Winter walks at RHS Gardens

If you’re looking for somewhere to take a brisk winter walk and enjoy some glorious winter planting at the same time, look no further than the RHS Gardens

Gardens do not rest in the winter, and nor do gardeners. There is so much to gain from visiting a garden in the winter, not just for exercise in the colder, darker months, but also to gain valuable inspiration. Expert planting combinations created by horticulturists have been nurtured all year to provide spectacular displays right through the winter months.

RHS Garden Harlow Carr, North Yorkshire

The Winter Walk at RHS Garden Harlow Carr

One of the highlights at Harlow Carr is the Winter Walk, which begins near the entrance to the garden. This pays homage to plants that bring colour and texture to the winter garden.The vibrant stems of Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow), in colours ranging from bright yellow through to black, stand out against feathery conifers and clipped yew hedging, while the ghostly trunks of Betula utilis punctuate the borders and make great specimen trees all year round.

Many of the flowering shrubs along the Winter Walk are strongly scented, and their intoxicating fragrances often catch visitors’ attention before they notice the flowers. Sarcococca is one of the first plants to flower, with sweetly scented, delicate white blooms among dense evergreen foliage. Viburnum also offers delightful fragrance, while daphnes provide a succession of scents from Christmas to April.

From mid-February, Cyclamen coum and Eranthis (winter aconite) light up the walk at ground level, while November-flowering Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’ is one of the earliest spring bulbs.

Other areas to visit: Alpine House, Woodland, Sandstone Rock Garden and Heather Beds.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Essex

Each year the team create amazing woven structures at RHS Garden Hyde Hall

The Winter Garden at Hyde Hall is filled with trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and

bulbs that peak in interest in the coldest months – there are plants with peeling bark, glowing stems, shining berries and sculptural seedheads.Groupings of Acer, Malus, Edgeworthia, Prunus, Salix, Hamamelis, Ginkgo, Viburnum, Ilex, Callicarpa and Cornus add colour and texture to gloomy winter days and many of these plants produce fantastic scents that carry on the breeze.

Sculpture is important at Hyde Hall, with pieces positioned throughout the Winter Garden. Through the autumn and winter months, living willow sculptures can be seen in the garden – created annually by the garden team from coppiced Salix.

Other areas to visit: Birch Grove, Australia and New Zealand Garden, Reservoir and Bird Hide.

RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey

Colourful winter stems on the Winter Walk at RHS Garden Wisley

The Wisley Winter Walk in Seven Acres offers a fantastic assortment of plants chosen for their winter colour, shape, structure and scent. Wrap up warm and follow the hard-surfaced pathways to discover what makes these winter gardens extra special.

Snakebark maples such as Acer davidii VIPER (‘Mindavi’) and Acer × conspicuum ‘Phoenix’ have intriguing ‘skin’, which contrasts with the glossy, rich red, flaky

bark of Prunus serrula (Tibetan cherry). Colourful stems of different dogwoods and willows create a rainbow of colours, which look especially spectacular on a sunny day. The bright red stems of Cornus alba BATON ROUGE (‘Minbat’) are truly eye-catching, whereas the white, wiry stems of brambles look quite ghostly.

Fragrance fills the air thanks to Hamamelis (witch hazel) and daphnes, and at ground level, irises and hellebores enrich the scene below characterful conifers such as Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’ (western red cedar).

Other areas to visit: The Glasshouse, Battleston Hill, The Walled Gardens, The Pinetum

RHS Garden Rosemoor, North Devon

Striking colour from trees, shrubs and underplanting at RHS Garden Rosemoor

The Winter Garden at Rosemoor is having an exciting makeover, with the former model gardens being incorporated into the area, doubling its size. The existing planting will also be having a revamp but the area remains open throughout and continues to be a real crowd-pleaser, with its sparkling, white-barked birch trees, winter stems and scented shrubs.

Equally stunning in winter is the Foliage Garden, which is packed with inspiration for making your gardens look fabulous all year round. The planting in this area is an exciting, visually vibrant mix of evergreen and

deciduous plants, chosen for their longevity and seasonal interest.

Other areas to visit: The Cool Garden, Lady Anne's Arboretum, Woodland, The Stumpery

RHS Garden Bridgewater, Salford

Head for warmth in the Paradise Garden glasshouses at RHS Garden Bridgewater

The Worsley Welcome Garden at Bridgewater has a tapestry of planting that continues to stand majestically through the frostiest of receptions. Large swathes of grasses and tough

perennials provide height, and are the perfect foil for frost-touched beauty. Structure is key and the clipped beech beehives, with their seasonal brown coats, are strikingly beautiful, while on the neighbouring lawn, tightly clipped domes of yew punctuate the green.

In the Paradise Garden head for the warmth of the glasshouses, where many jewels are happy in their warm environment, heated by a sustainable biomass boiler. Hot water is pumped from the boiler and through the pipes under the floor.

Other areas to visit: The Chinese Streamside Garden, Moon Bridge Water, Ellesmere Lake

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Plants featured in the Winter Walks

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.