Winter garden conservation

Jamie Harris, Head Gardener Jamie Harris Head Gardener
The garden at Polesden Lacey in winter

Even during the winter there are plenty of jobs to do in the gardens - our garden team are busy at the moment gearing up for spring. Head Gardener Jamie Harris takes us through the most important jobs of the season.

Long Walk

Much like closing parts of the house for conservation, parts of the gardens need a chance to rest and recover from heavy footfall. The Long Walk has been closed to allow the ground to dry out and the grass to grow back. It will be opened again in mid-spring. 

Pruning the roses and Wisteria

Pruning is a major job for us during the winter. It is the best way to ensure good flowering come spring and summer. 

Left unpruned, climbing roses would grow into a tangled mess, and over time, fewer and fewer flowers would grow. Winter is the best time to tackle the job as once the flowers and leaves have fallen, it is much easier to see the stem structure of the plant. Once cut, the stems are tied horizontally to their supports to put them under stress and encourage better flowering along the branch. 

Neal prunes the wisteria in winter
A gardener waves atop a ladder while pruning wisteria at Polesden Lacey
Neal prunes the wisteria in winter

Wisteria covers the walls of the house and the rose garden water tower. We will cut back some of the newer shoots two or three buds from the main stem. Again, this will ensure that come early summer there will be as many healthy buds as possible to bloom into gorgeous purple flowers. 


We’ll be spending a large portion of the winter improving our soil while the beds and borders are bare.  We add a thick layer of either well-rooted stable manure or leaf mold to most beds around the garden, from the winter garden and spring borders to the rose garden and herbaceous borders.  As well as improving the soil structure and releasing nutrients as it breaks down, the mulch will also help to preserve moisture and suppress weeds.  Not only that, but it makes a very attractive covering too.

Delight at the dainty snowdrops
Snowdrops in Polesden's winter garden
Delight at the dainty snowdrops

Preparing for the year

If it’s wet or frosty, it is best to keep off the lawns and soil, so we take the opportunity to do maintenance work on our tools and machinery, order seeds and bulbs, and plan for the year ahead. This is also when a lot of the design work is done; we often design new borders for the gardens to refresh them and make an interesting change for visitors. 

There is always something beautiful to see in the gardens here at Polesden Lacey, no matter the season. Snowdrops and aconites are starting to flower in the winter garden, and the beds outside visitor reception are filled with Sarcococca, Euonymus, Viburnum and Bergenia. Winter Jasmine is coming into its own, covering the north-facing walls of the house and rose garden. 

During the winter, there are garden tours at 12.45pm and 2pm at the weekends; ask in visitor reception for details. 

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