January 2020 – Winter was once the final frontier for garden folks. The cold season just meant leafless shrubs, perennials cut back to the ground, and muddy borders. Of course you could always count on holly, yew and various conifers for greenery and structure. The odd Christmas rose would bring a bit of colour until the first snowdrops popped up, along with winter aconites, followed by crocuses heralding the imminence of spring and a return to floriferous times. But mostly, in winter, gardens went into hibernation.
Not anymore. In the past couple of decades or so, gardeners and landscape designers have started thinking positively beyond flowers. In a growing number of gardens, winter now involves not only winter-flowering shrubs but also colourful barks, shapes and textures, providing a new kind of year-round interest. The Savill Garden, a self-contained area in Windsor Great Park, provides, to my mind, one of the most varied examples of this new outlook, with colours flashing from stems, twigs and grasses in unabashed exuberance.