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Winter is usually a time of toasty fires and keeping cosy inside, 2015/16 being a bit of an exception temperature wise. That said a good winter garden has been known to temp me forth in freezing weathers to admire early colour, structure, texture, foliage, even the increasingly rare white sparkles of a hoar frost and of course SCENTS.

Living in the East of England I am close to two GREAT Winter gardens, Cambridge Botanic Gardens and Anglesey Abbey and my third is the Hillier Garden in Hampshire, for me worth the time to get there.

Cambridge Botanic Winter Garden was “designed in 1979, by Peter Orriss and Norman Villis, Superintendent and Garden Supervisor respectively, to create a garden that is extremely beautiful in the depths of Winter. Above all the handling of light within the garden is crucial for the success of the overall design. To make the most of sparse winter sunlight the once level site was re-shaped to provide a shallow valley with a gently curving path and left open to the south to allow the low-level winter sunlight to flood in. With the benefit of almost 30 years of maturity, and ongoing  replanting, the Garden today brings together a beautiful collection of coloured stems, textured tree trunks, coloured leaves, the heady scent of winter flowers and a cheerful underplanting of brave bulbs to light up the winter with its beautiful display.” The Planting plan can be downloaded here

The garden is a truly spectacular example of how good it can get in winter, if you are considering a winter garden then it is also a good idea to visit in summer so you can see just how dull it is then!

  • Erica, Berginia, Cornus

Anglesey Abbey “The Winter Garden is long and narrow so the meandering path allows new surprises on every bend. Its position takes full advantage of the low winter sun, which picks out the details of the unusual plants along the way. Glorious colours are displayed by plants such as Scarlet Willow and Red-barked Dogwood, which dazzle with orange and red respectively. Silver-fern bramble shines pure white.  It’s not only through the eyes that pleasure is found. The air is full of the scent of Sarcococca (Christmas Box), Mahonia, Chimonanthus and the very sweet perfume of winter-flowering honeysuckle. The grand finale of the winter garden is the grove of Himalayan Silver Birch with their pure white trunks dramatically rising from a deep red underplanting of Bergenia.’

  • Mahonia

Hillier Winter Garden ” The long established Winter Garden containing more than 650 different plants grown for their winter effect. It has been planted to show a wide range of plants that are at their best from November until March; a period that many assume, erroneously, is a ‘quiet’ time for gardens.

In early 2014 The Winter Garden was extended and now covers around 4 acres in total, being one of the largest Winter Gardens in Europe.”

  • Hammamelis 'Diane'
    Hammamelis 'Diane' at Hillier

All three have excellent cafe’s to warm up in afterwards.


  • Phoenicia

    There is something about going on winter walks; the crisp air on your cheeks and wrapping up warm and snug. Some choose to hibernate in the colder months but I like to be out and about.

    These gardens are pretty, especially the Cambridge Botanic Winter Garden. You cannot beat nature!

    • So true, the vibrancy of some of the plantings really takes you by surprise and when everything else is drab and damp it’s a reminder of the variety nature has to offer us.

  • Never really thought of visiting a garden as a winter activity. This is pretty interesting. I found the images of Hillier especially beautiful.

    • Hillier is really an exceptional place. There is the winter garden but the whole place is quite magical in the winter. Great ‘bones’, fabulous structure.

  • RoseMary Griffith

    Having just gone to the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh last weekend, I can get into the winter gardens! Although their outside garden is not as amazing as the Orchids in bloom!

    • Orchids are really quite breathtaking and at this time of year doubly so. I am including a link to a post I did a while back after a visit to RHS Wisely’s Orchid show. If only I had the growing environment.

  • William Rusho

    These are gorgeous gardens. I often state I own a house, but because of work I am there only on the weekends. My garden had faded away. I think I will start this spring to grow it again. Posts like yours makes me miss it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks William, our gardens can bring so much pleasure and the process of gardening your own space can be very rewarding.Perhaps my next piece could be about lower maintenance gardens for those who really only have weekends to fit gardening in amongst all the other LIFE they have going on!

  • I wish I would have put more thought into my winter landscaping for my yard. It can look quite bleak out there at times. I should probably start to add some specimens that would help add a pop of color in these gray months.

  • Donna Janke

    I love the idea of winter gardens. I wouldn’t have thought about visiting gardens in winter, but these are beautiful.

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