Learning from a winter garden

Witch hazel at Wisley

Witch hazel in full bloom at RHS Wisley in February.

Even on the wettest and chilliest of grey winter days, Wisley is a wonder. Granted, just about anything green and blossoming in the dead of February would seem like a minor miracle to this Southern Ontarian’s snow-wearied eyes. But this garden isn’t a jewel in the Royal Horticulural Society’s collection just because it so effectively reaps the benefits of southern England’s temperate climate. You can meander down any given path at Wisley, as I did two weeks ago, and find yourself, regardless of where your own garden is located, thinking “I can do this. I want to do this!” Though elegant and exotic, grandly scaled and beautifully kept, Wisley is most of all a teaching garden filled with ideas for gardeners of every stripe. Here’s what I learned. Scroll down the page to see all the images. Click on any image to start each slideshow and get the full story.

The coloured branches of various dogwoods (Cornus species) can light up a garden in winter. Even grasses in their dormancy can create a rich tapestry when more than one variety is used.

The Wisley rock garden alone is worth a visit to this part of the world. And, at this time of year, it’s a pleasure to see so many tiny, brilliant blooms. But there are plenty of ideas to take away, too, like using slabs of rock vertically, rather than horizontally, to create more natural (and sheltering) nooks for plants, and fun ways to turn pipe into pots.


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