Potted rivalries – and an inspirational day out

In the dying days of winter the team take time to visit some of the finest seasonal gardens in the UK to gather ideas for Hyde Hall's new Winter Walk

Potted tulips at RHS Garden Hyde HallIn the autumn I wrote about planting up containers with masses of tulip bulbs for a spring display. These have been sitting behind the scenes in the nursery all winter needing no further attention paid to them, except for laying chicken wire on the top once the squirrels found them.

While they haven’t yet bloomed, they have emerged with a mass of fresh spring foliage. We could wait until they bloom before putting them out in the garden, but why wait when they have a definite air of spring about them? It’s not an easy task to manoeuvre such massive pots into place, but with the use of some heavy machinery and some help from Andy Tebbutt and Sam we spaced the pots into position. Jeanette Jones ensured that the bulbs are all labelled correctly as we always get loads of questions about some of the more striking varieties.

This year when designing the plantings, Sam and I selected bulbs for six containers each, both taking a different approach. Sam went for a narrow colour palate with rather sophisticated pairings, whereas I went for a riot of colour with six varieties in each pot. I’m not saying we’re being competitive about this, but it will be interesting to see which ones you like best.

Winter Walk at Cambridge Botanic GardenAs we continue our planning for the winter garden, the team and I took a visit to see the winter gardens at Cambridge University Botanic Garden and Anglesey Abbey on a glorious, sunny day. Both of these winter gardens have approached the challenge of celebrating the garden in winter differently. At Cambridge it is the riot of colour that immediately strikes you with a mixture of conifers, heathers and cornus.

Team visit to Anglesey AbbeyAt Anglesey Abbey we met up with Assistant Head Gardener, David Jordon, who showed us how they use massed plantings to create a series of spaces each with their own feel and character.

It is very theatrical in approach and despite having seen the grove of Betula utilis var. jacquemontii previously, it still wowed us, particularly the quality of the light filtering down through the thin branches of the birch. Overall what we found most striking about both winter gardens is the silhouettes of multi-stemmed trees in the low winter light. This was particularly true of trees such as Acer griseum with flaky bark that glows when backlit – but the low light also highlighted interesting branch structure, textures and colours on bark that in the summer you might miss.

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