Wonders of the Great British winter

During the winter I just sit in the potting shed watching television and drinking hot chocolate beside a log fire...

...This must be what people are thinking when they ask me what we could possibly do in the garden during winter. January is a favourite month for this question and also one of the busiest months here at RHS Garden Hyde Hall. Amongst all the cutting back throughout the garden, tree planting on the estate and sowing chilli seeds we are, this year, planning a new winter walk. This will celebrate all the colours, textures and smells of the winter.

In the American Midwest, where I come from, winter in a garden usually means shovelling snow or escaping the -10°C (14°F) weather in a tropical glasshouse. Discovering what winter has in store in the UK was a revelation when I experienced my first British winter in 2003. I had never seen such greenness, bright clear colours and flowers in the dead of winter! Back in the US, I was used to it being cold and colder – and then suddenly spring would arrive and everything would flower like a light switch coming on. Not like here where the first daffs start to flower before Christmas and carry right on through to March.

The site of the future Winter Garden at Hyde HallMy team and I have been busy putting together lists of trees, shrubs, bulbs and even herbaceous plants with winter interest; you’ll be able to find out what we’ve picked when you visit in winter 2015-16. We are busy poring over our lists, discussing flowering and fruiting times, as well as considering colour combinations and bark texture.

Outside, the area is marked out and groundworks are just about to begin, with the not so glamorous but very necessary components of drainage and irrigation going in first along a route that will take you from the Visitor Centre to our new lake.

I think when our winter walk is complete I will invite all those people who have asked me what we do in the winter to see this new garden and ask, “Does this answer your question?”

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