Cercis siliquastrum and we have removed the poor grass and wild garlic that had been sown there and choking the path, to reveal early Crocus thomasina snowdrops and Hellebores.

At last we have found the time to clear and replant the sloping border at the front of the house and were excited to find new and unusual saplings, obscured by heavy, unruly foliage and various young shrubs are going in and more Spring bulbs have been allowed to reappear after years of being hidden.

Other work as included, raising the canopy of some trees, preparing the many beds in the Potager for our huge variety of vegetables to come and not forgetting to Winter Wash the fruit trees there. Very soon it is time to begin winter pruning of the many shrubs, climbers and trees in the garden. this includes: all of the shrub; rambling; and climbing roses; wisteria; and fruit trees. It’s also an important time to tackle any overgrown shrubs through restorative pruning often carried out on shrubs with flower on second year wood like Deutzia sp. and Philadelphus sp.

Pruning in the winter months is very important for not only promoting healthy growth but setting in motion the development of flowering buds and eventually fruit, provided there are no pesky late frosts. Taking the plants back to a framework and removing weak growth promotes airflow and helps in the prevention of pest and disease alongside good plant husbandry.

We are all very excited about our Spring Opening, something we have not done so early in the past. This will begin on 1st April and there will be an NGS Open Day on Sunday 22 April.

Throughout the year we are planning to hold short half or day masterclasses, where time allows in our busy schedule here. These have proved very popular last year. The format is that of an intimate course for a maximum of 10 people, allowing us to provide a very, hands-on and informative day.

Our first Masterclass is planned for February to cover the important area of winter pruning. This will be a full day with the morning spent looking at restorative pruning of overgrown shrubs and the correct procedure for removing a branch from a small tree, ideal if you have an unruly shrub to tackle, or you would like to lift the canopy on a small tree without causing damage. During the morning there will be the opportunity to explore the garden in late winter with the highlight of early flowering bulbs and plants, such as snowdrops and hellebores, in full bloom when the garden is normally closed.

The afternoon will tackle the formative winter prunning of wisteria, fruit trees, vines and the various types of roses, in preparation for a floral display and abundance of fruit in the growing season ahead.


To book a place on the Masterclasses or visit us please check the website. Or look in the Calendar pages for each month.