Our resident gardening expert Tim Sykes of Garden Proud, reveals why we should allow our gardens to follow their natural course during the colder months and also suggests some ideal Christmas gifts for the green fingered
Famous gardeners have written for decades about the beauty of winter in the garden. For many of us the routine is to put the garden to bed for the winter. This usually entails cutting back dead or dying perennials, pruning shrubs, clearing dead leaves and giving the garden a really good tidy up. But had you considered allowing the perennials and grasses to maintain their presence for just a little longer?
Gardens in winter are often regarded as dormant, but many garden designers such as Piet Oudolf believe they shouldn’t be. He feels strongly that we should allow our gardens to follow their natural course and that the winter is just another season to appreciate their beauty.
Winter adds the extra dimension of mist, frosts, snow to the landscape and the structure of dead, or dying plants can add a dramatic new perspective.
“In winter, the garden takes on a new, almost mystical guise. Whether you are drawn to the crisp shapes of a traditional topiary garden or the anarchy of a meadow full of seed heads, there is beauty and wonder to extract from every garden at this time of year”
Piet is a leading light in the New Perennials landscape movement (see my article Colour Field from So Magazine – June 2022), he is also featured in Photographer Andrew Montgomery’s amazing new book, Winter Gardens, co-authored with Clare Foster, Garden Editor of House & Garden Magazine.
Winter Gardens is a masterpiece in photography, it captures the landscape in black and white and colour at a time when the monotone features of gardens are most prevalent. I absolutely adore the use of black and white imagery, it’s so graphic in its portrayal of the landscape. The book is an inspiration – a must buy for Christmas, whether you are interested in photography, or just like looking at great gardens.
The book contains an expertly crafted commentary from Clare Foster and Andrew’s amazing photography, including many large format photographs from twelve unique and contrasting gardens. Some of these extraordinary gardens have evolved organically and been nurtured by their owners over generations, whilst others have been designed by some of the world’s greatest garden designers.
The amazing line-up of gardens in the book includes:
- Great Dixter in Sussex, home of the great horticulturalist Fergus Garrett
- Broughton Grange, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith
- A private garden – designed by Arne Maynard
- Hillside – Dan Pearson’s garden in Somerset
- Hummelo – Piet Oudolf’s garden in Holland
- Sussex Prairies
- A private topiary garden – an extraordinary vision
- Gresgarth Hall – Arabella Lennox-Boyd’s garden in Lancashire
- Mapperton in Dorset
- Thenford – Michael Heseltine’s garden
- Plas Brondanw – a beautiful garden in Wales
- A Chilterns garden designed by Jinny Blom
“Apart from the aesthetics, shooting in black and white is so clever, for me as a designer it helps us focus the mind on form, texture and composition which is so important in creating gardens and beautiful vistas that stand the test of time.”
If any of my family want a good Christmas Present suggestion then Winter Gardens would certainly be on my wish list! You can order copies (retail price is £70) directly from the publishers – Montgomery Press, or of course from Amazon (both new and nearly new copies), plus any reputable book dealer such as Waterstones.
I hope you enjoy a very Happy Christmas and New Year celebration…
For further help with your garden design, garden maintenance, or gardening advice then contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820.
Jobs to do in the garden this December:
- Try and resist pruning your hydrangeas until early spring, enjoy the winter flower heads
- Dig over empty borders and prepare the soil for next year’s planting
- Fleece any vulnerable plants such as tree ferns against the frost (if tree ferns also protect the crown with some straw and wrap and tie the fronds back over the straw)
- Group any potted plants together, or place in the greenhouse to protect against the winters harshest weather
- Put food and fresh water out for the birds
- Get pruning wisteria, some fruit trees, acer palmatums and roses