Winter in the garden at Mottisfont

Winter sunshine on bright bark, leaves and stems in Mottisfont's winter garden

Frosty mornings bring out a unique beauty in our gardens, with mist rising up from the river and crisp, sparkling lawns. Our specially-planted winter garden is full of vibrant colours throughout the colder months. Stroll through paths that wind through winter-flowering shrubs and perennials, chosen for colour and scent.

This is the best time of year to visit the winter garden, which glows with colour during the shortest days of the year. The one-acre garden took shape in 2010 near one of Mottisfont's oldest features, the font, which attracted settlement here more than 800 years ago. 

Dogwood and ornamental bramble show off bright winter bark, while berries, fruit and late- and early-flowering perennials also provide welcome bursts of colour. A wet area near the font supports ornamental willow, the stems of which take on burgundy, russet or yellow tints in the winter months.

Mottisfont's peaceful winter garden has been specially planted to provide colour during the shortest days of the year
Birch trees in the winter garden at Mottisfont
Mottisfont's peaceful winter garden has been specially planted to provide colour during the shortest days of the year

Sweet-scented daphnes and winter-flowering honeysuckles, wintersweet, witch hazel and viburnum all contribute to a subtle fragrance in the crisp cold air.

Bright berries and fruit are provided by skimmia and euonymus, and there are splashes of colour from bergenia and hellebores. 'Streams’ of ground-hugging periwinkle, pachysandra and early spring bulbs echo the flow of the water from the adjacent font.

A fairy garden

We're celebating an Enchanted Christmas with the Flower Fairies from 23 November - 5 January. During this time, the winter garden will be decorated with delightful little fairy scenes, tucked in among the foliage and flowers.

A decorated Christmas tree and mantelpiece surrounded by piles of wrapped presents in the Whistler Room at Mottisfont

An Enchanted Christmas with the Flower Fairies 

23 November - 5 January (excluding 24 and 25 December): magical woodlands await this Christmas, with decorations inspired by Cicely Mary Barker’s exquisite Winter Flower Fairy illustrations. The original artworks are on show in the second-floor gallery, while the house and gardens are beautifully dressed with native winter foliage and traditional festive colours. Families can explore with a fairy-themed activity trail.

Winter work

If you visit the walled gardens in winter you'll see our gardeners out in all weathers tackling the annual winter rose pruning. An intense period of work now helps us to prepare for our spectacular displays in early summer. It's fascinating to watch the gardeners at work, and they'll be happy to to answer your questions about the process.

We'll also be spreading over sixty tonnes of our homemade compost throughout the rose gardens and our new Kitchen Garden. This will feed the soil, help with water retention, reduce outbreaks of disease and increase the natural production of beneficial fungi. We no longer use fungicide for our roses, focusing instead on natural methods of biosecurity.

In the new year...

From January and into February, dainty snowdrop flowers will begin to emerge in our gardens. White clusters nestle beside the font stream and along the river walk. Around 16,000 native bulbs have been planted here in recent years to enhance our displays.

" Snowdrops lift the spirits like nothing else and remind us of the delights of the spring to come. At Mottisfont, we plant native species Galanthus nivalis, which in time will self-seed and colonise, creating a snowy carpet of petals – perfect for our woodland setting."
- Jonny Norton, Head Gardener