The Winter Garden. Anglesey Abbey.

Most of us try to have as many plants for winter interest as possible. The trouble is that if they are dotted about the garden they don’t make much impact. The wonderful winter walk at Anglesey Abbey, Lode, near Cambridge is a visual delight from beginning to end.
You approach it through a tunnel of green conifers and box and eventually you come to a gate.
Much of the impact of the garden comes from coloured stems, particularly Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Beauty’ I love the layers of green conifer and bare oak trees as a backdrop.
Many of us grow the winter flowering Viburnum bodnantense‘ Dawn’, but how lovely it looks growing in a little grove of frothy pink, under-planted with Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’.
I have mentioned before how I love the pure white Viburnum farreri candididissimum. The white flowers look lovely against the shiny brown stems.
Cornus are wonderful for winter colour and most of us are familiar with the lovely red Cornus alba siberica ‘Westonbirt’. I had never seen the gorgeous Cornus alba ‘Baton Rouge’ before. It seems even redder and is apparently more compact. Behind it are the chalky white stems of Rubus cockburnianus which are lovely in winter but it is very invasive.
The red stemmed lime; Tilia platyphyllos ‘Rubra’ is shown off to advantage by coppicing it and keeping the red stems at eye level. Behind it are the yellow stems of Cornus flaviramea, and it is under-planted with the delicious- smelling Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna. There are different sorts of Sarcococca throughout the garden and they even line the car park. Unfortunately when I was there on Tuesday, it was very cold and the hard frost of the night before was still lingering. This meant that there was little fragrance in the garden. On the plus side the sun was shining and the sky was blue.
The Sarcococca looked lovely, delicately frosted although the frost meant that the snowdrops and hellebores were lying limply on the soil.
More fragrance was produced by the lovely yellow Chimonanthus praecox var. luteus. which looked wonderful against the blue sky.
I didn’t see a great variety of witch hazels but this Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Barnstedt Gold’ was looking good.
More lovley winter stems were provided by a group of large acers and this wonderful multi-stemmed Prunus serrula.

Halfway along the winter garden walk there is a little garden with a rather androgynous statue in the centre, which is a memorial to the first Lord Fairhaven.
How lucky they are here to have the backdrop of beautiful mature trees.

Of course in a winter garden there is plenty of evergreen foliage. This Garrya elliptica is dripping with lovely lime green tassels. If you want really long ones the best to choose is ‘James Roof’
The winter garden culminates in the famous birch grove of Betula utilis var. jacquemontii which has its gleaming white trunks pressure washed every year. Work has started on an extension of 112 new trees to the birch grove will make it even more impressive.
Anglesey Abbey is famous for its snowdrops and indeed many new varieties originated here. Unfortunately they were looking very sad on this frosty morning so clearly another visit will be necessary.

I have a lot of plants that look good in winter, because I love them so much, but they are dotted about  the garden and make very little impact. In my previous garden which was much larger, I had a winter garden. I will show you what it looked like in a future post when I have had the transparencies converted to digital.

Although I only have an acre here, I have been brooding all winter about making a new winter garden. It will be much smaller than my previous one, but still big enough, I hope, to make some impact. This is the space marked out for the first phase. It is in a neglected part of the garden which you haven’t seen before. You can see why. I want to leave a path behind it for access to the pond area. In the background you can see the stumps which were left after dead apple trees were cut down.  There is a pile if wood waiting to be sawn up for the fire.  I hate having messy areas of the garden, so 2015 is the year that this part is to be made presentable. Eventually, I shall extend the winter garden  further up the garden, but the second phase may have to wait until next year. Removing the turf from the area within the hosepipe and digging it over is enough of a challenge for now.  The turf will come in very handy for the vegetable raised beds because the soil level has settled and they need filling up with more layers.
The little plant in the white bag is a Strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo which I bought a while ago  at a ridiculously reduced price. It is going to have to have a home  round here somewhere.
IMG_2343 I have had to have 8 weeks off gardening, but I am hoping to be able to start work  in February. I ‘ll keep you informed of the progress. Watch this space!

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82 Responses to The Winter Garden. Anglesey Abbey.

  1. Jane Strong says:

    Oh, how lovely this all is! You have selected a beautiful garden at the Abbey to show us and have pictured the best of it. All those vertical lines, so uplifting. You have told us of great dreams for a new winter garden. It is all so heartening to read this optimistic posting. Thank you!

  2. Pauline says:

    Anglesey Abbey has been on my wish list for quite some time now, maybe one day… I agree about collecting winter flowering plants together, like you mine are dotted around the garden. I am trying to get more into the woodland, but I’m running out of space. I will look forward to seeing what you plant in your new winter bed, I’m sure it will be wonderful!

