Winter in the garden at Fenton House

Andrew Darragh, Garden-in-charge at Fenton House pushes a wheelbarrow along containing his dog Jack.

Fenton House and Garden is one of London's hidden gems and each year the Hampstead hideaway welcomes thousands of visitors to see sumptuous apple blossom and sizzling summer boarders. With winter just around the corner Gardener-in-charge Andrew Darraghs talks about the vital work that goes into 'putting the garden to bed' as the year comes to a close.

The most wonderful time ... of the year

Winter is one of my favourite time of year in the garden at Fenton House. There’s a marked drop off in the ‘ings’ (mowing, watering, weeding) and it’s time to consider the garden in the longer term, and to reposition plants for next year’s display.

After the first frost, the garden will undergo its annual transformation with all the lush foliage of herbaceous perennials (a plant that grows from under the ground every year) being cut down to ground level, leaving behind the structure of the garden with its neatly clipped hedges. 

November in the garden at Fenton House, Hampstead
Neatly clipped hedges and cut back boarders show the structure of the garden at Fenton House in November
November in the garden at Fenton House, Hampstead

It’s always exciting to have the borders slightly different every year, so this is a golden opportunity to consider what plants worked well together (or less so) in terms of aesthetics and plant health, and to re- jig the borders before the excitement of Spring growth arrives.
When the borders are tweaked, the final task is spreading our compost which is made in-house and which we have been turning throughout the year. Now is the perfect time – while the soil is still warm and wet – to spread layers of mulch over the beds. This always gives me a strong feeling of putting the garden to bed for the winter and will look neat and crisp for this winter’s Christmas opening. 

In the glass house

Another great change can be seen in our glass house. Just before the inclement frosts arrive, the tenders are brought in for winter protection. The glass house is now jam packed with bananas, palms and succulents. If you visit this Christmas, you’ll be able to see in and find out what we’ve been up to.

Garden-in-charge Andrew Darragh waters succulents in the glass house at Fenton House
Garden-in-charge Andrew Darragh waters the succulents which have been placed in the glass house at Fenton House for winter
Garden-in-charge Andrew Darragh waters succulents in the glass house at Fenton House

The winter pruning is another favourite task among the garden team. Post-Christmas the 32 espaliers and standard apple trees will have their annual clip, along with most of the wall-trained climbers like the wisteria and rambling roses. They’ll be neatly tied back against the walls ready for our spring opening, for the plant to grow again, and for us all to enjoy.