England is home to some of the most inspiring, miraculous gardens found anywhere in the world. Even after the first cold kiss of winter, when the spring and summer flora tuck themselves into months-long slumber, England’s winter gardens carry their rich, vibrant colors and floral fragrance all the way through the chilly months. Planning a trip to England this winter? Grab your coat, scarf, and mittens and get yourself to these five jaw-dropping winter gardens. (And take us with you!)
Winding its way past tidy clusters of purple-tinged daphne bholua and white-berried Japanese beautyberry, Harlow Carr’s magical Winter Walk is a feast for all senses. Bright dogwood stems glow fiery red in the winter light, while the air carries the sweet aroma of Sarcococca. Japanese cedars radiate light even on the foggiest of days, and the dew that clings it their foliage in the morning glistens like jewels. Follow the path into the woodlands to encounter the sight of thousands of snowdrops and winter aconites carpeting the ground. Though the garden is a wonder any time of day, we recommend a visit during the magical light of early morning or late afternoon.
Though best known for its summertime roses, Mottisfont pays tribute to the colder months in equally breathtaking fashion. The estate’s one-acre winter garden opened in 2010 and has been providing otherworldly winter displays ever since. Late-flowering shrubs, dogwoods, and ornamental brambles offer bursts of color to brighten even the greyest winter days. Delicate periwinkles speckle the garden with clusters of purple. Witch hazel and winter honeysuckle release subtle sweet scents. The garden’s design was inspired by Mottisfont’s font—a small tributary of the River Test that curls its way through the garden. Plant displays radiate outward from the path in ripple-like circles, and snaking “streams” of pachysandra and winter bulbs mimic the motion of the brook.
Winter at Anglesey Abbey is a time of peace, mindfulness, and quiet connection with nature. Now celebrating its 21st year, Anglesey’s winter garden features more than 150 species that create a completely sensory nature experience. Colored stems, bark, and berries are luminescent in the low winter sun, while paperbark and snakebark maples add fascinating patterns and textures to the 500-yard Winter Walk. The garden boasts a scarlet willow, red- and yellow-barked dogwoods, a Tibetan cherry tree, and plenty of winter flowering honeysuckle to sweeten the air. A Killarney strawberry tree produces strawberry-like fruit in the weeks before Christmas. In late January, around 240 varieties of snowdrops unfurl their petals in breathtaking unison. Perhaps the most striking area of all is the Himalayan silver birch grove that glows bright white in any light.
The lovely winter garden at Polesden Lacey was designed in the 1950s by Graham Stuart Thomas. The former Gardens Adviser to the National Trust, Thomas was considered one of the fathers of modern horticulture. This estate is the only Thomas garden left in existence, and the current remains much as he left it. Yellow winter aconites carpet the ground beneath the bright crimson buds of three Persian ironwood trees. White snowdrops emerge in late January, and the delicate, fragrant blooms of the Sarcococca lend a touch of sweetness to the crisp air. The garden recently underwent a restoration and replanting and sits tucked away behind the Gardener’s Cottage for visitors to enjoy throughout the winter.
While the roses and lemon trees sleep beneath a blanket of frost, a whole new world comes alive at this 18th-century Georgian country estate. Even in the dead of winter, Osterley Park’s quarter-acre winter garden bursts with color and fragrance. Trees and shrubs boast colorful leaves, bark, and stems that pop against the low, watery light of winter. On the Chinese Paper Bush, hundreds of cheery yellow flowers unfurl like lacy suns. The hardy purple-blue petals of the netted iris stand in stark contrast to the glittering frost. Climbing its way to the top of a conifer, the apple blossom clematis fills the air with the scent of vanilla. Stroll through the garden on your own throughout the winter, or bring your four-legged friend for an organized Winter Walkie.