The Masterclass

I’d been racking my brains to think of a garden to visit in Winter, most are all about the warmer months, with impressive herbaceous borders of colour. Cambridge University Botanic Winter Garden is quite famous in horticultural circles. Plus topic wise, it’s a great follow on from January’s tips blog on introducing Winter Interest to your garden, so off I popped to The Fens for a wee look.

As you can see, I was very lucky with the weather, it was dry and sunny although not the winter heatwave levels we’ve just had! On entering the Botanic Garden, I was impressed with the number and different types of snowdrops, but of course botanical gardens do tend to specialise in collections of things..

Colour Pop

The Winter Garden has a sign at the beginning which states; a masterclass in using foliage, flower, stem, structure and scent for Winter Interest. As you will see from the pictures it delivered on this promise. You get the wow factor the minute you enter, as the pops of colour hit you from all sides. The path is a great example of a garden feature which invites you on a journey, hinting at the possible wonders just around the corner, as it meanders pleasingly through the garden.


The Winter Garden delivers on colour for sure, however I was most impressed, by the use of stems to create texture; spikes, curves, squiggles, crazy tangles, hoops n loops. As a designer it has made me think on another level, regarding the shapes plants create, some of which, like the Muehlenbeckia astorii and Rubus thibetanus ‘Silverton’ I had never seen before.

Ticks all the Boxes

All the suggestions, I covered in the last blog where in evidence in the Winter Garden: The use of evergreen shrubs as a backdrop, ideally ones with foliage interest in winter. Including plants that die-back well like grasses, teasels, trees and shrubs with beautiful bark. The use of winter bulbs at the front of borders. Tick, tick, tick. My one criticism would be the amount of bare earth in evidence, it seems a bit lazy when clearly the team who’ve created this garden know enough, to plant up the whole space, I do loath bare earth.

Packs a Punch

Another element that surprised me was the use of scent. Of course, I use winter scented shrubs when designing gardens however, I hadn’t anticipated, how planting them in volume would pack such a punch. So now in front gardens, when I get the opportunity, forget one Daphne I am going with 3 or 5!  My personal highlight however was the Libertia peregrinan spikes growing through the heather, probably a happy accident but it did look fantastic, I will be nicking this idea!

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