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Winter Wonderland at Lyme

As a Gardener and new Garden Designer, visiting gardens is one of my greatest passions. Last year I made it to a few (but nowhere near enough) gardens including; Scampston Hall (East Yorkshire), Trentham Gardens, Biddulph Grange, Tatton Park and RHS Bridgewater.

Every season in the garden has it’s merits for me. If a garden has been welldesigned and looked after, there should be excitement waiting for you around every corner even in the coldest months.

Finally in late December I finally had another free day. I headed off alone in freezing conditions to visit Lyme park, the National Trust Garden, which holds special memories for me. I worked as a volunteer gardener in the internal gardens here a few years ago and gained invaluable experience and solidified my desire for a career in horticulture.

I was met by more than I had hoped for; stunning winter interest in form, colour and texture.

The renaissance inspired formality of the Italian gardens really stand out in winter. The low hedges which here are actually well-clipped ivy and gravel paths stand out against the otherwise white landscape. The water fountain was still working and in the centre and audible from a bench way above.

Following the path above the gardens I made my way into the Vicary Gibbs garden. This is an area which is dedicated to mostly exotic plants, following the theme of Vicary Gibbs who was a Victorian plantsperson who imported exotic species. The bright orange leaves of the Stephanandra tanakae shrub from Japan were stunning in the low sun and around the next corner I was greeted by the acid purple of the Callicarpa bodineiri berries.

I then headed right around the frozen lake, trying to identify plants and shrubs which were mostly sparkling with ice and frost. Lots of strong, frost hardy perennials such as Bergenia hold their form well in sub zero temperatures, here I saw a large drift of Stachys, more silver than it ever is in summer.

Above the lake to the right, I wandered through the Rhododendron walk. Icefrosted pink buds were beautiful on one shrub. A little further along, I spotted a group of young Mahonia shrubs, which I had helped plant 3 years ago. I was really pleased with their growth and the yellow blooms lit up this dark corner.

On the other side of the lake in the wide herbaceous borders, ornamental grasses and tall perennials had been left untouched to retain movement and height here. Also a great tip for wildlife lovers, as seeds provide the last food for birds and taller plants are cover for small animals as well as stems being used for hibernating insects.

As I meandered up through the formal lawns and round the corner, the gap in the tall, green yew hedges called me to pause and wonder what was beyond.

Turning the corner the surprise of the rose garden with its geometric layout was revealed.

The rounded forms of five enormous, terracotta pots provide a contrast to the straight edges of the Yew hedging above the rose garden.

After purchasing 3 lovely gardening books in the second hand shop and reading them with a coffee in the servants café, I set off home feeling very relaxed and inspired to add more of these design elements and plants in my next designs.


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