Winter garden at Hilliers.

As I mentioned in my previous post, after visiting Wisley we headed south  and found a super pub near to Romsey for a bite to eat before visiting the Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum where I knew they had a 3 acre Winter Garden. Their literature says that they think it is the largest winter garden in Europe.  By the time we got there, 2pm, the frost had all gone and the sun was starting to get lower in the sky so the garden didn’t have the same sparkle that the previous one did. In spite of that, there were plenty of evergreens, textured bark and coloured stems to admire. The first hedge that we saw was of Rubus cockburnianus with its ghostly white stems.

Ghost bramble

Notice board

The plan of the winter garden meant that we could plan our route taking in the trees and shrubs that we most wanted to see.


Not quite as colourful at the entrance as Wisley had been but lots of different shapes and textures make it interesting.


We soon found some really beautiful bark on an Acer tree, didn’t write it’s name down, but not to worry…….


…….I took a photo instead!


Oh dear, sorry, out of focus and I can’t go back! Fantastic berries on the Callicarpa dichiotona variegata, such a wonderful colour.

Cyclamen hederifolium

There were still lots of Cyclamen hederifolium flowering which looked so pretty under all the huge trees.


Lots of different Phormium were adding their evergreen colours to the tapestry, their spiky leaves contrasting with everything round them.


More cornus, this time C. sanguinea Amrys’  Winter Orange which contrasts with the Crown Artificial grass in front, their bleached leaves blowing in the freezing wind.

Ophiopogon pl. n.

It’s nice to see someone else with a large patch of Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens used as ground cover like I do!!

E.c. Ann Sparks

In the foreground is Erica carnea Ann Sparkes planted under the blue Picea glauca Alberta Blue. I think the Picea are this shape naturally, I couldn’t see any evidence of them being clipped to shape. But what is that in the background, my favourite birches in the birch grove. found them at last!

Betula utilis

All except one of these birches are Betula utilis, can you see one just right of centre, in the middle distance which looks rather dirty ? that is Betula papyrifera, the paper bark birch. I have one at home but mine is just shedding its young ginger coloured bark and its new bark is pristine white, hope it will stay that way with a wash each year. Mine is in my new header photo above, such a clean white at the moment.

Betula o. Kye Lang

Another beautiful birch, Betula occidentalis Kye Lang showing up so well with the evergreens around it.

General view

Just a general view of coloured stems, bark, evergreens and different textures, this just shows that a garden doesn’t need to be bare in the winter. Maybe just a small corner could be adapted that could be seen from the house so you don’t have to go out in the cold to see it!


More coloured stems, this time from the golden bamboo,  Phyllostachys aureosulcata Spectabilis. It obviously spreads a lot as it was surrounded by a very heavy duty ring of rubber.

Prunus serrula

The Tibetan cherry, Prunus serrula makes a nice contrast but I felt it could do with a bit of a polish, I’m always rubbing mine at home to make the bark nice and shiny, I felt I needed a cloth so I could do theirs!

Box balls

Almost time to leave now, so I’ll finish with some more shapes from box balls, coloured stems from cornus, bark from the birch tree, colour from the yellow bush in the background and all contrasting with the evergreen firs with their conical shape, what more could you ask from a winter garden – lovely!

It took us another 2 hrs to reach home, but we both really enjoyed our day and felt that it had been much nicer than hurrying straight back home from Kent.


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16 Responses to Winter garden at Hilliers.

  1. Cathy says:

    It’s a real eye-opener looking at gardens or parts of gardens specially designed for winter colour, although I suppose for most of us our gardens aren’t big enough for an exclusively winter section. Lots of ideas though. I saw some callicarpa at Batsford and was surprised at how tiny the berries were – must have been the first time I had seen them in real life and not as an illustration. It seems such a quirk of nature having purple berries, doesn’t it?! You must be glad you had the opportunity for these visits, despite the real purpose of your journey.

    • Pauline says:

      Cathy, the first time I visited a winter garden, I was completely blown away at the amount of colour that can be had during the winter months and now have a few examples in the garden here to brighten up a dull day. The callicarpa berries look so artificial don’t they, not natural at all, wonder if the wildlife eats them?!

