The winter garden I wrote about in my last blog post was planted over the course of the last couple of years. That at Osterley House and Garden is about 10 to 15 years old, but already has an air of maturity. In contrast to the symmetry of the layout of Mrs Child’s flower garden and the floral exuberance of the cutting garden, the winter garden feels more informal. The winter garden is located between the Long Walk (which skirts the gardens themselves and the perimeter of the park towards the lake) and the grassy slope opposite the American Border which is beginning to colour up at this time of year with hundreds of bulbs (narcissus, crocus and later on Camassia).
The wood chip surface path through Osterley’s winter garden is interrupted by a generous circular lawn in the sunniest part of this garden: a peaceful area to sit and listen to the birdsong and admire the winter flowering shrubs, colourful stemmed dogwoods and willows, and ground cover planting.
The season starts with the bright purple berries of the Beauty Berry (Callicarpa bodinieri) which complement the aqua tones of a Euphorbia. Scent arrives next in the clustered tubular flowers of Viburnum bodnantense Dawn and V. Charles Lamont and the delicate cream flowers of winter honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima. My favourite plant in the winter garden is the large paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) whose silky flower buds open in February into tiny trumpets each lined in vivid yellow, gathered into neat hemispheres suspended from the generously spreading branches of this graceful shrub.
Like so many winter flowering shrubs, Japanese quince flowers on bare stems, emphasising the purity of the form of the blooms. The elegant white form Chaenomeles speciosum Nivalis features repeatedly in the bed opposite the paper bush.
The loss of a large conifer in the last couple of years has created a space for new planting and we recently spent a morning, supervised by head gardener Andy Eddy, planting hellebores and witch hazel in one of the newly cleared areas. The planting scheme includes the striking combination of black Mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens) and snowdrops which also features in Kew’s Winter Mound.