On what must surely now be the warmest day this March we headed for the nearby National Trust property of Dunham Massey. I was stir crazy for some fresh air and a clear head, after being cooped in the house for nearly a fortnight looking after a poorly mum, so I leapt at the suggestion of a day out. It seemed that the world and his wife had the same idea, as the place was absolutely heaving but I think I've managed to edit them both out of my photos.
On arrival we noted that a major building project is taking place, what will be a state of the art visitor's centre. I felt some apprehension about a new construction, as I'm not sure how it will fit in with the character of the estate but only time will tell. Strolling on we passed the welcome board which illustrates some of the pleasures in store for visitors ~
On past the lake which is usually teeming with a variety of birds including mallards, moorhens, coots, Canada geese, swans and Aylesbury ducks which delight both little and not so little people. Last time we visited the lake was frozen so the birds were dancing on ice. Not so this time - in fact it looked as if spring had arrived and that love was very much in the air ~
Onwards to the side of this glorious old building ~
Then through the arch to the current reception point before heading for our final destination of the gardens and especially the Winter Garden. I blogged here about our very first visit back in March 2010, so it was interesting to reflect on what I had written then and to see how the garden has developed since. The plans were for the garden to eventually contain 700 different plant species and a further 1,600 shrubs chosen specifically for winter interest. The plant list that I obtained on our initial visit explains the logic behind plant choice ie "The plants have at least two of the following characteristics of interest ; form, colour, texture, scent, berry, bark and sound". The design of the garden 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.
The seven acre Winter Garden has been a work in progress since 2007, opening to the public late in 2009. Unfortunately the garden was hit by a bitterly cold winter in its infancy which resulted in some initial plant losses and subsequent replanting. Now some four winters on the garden seems to be slowly weaving together - there are some heart stopping shrubs and trees. This grove of silver birches is spectacular ~
On the negative side I was disappointed to see bare patches as below ~
I'm not sure whether this is because there are perennials waiting to come through, or whether there is not enough in the planting budget to fill in some of the gaps, or perhaps not enough staff or volunteers to carry out more planting. Another gripe was the plant sales area which as often with National Trust gardens can be disappointing in terms of variety and also expensive. I know that they can't afford to sell plants at giveaway prices but the pricing for snowdrops seemed rather over the odds to me ~
Before leaving we drifted out of the Winter Garden into the grounds where we noticed another new construction is underway ~
Roses seem a distant dream at the moment but we have made a note to return to Dunham Massey come summer if we can. A final photo of some of the staff who were involved in the groundwork and who have an idyllic des res on the estate ~
You can watch a short video clip featuring the garden recorded in early winter here. If you ever find yourself in the area do call in whatever the season.
NB - If you did not see my last post and would like the chance of winning a copy of Val Bourne's book 'The Natural Gardener' please leave a comment here by the end of Friday 29th March. Sorry but open to UK residents only.
PS - I am indulging in some gentle spring cleaning and slight changes here but unfortunately got carried away mislaying the usual text font. I'm launching a search party for it so hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly. Apologies if you need to use a magnifying glass or zoom out.