Winter garden at Mottisfont Abbey

Enter the Winter Garden at Mottisfont to discover seasonal delights

Enter the Winter Garden at Mottisfont to discover seasonal delights - Credit: Archant

Enjoy the winter garden at Mottisfont Abbey with vibrant stems, berries, scented flowers and early bulbs combining to great effect says Leigh Clapp

Gone are the days of gardens closing down through the winter, now more and more are developing a specifically planted area of seasonal interest.

One of the newest winter gardens is at the atmospheric Mottisfont Abbey near Romsey, designed in 2009 by head gardener, David Stone and Alison Evans, general manager. Developing a dedicated winter garden bed or planting is a trend worth embracing, even if it’s just a seasonal container by the door to admire before popping into the warmth. Positioning your winter bed where it can be seen from inside is also another way to really enjoy the winter picture you have created.

There is beauty of both colour and scent to be enjoyed. On an overcast day the rich hues will lift your spirits - and on a crisp, bright day when the sunlight intensifies the effect, it can be breathtaking. From flaming cornus stems lighting up in the low winter sunshine above carpets of hellebores, to catching the delicious vanilla scent of Sarcococca ruscifolia as it comes into bloom, or the combination of perfume and backlit sunset hues of witch hazels - there is much to inspire.

Take a magical winter walk at Mottisfont to admire the structure of evergreens, architectural foliage, vibrant stark stems, beautiful barks, berries and scented flowers. Dustings of snow or frosty dewdrops sparkling on filigree cobwebs transform the scene further.

Branches take on sculptural forms. Contrasts and colours are intensified in the winter light. Don’t overlook the power of bark as well, such as the shimmering white stems of Betula utilis var. jacquemontii, the tactile peeling orange beauty of Acer griseum or the sheen of Prunus serrula. Visiting now lets you see both the winter planting and the first signs of spring from the dainty milky-white snowdrops as they pop up along the banks of the stream.

The half-acre plot of the winter garden is set in a sloping hollow and is underplanted with thousands of winter and early spring bulbs, including smaller-flowering narcissi. Having been designed to hold interest from November to April, it is planted with an array of choices we can take inspiration from such as ornamental brambles, rich black Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ and massed hellebores.

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The design has flowing drifts of coloured stems, scented shrubs, berries and evergreens. The sense of layering and combining plants can be translated to the home garden, or you may spy some individual plants you could use to fill gaps in the border through winter. You can even miniaturise the effects for containers with for example, cornus underplanted with hellebores and snowdrops.

Opening times

Mottisfont, Romsey, SO51 0LP | Garden, shop and café open 10am-5pm |


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