Winter in the garden

Visitors walking away from the Rill Garden in Coleton Fishacre in autumn

As autumn fades into winter, there's plenty to see with rich autumn colours and floral displays appearing. And as the leaves fall from the trees, the sea views from this coastal garden are at their best.

Late autumn colour

The flowering cherries, Persian ironwood, tulip tree and witch hazel provide some of the most vibrant autumn colours in the garden, with winter berries adding intense bursts. In particular the beautyberry, stranvaesia and cotoneasters (Cotoneaster 'Rothschildianus' and C. burkwoodii) offer the best displays.

And even in the depths of winter, there is a constant flow of colours. Some of the key flowering plants are the Australian fuchsia, grey-leaved euryops and Chinese quinine. On your next visit see if you can spot some of the very early flowering daffodils in the garden, known to appear in December.

Not to be missed are the scented shrubs like honeysuckle and skimmia which fill the upper garden with heady scents in December and January.


Winter work in the garden

Some of the most important work going on at this time of year is:

  • Propagation – The semi-ripe cuttings that we took from our tender perennials in late summer have now matured into young plants. Throughout the winter, we will grow these on in our glasshouse in preparation for spring planting. In addition to the cuttings, we also grow many plants from seeds. A late autumn sowing of the hardy annuals ensures that we bring them into flower early in the following year. 
  • Turf work – Over the course of a busy season, the areas of formal grass experience a significant amount of wear. The garden team undertake an extensive programme of autumn turf care (scarifying, feeding, spiking, seeding and top-dressing) to ensure that the lawns recover in time for spring. Now that these areas are resting, you may notice some of the turf paths may be closed when you visit.
  • Herbaceous border work – Whilst there is still plenty of warmth in the soil, autumn is a great time to refresh some of the herbaceous borders. Plants can be lifted and divided and a surface mulch of home-made compost added to improve moisture retention, suppress weed growth and promote a healthy soil structure.
  • Tree surveys - it's important to undertake regular, in-depth assessments of the tree collection in the garden. We check the health of trees before the winter storms arrive.
  • Winter gives a good opportunity to tidy up, so the team are controlling the growth of bamboo clumps, removing ivy from trees, digging out brambles, and undertaking a programme of winter pruning.
  • Stream clearing - the team work through the stream channel and ponds, to remove excess vegetation, overhanging branches and accumulations of leaf litter which might otherwise hinder the flow of water through the wet season. As well as keeping the stream looking its best, this minimises the risk of flooding.