Winter in the garden

A garden statue at Hardwick basking in the winter sun

As winter descends upon us and we forget the beauty, vibrancy and colour of Hardwicks garden in the summer months it is easy to let what the winter garden has to offer slip from our minds. The colour does disappear but the structure and form of the borders offers its own beauty.

Once colourful plants defiantly stand up to worst of the wind and rain and when covered by frost attain a level of beauty seldom rivalled by any flower. Hardwicks herb garden is especially beautiful in the winter months with the tall spikes of Cardoon and Globe Artichoke standing sentinel-like over the frost covered Thyme and Sage. The formality of the box hedges and symmetry of the paths and seats are a constant but the pattern and structure of the borders are ever-changing as the winter months pass.

Globe artichokes were a fashionable vegetable to eat in the 1930s
Artichoke head with green leaves in background

During these cold, dark months the gardeners toil away and the difference between the borders before and after are a stark and wonderful contrast. The symmetry and balance of a border made ready for next year’s display, with plants cut neatly down and soil lightly forked is a pleasing sight to anyone with the smallest amount of gardening blood flowing through their veins.

Fresh mulch added to the East Court rose border
East Court rose border tidied and mulch laid

With the change to all year round opening the garden at Hardwick has adapted to have interest even in the darkest, coldest winter. The Winter Border which is quiet and restrained in the summer months comes into its own with coloured stems, berries and evergreen foliage in greens, reds and golds shining out of the gloom. A carpet of winter and spring bulbs provides jewel-like colour and the dark green foliage of hellebores promises beautiful flowers in colours from yellow to the darkest purple.

The Stumpery, a Victorian invention originally intended to show off displays of rare ferns has a beauty all of its own even before it comes alive with winter and spring bulbs, ferns and Hostas. The jagged shapes of the oak stumps, rescued from the park cast shadows over the garden as the winter sun sets in the east.

From early February the first of the thousands of spring bulbs planted in the informal grass areas to the south west and north east of the garden can be seen. First to show are the snowdrops followed by winter aconites, dwarf narcissus, wood anemones and crocus. This ever-changing pattern and colour palette of plants is a joy to see and will brighten up a visit to the garden at Hardwick during even the bleakest of winter days.

Crocus catching the winter sunlight
Purple crocus in the winter sunlight

The structure and form of the garden in winter has a beauty and interest all of its own which in its own way is a rival to any summer display.