greentapestry : The Winter Garden at Dunham Massey

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Winter Garden at Dunham Massey

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 ~

I can't wait to see it when the snowdrops eventually meet in the middle. Elsewhere there were various other winter flowers including aconites, irises, cyclamen, snowflakes and hellebores in every shade and hue. The first of the daffies were just out. It was one of those winter days when it was so bright that taking photos was a challenge, so sadly I have not got many to share with you. Along the paths there were several stop you in your track moments, as our noses were pleasantly assaulted by some glorious scents from shrubs.

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 ~

This is

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.


  1. That does seem a lot for a bag of snowdrops. You cant go wrong with birches at this time of year and I keep thinking I would like one of those ornamental brambles, I saw a very nice white one at the Garden House

  2. You certainly picked the right day for your visit. It would be interesting to visit again in summer and see the difference, perhaps some perennials will have sprung up from the bare earth then and filled the gaps.

  3. Your text was perfect for my eyeballs. :) And I enjoyed your visit to the garden. The snowdrops are a little pricey aren't they? I'm with you. The curators could have made more money by pricing them much friendlier. The chickens are cute. That rose garden is going to be beautiful this summer, especially with all that chicken poo. :)

  4. The silver birches and snowdrops are my favourites, they are such a super winter combination. Nice to see the chickens getting the credit they deserve! The bags of snowdrops were expensive, much cheaper on line for G. nivalis, but I suppose if you only want a few, you might be tempted.

  5. Glad you enjoyed your well-deserved day out, Anna - and enjoyed a bit of sunshine despite the chill. The birches look lovely and it's always a delight to see hellebores and snowdrops! The rose garden will be beautiful once the new planting is established - I must check how far off the M6 Dunham Massey is so we can make a detour on our way up to my Mum's in the summer. We visited one NT property last year which had a renowned rose garden but we were just a little too late to see it at its best - can't remember which it was!

  6. I keep meaning to give it another visit, as I'm not too far away and did go a couple of years ago, when it was still in its infancy so it's nice to see how it is developing. Shame about some of the bare patches.

  7. There is something so stylish and satisfying about birches under planted with snowdrops. As someone surrounded by large bare patches I found it curiously comforting to see some in a NT garden. Extortionate snowdrops though, assuming they weren't really special ones.


All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at :


- Anna.