The Garden in the Winter

November can have perfect blue skies, frosty mornings or day long rain.  In the Sunken Garden, Frances's beautiful display of Aeoniums atropurpureum and Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' have been 'put to bed for the winter.' For most of the year you will find them nestled in and around the grasses on the terrace next to the house, offering a great contrast with their succulent leaves and rich colours. The Aeoniums are potted up and placed in the green house. The Eucomis are arranged in a sheltered spot next to the house. They will stay there until the garden is frost free.

Further preparation for winter at Stoberrry Park means mulching and lots of it! All the beds are prepared by cutting down spent vegetation and applying a lovely thick layer of well-rotted manure. It keeps the  gardeners busy, the day flies by and it's a challenge to get each bed cleared and mulched before the cold weather closes in.

A well designed garden is clear to see at this time of year. The shapes of trees and large shrubs, the spaces between significant beds, hard landscaping and garden buildings formulate the scale and structure, style and feel of the garden. Frances has been creating this garden over the years and with the foresight and confidence to plant trees, is now reaping the rewards. As you walk around the garden, on a February day, where all soft growth is absent, one sees the decision making from all those years.

In the Lower Garden, at the top of the Meadow there are a group of Birches some Silver and some with a Pink/Brown bark. They are growing well, benefitting from being planted as whips. As they increase in size they will become a strong design feature and by choosing birch over any other tree we can enjoy the softness and movement of those delicate supple branches, during the winter when stripped of leaves and when they are clothed in delicate green.

There are three other design features I will draw your attention to, which are worthy of winter exposure. The large Pampass grass flanked on one side by an informal bed of ornamental grasses and on the other by a Rondavel. A garden building of African origin, a reminder of home for Frances. The various Pittosporum cultivars, really standing out from the crowd with their shapes and hues. The natural conical shape of 'Irene Patterson' or full ball of 'Tom Thumb', beautiful rich yellows, variegated and fresh greens or deep burgundy colours. Another plant of great winter beauty and used in various beds throughout the Walled and Lower Gardens, is the Phormium. Large in size and presence, varieties of greens, yellows, burgundies and stripes of every combination. They lend themselves well to being a firm reference point for the bed or border, constant and reliable, but with a little of the exotic that can be married well with our much loved traditional English favourites.

Winter is the time for reminiscing, poring through catalogues and designing new schemes for the next year. Looking back through the year, some plants thrive and others are waiting for a better summer. We have been busy adding new plants and making changes in various parts of the garden, ever looking to get it 'just right!'

A lack of warm, sunny weather results in fewer Iris blooms. Dahlias, which are kept in the ground all year under a cover of plastic and compost, love dry winters - in particular the huge bunches of 'Bishop of Devon' in the Walled garden. The many Salvias do really well, and also the tall, deep pink of involucrata 'Bethellii' contrasting nicely with the beautiful deep blue of guarantica. In the Hot Border Salvia microphylla 'Kew Red' give a wonderful display of tiny flowers among the delicate foliage and such a good compact, mid height plant, really earning its keep. In the middle part of that border Achillea millefolium, Hemerocallis, Crocosmia and Phormiums and at the back reliable plants such as, Ligularia przewalskii 'The Rocket' and Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple.'

We must also mention the Grass Beds in three different locations, always reliable, full of textural interest and beautiful fluid movement. A well worth addition to any garden, performing well all twelve months of the year. Come and visit us and you can see how to group them together and find out the best varieties to grow.