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