The Mottisfont estate’s Jonny Norton recommends key plants to create a magical cold weather wonderland.
1. What is winter like in the garden?
It’s a special moment in the year when the leaves have fallen and you can see the skeletal structures of the trees in all their glory. And winter-flowering plants you may not have noticed until now suddenly have their time in the spotlight.
2. What are your main jobs at this time of year?
It’s surprisingly busy. We prune the roses and some fruit trees, and clip the trees in our Lime Walk. The glasshouses are cleaned, ready for spring.
3. Are you planning anything new this year?
No new areas, but we are planning to enhance our Winter Garden, which is ten years old this year. We want to make it more accessible to visitors and will also be working on some new planting designs.
4. What are your favourite winter plants?
I love the fragrant plants, such as winter honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima and the witch hazels, with their delicate spidery flowers and intense perfume. I see visitors literally stopping in their tracks when they get a whiff of them.
5. How do you bring structure to the winter garden?
We have beautiful dogwoods, which form dazzling clumps of colourful winter stems, and the elegant Himalayan birches Betula utilis, with their snow-white stems, which create wonderful structure in winter. I also love the ghost bramble Rubus thibetanus, which produces tangles of silvery prickly stems that sparkle when dusted with frost.
6. Are they easy to grow?
The birches and bramble are happy in a sunny site and reasonably moist soil, while the dogwoods, such as Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’, need damper conditions to thrive – a spot by a natural water feature would suit them best.
7. Are there any new gardening trends for 2020?
Biodiversity is the buzzword at the moment and we’re trying to include a wider range of plants to attract more wildlife. Mahonias, for example, flower in winter and offer pollen to bees that wake early.
8. How can people use evergreens in a small garden?
Many evergreens can grow very big if left to their own devices so I’d choose those that you can clip into shape, such as yew. Or plant small-leaved hebes, which are fairly hardy and make nice winter features.
Mottisfont in Hampshire (nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont) is open all year, except 24 and 25 December and 1 January.