Sunday, 7 March 2010
I was so looking forward to being reacquainted with my fringe one Friday in February but fate dictated otherwise and instead took me to the new winter garden at Dunham Massey. I had made the journey to the hairdressers to be greeted with the information that R. was off work poorly so that was that. I declined the offer of an appointment with somebody else and wended my way home for a late lunch. The best of a sparkling winters afternoon stretched ahead, so himself and I decided to make the trip to see the new garden which was formally open last November.
The seven acre winter garden in Cheshire is the largest of its kind in the country. It is open throughout the year except for Christmas Day. The area covered by the new Winter Garden was originally part of Dunham's deer park before being converted into a paddock for the resident family's horses. When the National Trust acquired Dunham Massey in 1976, the old pony paddock had become overgrown.The area was tidied and replanted but only to become overgrown again some thirty years later. Visitors had requested that the gardens were open in winter. This area seemed to offer the perfect opportunity to develop a winter garden so clearing work began in 2007. The original woodland nature of the area was maintained by keeping some of the large oak and beech trees, species of rhododendrons, pieris, bluebells, azaleas and hollies.
The garden will eventually contain 700 different plant species and a further 1,600 shrubs chosen specifically for winter interest. There is still some planting to be completed. The detailed plant list that himself treated me to explained that "The plants have at least two of the following characteristics of interest; form, colour, texture, scent, berry, bark and sound". The garden's design and its planting schemes were planned with guidance from eminent plantsman Roy Lancaster working together with Dunham's own staff. Some 200,000 bulbs alone were planted - a task made possible with the involvement of local school children as well as National Trust volunteers, members and visitors.
On arrival we were amazed by the sheer number of visitors - the sunshine must have coaxed everybody out. Walking in the direction of the house and garden we were treated to a special edition of 'Dancing On Ice' with birds as the stars instead of so called celebrities ~
Then on to the garden for a wander round (please click on the collages for the bigger picture) ~
The garden is described excellently here by VP who visited in November. I wish that I had reread her post before visiting as I would have stood further back to photograph the ethereal silver birch grove, that you can see at the top of the this post. This is a garden very much in its infancy but my first impression is that it will become a special place to visit and enjoy not just in winter but well into spring. Sadly some of the newly planted shrubs were looking rather sad after such a cold winter and sadly there may well be some losses. I understand that planting is still ongoing so more digging, planting and labeling to be done.
I have mixed feelings about labels in gardens - I am pleased to know what it is that I am looking at but sometimes the labels can be rather in your face as they were at Dunham. I appreciate that it is difficult to manage labelling in a manner so that it gives information without offending the eye but there must be less obtrusive alternatives. There was a a small plant sales area at the exit to the garden. I was disappointed though as once again like many National Trust plants sales areas, this seemed rather pricey and not that inspiring so I did not make any purchases. All too soon but not soon enough for my frozen fingers, it was time to be thinking of wending our way home ~
but not before we enjoyed a cup of coffee and a most magnificent slice of cake in the tearoom. I can certainly recommend the carrot cake. We took our leave via this tree which was but a sapling in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. Oh what stories it could tell! ~
We plan to return to the garden when spring finally arrives and will report back on what treats lie in store for us then.