Looking through the stems of Himalayan birches to the stream and bog garden

The Savill garden: redefining the winter frontier

Red cornus and bright orange willows lighting up the banks in the bog garden
Red cornus and bright orange willows lighting up the banks in the bog garden

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.

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Marks Hall: bright barks and ancient trees


February 2019 — A sharp breeze sweeps across the hill, ruffling the silver-green eucalyptus grove in the distance. It forcefully combs the grasses and buffers the young monkey-puzzle trees that are dotted around the meadow. The air is crisp and the sky is clear. Apart from the hissing of the wind in the branches, there is barely a sound. Gondwanaland, on the western fringe of the Marks Hall estate, feels a bit otherworldly.

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Anglesey Abbey: kingdom of stems and scents

The main path at Anglesey Abbey, lined with Cornus, grasses, Prunus serrula, Sarcococca and Rubus
The main path, lined with cornus, prunus serrula, hamamelis, sarcococca and other winter favourites

February 2019 — Search for ‘Betula jacquemontii’ on the internet and the chances are the first page of results will include several pictures of the white birch grove at Anglesey Abbey. It’s a testament to the garden design team that, despite the internet’s ability to warp our perception and unrealistically heighten our expectations, this should still be a striking sight when you eventually see it in real life. Continue reading “Anglesey Abbey: kingdom of stems and scents”