Sir Harold Hillier gardens – winter wonderland


It was reading an article about the transformation of the Sir Harold Hillier gardens‘ Centenary Borders (in The Garden magazine in September 2014) which alerted me to the fact there might be rather more to see there than the impressive and unusual trees.  And a subsequent look online informed me that the gardens have, at 4 acres, one of the largest Winter Gardens in Europe.

A half term related visit to the mainland on Friday seemed an ideal opportunity to visit the Winter Gardens, right up until we saw the weather forecast.  However, we packed our stiff upper lips, together with our wellies, and set forth.  And actually, had we not lingered rather too long on our delicious fish and chips in the cafe(!) the weather wouldn’t have been too bad at all. As it was, is was soon grey and deteriorating, and sadly the photos weren’t helped by me forgetting the camera (again!)  However, I did my best with my phone, and hope, despite the gloom, some of the magic of this garden will be conveyed.IMG_0413

Although the Winter Gardens are long established here, they have recently been extended, with many new plants added, including 500 new cyclamen tubers.  There is, understandably, a relatively limited planting palette, but the size of the garden allows for some magnificent drifts of planting, giving wonderful effects.

See below, Cornus – I think this one is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ – echoed by the planting on the other side of the pathIMG_0411

Another Cornus, C. alba ‘Sibirica‘, glowing in front of a dark Pittosporum

IMG_0418Large planting of Rubus cockburnianus together with Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’IMG_0423

and many hellebores including drifts of the yellow ‘Ashwood Garden Hybrids’,IMG_0409

with brighter yellow provided by the Eranthis hyemalis


There were also interesting foliage plants including the Anchor Plant, or Jet Plane plant,  Colletia paradoxa,


and Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Warnham Gold’


The garden also holds the National Collection for Hamamelis, and has all known species and around 90 varieties.  Many were clearly very long established and significantly taller than me.  Just stunning.

Hamamelis mollis ‘Brevipetala’IMG_0425


This one’s Jelena, the same one I showed in a 9cm pot in last week’s Wordless Wednesday.  I think I’ll have to be patient to see  mine reach this size!


So, not only one of the largest Winter Gardens in Europe and a National Collection of one of my favourite plants, but what else was going on?  Oh yes, an exhibition of snowdrops!

The snowdrops were all in pots and displayed inside, in Jermyns House, the previous family home of Sir Harold Hillier.  Apparently they have a series of these ‘floral displays’ with Hellebores in March and Camellia and Magnolia in March, a lovely idea.

By coincidence they had one of my favourites (which I’d admired on the Frustrated Gardener’s blog last week), Galanthus Diggory.  Not a great photo, but the petals have an extraordinary seersucker texture.

And I’ve included a couple more for the galanthophiles amongst you…IMG_0435



And finally, what of the Centenary Borders I mentioned at the start?  Well, as you can imagine, they’re not looking much at the moment, and my soggy Valentine (on the left) wanted to go home.  But I’m pretty sure we’ll be back!IMG_0446


13 thoughts on “Sir Harold Hillier gardens – winter wonderland

  1. Chloris

    Thank you for a lovely post. What a lovely day out. I would love to have seen all the Hamamelis. Diggory is certainly on my wish list; it is totally irresistible.

  2. mattb325

    Despite the weather, it looks like a great day out. I’ve not seen Warnham’s Gold Pittosporum before (we are generally swamped with ‘silver sheen’ here), but it certainly looks lovely even on a dull day

    1. jenhumm116 Post author

      Thanks Rusty Duck, but they did have a lot of space. I think winter interest is quite difficult to ‘fit in’, easier if you can give over 4 acres!
      It was a stunning place though, such a treat to have an interesting garden to visit at this time of year.

  3. Julie

    This looks a great garden and one I’d really like to visit, I love the very creamy yellow Hellebores too, the colour looks so gentle and appealing.

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  7. susurrus

    Thanks for this tour. I’d love to have chance to visit this garden in the winter. Nice to see one of my favourite green snowdrops too – ‘Rosemary Burnham’.


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