  3. Debra says:

    I am so excited to see what you will create! Thanks so much for the tour of this great garden. One question: why would they wash the birch trees? We had birch trees growing in the area where I grew up but I never heard of anyone washing them.

  4. Helen Johnstone says:

    That looks an exciting project. Thank you for sharing your trip, I haven’t been to take garden but have heard it has an interesting winter garden.

  5. rusty duck says:

    A winter garden is something I’ve been thinking about too, have recently visited the one at Rosemoor. Anglesey Abbey is a huge inspiration. The problem for me is where to put it. Too close to the house and it will fill prime real estate which I’d want full of colour in the summer months. Too far from the house and will I be bothered to walk to it when it’s so cold? You have given me food for thought Chloris and a plan may be a-hatching.

    • Chloris says:

      I first fell in love with the idea of a winter garden, years ago when I saw the pictures of the front garden that Graham Thomas wrote about in ‘The Englishman’ s Garden’. By devoting the front garden to winter interest you get to look at it every day as you come and go.
      But like you I have used this prime position for summer plants, so I will have to go down the garden to enjoy my winter area. I think you will bother to walk down to see it if you make it beautiful enough to be worth the journey.

  6. New year, new project – what better way to start off the gardening year Chloris 🙂
    I loved the images of your trip around Anglesey Abbey, you captured the season wonderfully and of course, your knowledge of the plants is 2nd to none.
    I planted a new birch in the garden today Betula utilis var. jacquemontii Moonbeam – I am so looking forward to having beautiful white bark and had read that many folks wash the bark in order to make it as white as possible. I’ll keep in mind the tip about the pressure washer, that should take a whole lot of effort out of the task.

    • Chloris says:

      It is so exciting having a new project on in the garden, it keeps me awake at night planning it.
      What a great choice of tree. You will enjoy your lovely birch. I wonder if you will wash it when it matures. My husband used to complain that he never saw me scrubbing the kitchen floor but I used to scrub my birches regularly.

  7. Alain says:

    I was particularly impressed by the clump of Viburnum bodnantense‘ Dawn’. I have only seen them as specimens grown on their own, together in a group they acquire a new dimension.

    • Chloris says:

      That is what I love about this garden, everything is planted in such generous drifts of colour. It is impossible to copy this sort of planting without a huge garden and a bottomless purse.

  8. Tina says:

    Your photos and the Anglesey Abbey garden are breathtaking! So much to learn about plant placement and remembering the beauty of plants in winter.

    You “only” have an acre–I’m very jealous of you!! I look forward to seeing what you create and also to see what you did in your former garden.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Tina. I just wish I had the space and the funds to make the winter garden on a large scale. I would love to paint the landscape with bold sweeps of coloured stems and flowering shrubs.

  9. Yes please keep us informed of progress. Reading your blog, I know how much you miss your former garden – and making a winter garden will be a good thing!

    I am so pleased to see these flowers in January – we won’t have any till the bulbs bloom in April, if we’re lucky. The shrubs and birch are lovely and I like that interesting patch of striped barked prunus serrula too.

    • Chloris says:

      Prunus serrula is stunning, I love the way this is grown as a multi stemmed tree. Another tree I love in winter is Acer griseum which has cinnamon -coloured peeling bark. Gorgeous.

  10. Alison says:

    It’s nearly time here for me to get out and start making all the changes I have in mind for my garden too. I enjoyed the photos of Anglesey Abbey at the beginning of your post. Looking forward to seeing what you do and how you plant up your new area. I have an Arbutus unedo too, and I love it.

  11. Brian Skeys says:

    Great photos of Anglesey Abbey, we visited in summer time so it is good to see the winter garden.
    It is difficult to know where to site a winter garden, visible from the house has its advantages when the weather is poor. Rosemary Verey in her book, The Garden in Winter, recommends the far end of the garden to encourage you to take a walk in the garden during winter.
    I shall look forward to seeing your winter garden develop.

    • Chloris says:

      I agree the far end of the garden is a good place. It is the only place for me because everywhere else is planted up. I would love to be able to see it from the house but I haven’ t got the space.

  12. TheDigger says:

    We’re going on Tuesday, can’t wait 🙂 Beautiful photos.

  13. elaine says:

    I have seen this garden featured many times on to and it never fails to delight. O to have a garden large enough to include a winter garden like you my winter loveliness is scattered through the garden not making any sort of an impact at all.

  14. elaine says:

    That should read ‘on tv’

  15. Kris P says:

    Thanks for the tour of the lovely Anglesey Abbey garden. I laughed when I read that you have “only an acre,” which would be regarded as a huge garden here. (In fact, my garden, only slightly over half an acre, is regarded as large here.) I look forward to seeing what you do with the space you’ve earmarked for your winter garden. I can definitely appreciate the need to approach the project in phases. Have you got a working plant list yet?

