How to create a winter garden –transform your space into a winter wonderland

The Mottisfont estate’s Jonny Norton recommends key plants to create a magical cold weather wonderland.

How to create a winter garden

(Image credit: John Miller)

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 structuresof the trees in all their glory. And winter-flowering plants you may not have noticed until now suddenly have their time in the spotlight.

How to create a winter garden

(Image credit: National Trust / Carole Drake)

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.

How to create a winter garden

(Image credit: Annaick Guitteny)

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.

How to create a winter garden

(Image credit: Annaick Guitteny)

See:6 expert tips on how to create a beautiful winter garden from the Society of Garden Designers

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.

How to create a winter garden

(Image credit: Amateur Gardening)

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 structurein winter. I also love the ghost bramble Rubus thibetanus, which produces tangles of silveryprickly 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.

How to create a winter garden

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.

See:The top 10 garden trends for 2020, according to the Society of Garden Designers

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.

How to create a winter garden

(Image credit: Annaick Guitteny)

Mottisfont in Hampshire ( is open all year, except 24 and 25 December and 1 January.