For a perfect Winter Walk brimming with shining examples of the season’s best plants, look no further than RHS Garden Harlow Carr near Harrogate.
It’s one of the best gardens to visit for inspiration for your own winter plantings; every foot of border has a cunning combination of fiery dogwoods or glossy-barked trees underplanted with jewel-like winter bulbs and evergreen herbaceous perennials. These nifty ‘recipes for success’ can easily be recreated at home in a tiny flowerbed or even a container.
The colours here are remarkable even in the depths of winter, whether it’s sunny or snowing. The dogwoods – letterbox-red Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, three-toned C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, lime green C. sericea ‘Flaviramea’ and more – are planted in large groups that form intense blocks of colour when seen from a distance. Closer to, you appreciate the shine and texture of their bark, which leaps out against the background of the black soil.
Look out for clumps of white-stemmed ‘ghost’ bramble, Rubus thibetanus, which is one of the less commonly seen winter plants. Its scrambling and ranging habit makes it trickier to accommodate in smaller gardens, so it’s a plant that’s best appreciated in a larger-scale plot, rather than one to grow at home.
The trees have brilliant bark too, from stands of single- and multi-stemmed silver birches, glossy red-barked Prunus serrula and a twisting corkscrew willow Salix babylonica pekinensis ‘Tortuosa’. There are also plenty of golden willows coppiced to a low stump so that they produce masses of long, whippy and colourful stems – a useful trick that keeps a willow compact enough to grow in a small garden.
The trees are combined with contrasting evergreen perennials such as hellebores, pulmonaria and Euphorbia characias wulfenii, which adds impressive height to a border with its whorls of blue-green leaves topping succulent stems. As groundcover, Bergenia milessi ‘Overture’ is a small but beautiful elephant’s ears plant with waxy, ruby-red to rich-burgundy leaves that become more intense as temperatures drop. It’s one of the best bergenias you can grow.
LOCATION RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Crag Lane, Harrogate HG3 1QB OPEN Daily except Christmas Day; Oct-Feb, 9.30am-4pm; Mar-Oct, 9.30am-6pm. Entry £12.10 inc Gift Aid CONTACT 01423 565418; www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/harlow-carr
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