The most intense coloured Dogwoods in the Winter Garden - Cornus sanguinea 'Anny's Winter Orange'
It's a hard-frost winter here at Autumn Cottage; no snow, but two weeks of bitter cold and sparkling white hoary nights. The watery sun - when it does come out -thaws where it touches, but parts of the garden here and in the countryside that don't see the sun have stayed frozen for days. Not a time to be digging in the garden here, doing the over-winter work that needs to be done before the rampaging spring shoots forth.
But it is still a good time to visit other gardens to gather ideas for 'Winter interest' - and also so clear the cobwebs from the soul, escaping that 'cabin fever' which drugs my mind at this point in January. So it was that we 'togged up' in thick winter coats, thin winter gloves (all the better to press the camera button, my dears!) and abundant winter scarves and set off, a couple of days ago, for yet another visit to our Happy Place - the Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum and Gardens. Their award winning Winter Garden is worth a visit in itself - particularly at this time of year, but actually at any time as the planting has been so skilful that there is always something of interest to see and be inspired by.
But the rest of the gardens are also exceptionally beautiful in their pared back winter state, the only time when the skeletons of the trees are visible, with their filigrees of branches each species with its own distinctive silhouette, and when the gnarled, peeling or brightly coloured barks of different trees come into their own. Oh, yes, the bark - an essay in itself.
Take a short walk around the gardens with me and join me in the appreciation of the variety of species and forms that we often do not notice when nature is clothed all in green-o!
Hellebores - always one of the first flowers to emerge
The birds were busily out and about...here a blackbird...
...there a Magpie
The white bark of Betula jacquemontii as a background to Cornus serica
(Not strictly bark!) - The vivid yellow shoots of the bamboo Phyllostachys vivax 'Aureocaulis'
Stupendous Metasequoia with minute yellow Aconites just pushing through at its base
Important winter protection - here Delphiniums are protected (from slugs) when they emerge, by four inches of grit...
...while tender Cannas are cosy under a foot of bark
The frost in shaded corners can still create beauty - here, a memorial seat to a murdered girl -
surrounded by ethereal, rustling grasses and looking down to...
but looking out and looking up - there is always some blue sky to to be found
on this bitterly cold but beautifully bright winter's day