  2. Alberto says:

    Another wow! I wish I had half of the beautiful gardens you have in UK to visit here…!
    The last picture is just perfect, I stared at it for several moments. I think I like birches a lot too. I only have two and I wish I planted more in the garden.
    I can’t believe you polish the bark of your tree… Well, I do believe, knowing how passionate you are and how beautiful is your garden, no wonder you spend time polishing trees, and then that cherry tree looks like a piece of furniture!

    • Pauline says:

      Dear Alberto, we are so lucky to have gardens to visit no matter what time of year it is. I like the last photo too, there is still room between everything for spring and summer bulbs and for perennials too, a 12 month garden!
      No , Alberto , I don’t really spend time polishing my trees!! When passing my Tibetan Cherry on the way to the greenhouse, if the bark looks a bit dull or algae has started to make it look green, then yes, I will give it a very quick rub to make it shine once more, but that is all!

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Many interesting contrasts in this garden. It’s nice to see just what is possible. I love the idea of you polishing your Tibetan Cherry (even if it is just a quick rub).

    • Pauline says:

      PBM, it was a garden just like these last two that inspired me to plant more things with winter interest in the garden here. We don’t often get snow here so for Nov/Dec/Jan it’s lovely to have something colourful to look at before the snowdrops start the flowering year once more. I must have the most polished bark on my Tibetan Cherry, its so tactile, just have to give it a stroke when I pass!!

  4. Anna says:

    Another wonderful walk round a winter garden – thank you Pauline. Your photos an excellent illustration that there can be so much of interest and colour at this time of year. I could stand and look at that last scene all day as long as it wasn’t too cold 🙂

  5. Some beautiful planting ideas there, though somehow the overall impression I have is of a stiffer garden – perhaps it is the conifers? I love the planting of dogwoods under the birches, but the birch grove has to be the best, simply beautiful.

    • Pauline says:

      I would agree with you Janet, having been planted purely and simply for winter, it did lack a bit of the sparkle of Wisley, no I don’t mean just the frost! Last time I visited here must have been around Feb. time so there were winter bulbs flowering as well, which made a difference. So glad I’m not the only one potty about silver birches, they really are such super trees with delicate foliage that doesn’t cast too much shade.

  6. Christina says:

    Like you, Pauline, the first time I saw a garden designed almost entirely for winter I was blown away (it was the Cambridge Botanic Garden). When I designed whole gardens in the UK I often recommended that the front garden was planted more for winter than summer; the idea being that most people have some interest in spring or summer but everyone passing would enjoy seeing a lot of interest in winter andthe clients too would enjoy it every time their arrived home; and then in summer people usually spend time in their back garden (more privacy) so that could be planted for the other seasons. Christina

    • Pauline says:

      Christina, I would love to visit the Cambridge Botanic Garden in the winter, but just a bit too far for us, it is on the list to visit one day! Your advice to plant winter interest in the front garden is excellent, my birches and red stemmed cornus, underplanted with snowdrops and hellebores is at the back of the bee and butterfly border which is at the side of our drive. The back half is for winter and then the front takes over in the summer while the cornus then forms a backdrop to all the nectar rich plants. The postman seems to enjoy it, he often comments that there is always something for him to look at!

  7. debsgarden says:

    Another gorgeous winter garden! All the textured bark and colored stems are outstanding. I agree: it would be nice to have a small version visible from the windows!

    • Pauline says:

      Deb,all the textured and coloured bark show that gardens don’t have to be brown and dead looking in the winter. Some people like the winter to be a period of rest for their garden, I like the colour we have up our drive, from the red stemmed cornus and the birches, they make me smile whenever I go in and out.

  8. What a wonderful garden visit! I so enjoyed seeing your photos. It looks like a nice amount of color for the winter… and I love birches, though I do not have any yet. Planting them beside evergreens is a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing, Pauline!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!

    • Pauline says:

      Birches are fantastic Julie, aren’t they?! They show up so well in the winter and even better with evergreens and the coloured stems of cornus, thanks for your lovely comments.
      I wish you and your lovely family a happy and peaceful Christmas and everything you desire for your garden in 2013!

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