Posted 15th Nov 2017 by Peter Byrne
Don't let the cold keep you indoors
Instead, wrap up, stride out and beat the winter blues at the four Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Gardens this season, offering awe-inspiring illuminations, thought-provoking art and fun for all the family.
Between the last leaves falling from the trees to the first snowdrops emerging from frosty soil, the winter months are an ideal chance to see some remarkable elements of the RHS Gardens emerge.
The blaze of colour from vibrant Comus (dogwood) and winter berries peeping out from beneath glossy foliage; exquisite blooms of miniature iris, hellebore, paperbrush and daphne; tactile bark and stunning new vistas, which are framed by bare branches and sculptural conifers - winter will be the ideal season of stunning contrasts.
RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex will allow visitors to catch a first glimpse of the new Winter Garden, which, with key plantings now in place alongside specially-commissioned sculptures by David Watkinson before it officially opens next winter. A new Winter Trail will also highlight some of the choice winter specimens from around the garden, which include Prunus maackii ‘Amber Beauty’ (Manchurian cherry), with its polished golden peeling bark, along with the deeply scented Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’, both of which will be in the Winter Garden.
Between 23-26 November, members of the local Women's Institute will adorn around 40 Christmas trees with hand-crafted and natural decorations, which will go on display at Hyde Hall until 6 January. On selected dates in December, children will also get to meet Santa and learn about the winter skies in a pop-up planetarium.
RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon is the first of four RHS Gardens to kick off the festive season with a Glow illuminations, which will light the way from 17 November through until 6 January.
The Holly Trail is a highlight of the festive season, showcasing a wonderful diversity of the genus Ilex with over 150 varieties around the garden. Meanwhile the Winter Sculpture Exhibition will be a seasonal treat for art lovers until 18 February, while there will be fireworks for the younger visitors. In late winter, the newly-painted Rosewarne Daffodil Collection, formerly on display at RHS Garden Wisley, will start to emerge to herald spring's arrival.
In North Yorkshire, RHS Garden Harlow Carr is hosting its own light show for the first time this festive season. The Glow Illuminations will run from 23 November to 30 December, bringing a touch of magic to the most northerly RHS Garden, while a series of events will get visitors into the festive spirit in the run-up to Christmas. Between late autumn and early spring, there will be self-guided Winter Walks which take in the highlights of the garden in its winter glory, while from mid-February, 5000 irises planted to mark the Winter Walk's tenth anniversary will burst into flower. Concurrent exhibitions run until 25 February, examining the history of inspirational Women in Horticulture, which include Gertrude Jekyll and Constance Spry, along with the nation's fascination with Japanese gardens, highlighting the restoration of the 1920s Japanese-style garden at Valley Gardens.
RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey demonstrates that winter can be just as full of interest as any other season, with the paved Winter Walk around Seven Acres exploring the fiery stems, delicate winter blooms and vibrant foliage that bring the colder months to life. On selected December dates, families will be able to combine a visit to Santa and Mrs Claus with the chance to see a Christmas Glow installations by Jigantics, which will show the garden in a whole new light every day between 1 December until 3 January. In the New Year, no visit will be complete without stopping by the Alpine Display House, which will be a riot of colour in the early months, as many of the specimens come to their best. Then, between 13 January and 4 March, thousands of exotic butterflies will take flight to delight visitors seeking refuge from the cold.
You can find out more by visiting their website here.
Image courtesy of RHS and Peter Fenton