I make regular visits to a variety of gardens not only to see new and exciting designs, layouts, materials in situ and planting combos but also to see how they develop, to get to know plant behaviours and to watch plant combinations develop together and compete. It’s about informing myself and my design and planting work. Winter is one of the easiest times to get out and about as there is a perceived pause in workload, mostly!
This year I have been struck by the scent of the winter gardens I’ve visited. This is partly due to the warmer weather we are having and the abundance of flowers that are on display. Anglesey Abbey, my first visit, has a single, bonded gravel path winding through the dense plantings making the observer a captive audience for the colour and vibrant scent available from the choir shuns and trees lining the walk. Banks of flowers offering their heady flavors to you nose. Wonderful. Being up close and personal makes all the different as does a steady dose of sunshine on the plant.
Hillier Arboreturm on the other hand is a combination of wide sinuous paths and enormous island beds. And at this visit large puddles of soggy lawn and squelchy path. No less evocative the punch of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postil’ is more than enough to stop me and two other parties in our tracks. overwhelmed by the sweet exotic smells being thrown out. It’s cloudy and damp on this day which makes me wonder whether, on a warm day, it might not knock me off my feet entirely?
In fact the scent at Hillier is less remarkable, not that it is not there but it is not so dominant. Exotic tree bark and vivid stems compete equally with the rich scents this time. A well placed bench surrounded by Sarcoccoca reminds that the designers have carefully placed their plants for impact.
Hillier claims to be the best of the winter gardens and so far it is certainly the biggest but I’ not sure that’s a bonus really. Who has the space to replicate even parts of this very specific planting expanse? for Winter gardens, though striking in their season are potentially pretty dull in the other three!