  16. jenhumm116 says:

    A lovely tour and a very exciting new project!
    Meanwhile, I’m thinking of digging up a large Phormium which is on the way to the front door and replacing it with a Lonicera × purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ for winter interest and scent. However, it will be right next to my currently flowering Leptospermum, which is very pink. I’m wondering whether the Viburnum bodnantense‘ Dawn’ would ‘sit’ better. Any thoughts?

    • Chloris says:

      Both the Lonicera and the Viburnum will get quite large. Is the position in full sun and sheltered? If so what about a Daphne bholua ‘ Jacqueline Postill’ which has a fragrance so sweet that it will make you swoon?

  17. mattb325 says:

    Anglesey Abbey is spectacular. I particularly like the massed cornus and viburnum displays. I can’t wait to see the progress with your garden – it looks very exciting!

    • Chloris says:

      It is a wonderful garden and the summer garden is worth a visit too. You are right the massed planting really gives it impact; I only wish I had the space to do the same here.

  18. Cathy says:

    Thanks for the preview of Anglesey – those birch trees are indeed absolutely gorgeous, and the frothy pink of those viburnum is …well… frothy. Very lovely – and how exciting to be developing your own winter garden and good to have a specific area for it too. I look forward to watching it grow 🙂

  19. Chloris, a wonderful tour of a winter garden. I think the Birches and Prunus would be irresistible if I had an acre in Suffolk with space for a winter garden. If the new space has room for two trees?
    Love the concept of pressure washing trees.

  20. Anna says:

    What a magical place Chloris – the birch grove is stunning. I think that Dunham Massey in Cheshire have imitated this planting but it is by no means as dramatic yet. Have fun planning and creating your new winter garden.

  21. snowbird says:

    What a lovely garden to visit, birch trees….how I love them!! I have several silver birch and their bark is too die for.I loved the gate, and the Viburnum bodnantense’ Dawn is gorgeous, almost like cherry blossom! [Note… I used the Latin there.]
    As for His Lordship….struth, as they say, fair by name fair by nature!!!
    Oh goodness me, you only have an acre???? My hearts bleeds…BLEEDS it does!!!! lol….
    I love your winter garden plans, what an exciting project that will be, I shall look forward to seeing it develop. I always buy a few extra winter plants at this time of the year, as you say they always look a little thin on the

    • Chloris says:

      I suppose an acre is quite large by modern standards. I shouldn’ t have said ‘ only’, but my former garden was nearly 11 acres, so this feels small to me.
      Talking about garden size, I read an Edwardian gardening book once, I can’ t remember the author; but he said: ‘ No matter how small the kitchen garden, a quarter of an acre should always be set aside for potatoes’.

  22. pbmgarden says:

    Thanks for the tour. What is growing down at Lord Fairhaven’s feet in little clumps?

  23. gardenfancyblog says:

    What beautiful photos of your winter tour of Anglesey Abbey — thanks so much for sharing them. There’s not much flowering around here; I still can’t get over the fact that you guys can have flowers in your gardens in January! It’s simply inconceivable here. I’m sure your winter area will be lovely, and I can’t wait to see it when it has been planted. Regards, -Beth

  24. That birch grove! Makes the visit worthwhile on its own.

  25. Cathy says:

    Aren’t those birch trees stunning! Thanks for sharing Chloris!

  26. Christina says:

    Anglesey Abbey is one of my favourite winter gardens, Li I first saw it when it was quite newly planted, it has really grown a lot since I last saw it, maybe 10 years ago (frightening to think it has been so long). The wonderful birches had black Cornus or Salix (I don’t remember now) planted as an under story but the birches have grown so much they don’t need anything like that now. thank you for reminding me how beautiful it is and good luck with your own winter garden. When I was regularly designing gardens in the UK I often made the front garden for winter interest as it was the part of the garden that clients and visitors would see regularly in winter and in summer the back garden would be a different space to enjoy. I agree that an area or border devoted to winter interest is really worth while. I noticed that your Arbutus has pink flowers all the ones here have white!

    • Chloris says:

      They can’ t seem to make up their minds what to plant under the birches. One year it was the black grass:Ophiopogon planiscapus. This year they have Bergenia but only in one corner. I think there are bulbs coming through but it looked a bit messy in parts. I think it would look best if they just left it with nice dark soil, perfectly weeded.
      I love the idea of a winter garden in the front garden like the one in the book: ‘The Englishman’ s Garden’ which belonged to Graham Thomas. In fact, in the house we lived in years ago, that is exactly what I planted. Here though, I have planted the front garden for an exuberant summer cottage garden, so the winter garden has to go in the unplanted area further down in the back garden.

