Foul Day, Fair (haven’s) Garden: Anglesey Abbey.
Wanting a winter garden? They can indeed be lovely. Here’s a brief report from a marvellous one. Day not promising. Mist, drizzle, seeping cold. The newish ‘winter garden’ at Anglesey Abbey – hyped far too soon after planting (the garden and house now National Trust, once Lord Fairhaven’s). Now looking, well, gorgeous. A long narrow strip of ground along the margin of the estate. Broad gravelled path, big curves, big enough to hide what’s round the next bend. So the surprises keep coming, and end with a garden tour de force.
Some quite lovely planting ideas, using ground cover combos – bergenias mixed with Arum italicum ‘pictum’, Helleborus orientalis with variegated luzulas, simple drifts of Cyclamen coum, or bigger things like variegated euonymus, low-growing butchers broom (Ruscus aculeatus), epimediums beneath scarlet branches Cornus, the low growing single flowered Kerria japonica used in front of coppiced willows, and something I’d not seen before, clusters of greenish flowers, ribbed evergreen leaves… Ribes laurifolium (a must have plant).
Big shrubs were all the usual suspects, though in a whopping range of varieties: lots of Rubus, including seriously pretty R. thibetanus ‘Silver Fern’, lovely Cornus variants like ‘Midwinter Fire’, ‘Winter Orange’ (another must have), and so on.
Bigger, if not coppiced as most were here, lots of brilliantly coloured willows (colours especially good in damp weather), and acers.
Best perfumes: every single sort of Sarcococca, with even S. ruscifolia var chinensis being hardy here (it doesn’t survive Lincolnshire). These closely followed by the big hedges of Lonicera x purpusii (incidentally some bushes more floriferous that others – worth propagating from, as cuttings are easy). Only then the usual Chimonanthus, but our noses got wet and chilled trying to sniff those.
Thought I saw the pale yellow and much faster to flower Corylopsis, though it’s not in the garden’s plant list, and missed seeing a favourite winter shrub with stiff pendant racemes of flower, Stachyurus praecox.
All fascinating stuff, and filled with ideas that even tiny gardens could adopt to make bleak midwinter lots more fun. And the rest of the garden, with the remains of 17th and 18th century plantings, and some wonderful vistas created by the last private owner, ensures a good few return visits.
Incidentally, away from the modern curves of the winter garden, there are some splendid long vistas through hedges, coppices, and so on, and all terminated by a piece of statuary, a handsome chair, even a splendid (and functioning) watermill. Though some of these are fragments of a much older garden, many were made by Lord Fairhaven. Their scale makes Hidcote look fussy, even camp, and make us very much want to see the garden when fleshed out with flowers.