Beat the winter blues with the RHS

Beat the winter blues with the RHS

The short days of December 2017 and January and February 2018 can still hold cheer and inspiration thanks to the Royal Horticultural Society

Wrap up, stride out and beat the winter blues at the four Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Gardens this season, with awe-inspiring illuminations, thought-provoking art and festive family fun complementing inspirational displays of winter horticulture.

Between the last leaves falling from the trees to the first snowdrops emerging from the frosty soil, the winter months are a chance for some truly remarkable elements of the RHS Gardens to take centre stage. The blaze of colour from vibrant Cornus (dogwood) and winter berries peeping out from beneath glossy foliage; the exquisite blooms of miniature iris, hellebore, paperbush and daphne; tactile bark and stunning new vistas framed by bare branches and sculptural conifers: winter is a season of spectacular contrasts.

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Visitors to RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex this season will have the first glimpse of the new Winter Garden, with the key plantings now in place alongside specially commissioned sculptures by David Watkinson before it is officially opened next winter. A new Winter Trail will highlight some of the choice winter specimens from around the garden, including Prunus maackii ‘Amber Beauty’ (Manchurian cherry) with its polished golden peeling bark and the deeply scented Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’, both in the Winter Garden. Between November 23-26, members of the local Women’s Institute will adorn around 40 Christmas trees with hand-crafted, natural decorations, which will go on display at Hyde Hall until January 6. On selected dates in December, children will not only have the chance to meet Santa but can also learn about our winter skies in the pop-up planetarium, a new addition to the popular Magic of Christmas family events.

RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon will be the first of the four RHS Gardens to kick off the festive season with its Glow illuminations lighting the way from November 17 through to January 6. The Holly Trail is a highlight of the festive season, showcasing the wonderful diversity of the genus Ilex with more than 150 varieties to find around the garden. Meanwhile, the Winter Sculpture Exhibition is a seasonal treat for art lovers until February 18, and younger visitors will enjoy seeking out the artworks around the garden. In late winter, the newly planted Rosewarne Daffodil Collection, formerly on display at RHS Garden Wisley, will begin to emerge as the cheery heralds of spring.

In North Yorkshire, RHS Garden Harlow Carr is hosting its own spectacular light show for the first time this festive season. The Glow illuminations will run from November 23 to December 30, bringing a touch of magic to the most northerly RHS Garden, while a series of events will get visitors into the festive spirit in the run-up to Christmas. From late autumn through to early spring, the self-guided Winter Walk takes in the highlights of the garden in all its ethereal winter glory, and from mid-February 5000 irises planted to mark the Winter Walk’s 10th anniversary last year will burst into flower. Concurrent exhibitions running until February 25 examine the history of inspirational Women in Horticulture, including Gertrude Jekyll and Constance Spry, and the nation’s fascination with Japanese gardens, highlighting the restoration of the 1920s Japanese-style garden at nearby Valley Gardens.

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RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey demonstrates that winter can be just as full of interest as any other season, with the paved Winter Walk around Seven Acres exploring the fiery stems, delicate winter blooms and vibrant foliage that bring the colder months to life. On selected dates in December, families can combine a visit to Santa and Mrs Claus with a chance to see the Christmas Glow installations by Jigantics, showing the garden in a whole new light every day from December 1 until January 3. In the new year, no visit to Wisley is complete without stopping by the Alpine Display House, a riot of colour in the early months as many of its specimens come to their best. Then from January 13 to March 4, thousands of exotic butterflies will take wing to delight visitors seeking refuge from the cold among the tropical plants inside the Glasshouse.

Photographs: from top, beautiful imagery courtesy of the RHS; The Dry Garden in winter at RHS Hyde Hall (courtesy RHS and Lee Beel); The Glasshouse at RHS Garden Wisley lit up by the Christmas Glow illuminations (courtesy RHS and Paul Dubois); A visitor looks at some holly berries in winter at RHS Garden Rosemoor (courtesy RHS and Jim Wileman); The Winter Walk at RHS Garden Harlow Carr (courtesy RHS and Peter Fenton).

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Steve Ott

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