      • Christina says:

        Your front garden suits the summer planting you have chosen, but on many cases the front garden is a bit ognored and is ideal for a winter garden to give pleasure to the neighbourhood as well as the owners of the house.

    • Chloris says:

      I forgot to mention that it is Arbutus unedo ‘Rubra’.

  27. Flighty says:

    A most enjoyable post and wonderful pictures. I especially like the birch grove which seems to have an almost surreal look to it.
    This post shows just how good a winter garden can look so I’m not surprised that you’ll doing one of your own. xx

  28. bittster says:

    What a beautiful garden, I almost feel as if I’ve been there and I do hope you get out there one more time for the snowdrops and hellebores! I particularly like the underplantings of deciduous shrubs with the low growing evergreens. It really sets them off.
    I’m excited to see what happens in your own winter garden this year, and what you include! Will you be able to walk through or are you planning a walk around bed? -Glad to hear you’re cleared to return to gardening!

    • Chloris says:

      I agree, I think the under planting is inspired.
      My winter garden will have lawn all round it and eventually a path though the middle when I get on to stage two. I am a little daunted about how much lawn I have to dig up. Still, it’ s good exercise.

  29. Laurin Lindsey says:

    What a wonderful place! Thank you for the great pictures. I will put this on my wish list!

  30. Brian Skeys says:

    One tree I would always include in a winter gardens is the Prunus Serrula, the bark is outstanding.

  31. What a lovely and colorful garden! I’m a little surprised to see the buds breaking already and the early flowers already out. We are still in deep winter here in Zone 7 along the coast. I love how the designers used colorful stems to keep things lively 😉 WG

  32. Chloris says:

    I love the coloured stems too, particularly the cornus ‘ Winter Flame’.
    Oh dear, have you got snow?

  33. Annette says:

    I’ve never been there but your images made my day. Isn’t it great to have so much space to dedicate to the winter?! And it doesn’t seem a dull time of year at all with the right choice of plants. The birch and cornus I love most of all. Looking forward to seeing your winter garden project develop.

  34. Chloris, what a wonderful tour! I am frantically scribbling down all the names of these plants and trying to determine a location for them on my half-acre plot. I had never heard of Garrya until yesterday, actually, and only saw a close-up photo, so I couldn’t appreciate its overall form. Things in my garden look fairly bleak at the moment. Resolving to do a better job this year of planting things for winter interest. Thanks for tons of inspiration!

  35. Rose says:

    What a beautiful garden! Besides the red-twigged dogwood and all the conifers, I especially love the bark on that prunus–gorgeous!

  36. Chloris says:

    I agree, the Prunus is definitely on my wish- list. Also the lovely Acer Griseum which I didn’ t see there. It has wonderful peeling, cinnamon coloured bark.

  37. mrsdaffodil says:

    I feel as if I’ve just had a stroll through a beautiful garden. Your photo of the birch trees is a real winner!

  38. I would love to visit this garden in the spring, I love that you’re creating a winter garden. My garden is a three season garden only that specializes in winter disinterest. I’ve never seen a strawberry tree. What do the fruits taste like?

  39. Chloris says:

    I read somewhere that Pliny came up with the name ‘ unedo’; Latin for ‘I eat one’ suggesting that you wouldn’ eat more than one. I quite like them, but they are a bit bland. They grow wild in the south of France and I was walking once in The Esterel Massif with a friend who likes them very much and ate loads. We had to cut short our walk and hurry home where he spent the rest of the day in the smallest room in considerable discomfort. Servers him right for being greedy. You can make jam with them.

  40. Chloris those pictures of Angelsey Abbey garden are stunning. I love the Dogwoods, the Birch the Rubus, and you are right the success of the planting is the volume. I have just invested in a batch of bare root dogwoods and Rubus. i hope one day to be looking out on a block of Winter colour. Look forward to hearing about your Winter garden.

    • Chloris says:

      Cornus and Rubus are unbeatable in winter. It looks as if you are planting for winter interest too. I am looking forward to seeing how your garden develops.

  41. Stunning white birch and stunning prunus serrula. I have some of the first but not the latter although I have to say mine are not washed and are not so amazingly white. I think that might look a little odd in my very wild garden. Love the idea of your project!

  42. I really enjoyed seeing this garden especially all the twigs and foliage. Cornus is a mainstay in my winter garden as the red stems shine against the snow. And that stand of birch trees is stunning.

  43. Chloris says:

    I agree with you, coloured stems are wonderful in winter. We have had a bit of snow and they look wonderful against the sparkling white.

  44. How exciting to dig in with a new project. (I’m hoping to do the same soon but am tied up plans and permits at the moment.) Anglesey Abbey is certainly a fitting inspiration. Enjoy your garden making and let us know how you are getting on. Will you have ornamental grasses? For some reason, they never seem quite right to me in an English garden.

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