To brighten the gloomiest day: Botanic Garden of Cambridge University The Winter Garden

13 Feb 2018

The Winter Garden displays a diverse range of plants to dramatic visual and sensory effect. Developed in 1979 by Garden Superintendent Peter Orriss and Garden Supervisor Norman Villis, the Winter Garden has long provided a winter focal point for our visitors, and has continued to serve as a source of inspiration for amateur and professional horticulturists alike.

While other plantings in the garden come to a peak in the summer months, the Winter Garden fades into the background. However, as winter commences this area of the Garden comes into its own, bringing colourful tints to brighten the gloomiest day.

The site was sculpted to provide topographical interest in our flat landscape, and consideration was given to the orientation of the Garden to ensure that low winter sun caught stems to intensify colours. It is no happy accident that the boundary hedges provide an evergreen backdrop to the diversity of form and colour, while also capturing the many scents of winter flowers.

The Winter Garden is now reaching crescendo point. At the western entrance Daphne bholua’Jacqueline Postill’ is bearing its pink-flushed blooms, while its heady fragrance fills the air. Opposite, the intense red stems of Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’provide striking vertical contrast to an underplanting of Bergenia ‘Bressingham Beauty’. Beyond, Galanthus nivalis and Eranthis tubergeniana produce a contrasting mat beneath the arching stems of Rubus ‘Goldenvale’. At the western end of the Winter Garden the flaky cinnamon-coloured stem of Acer griseum emerges amidst the orange stems of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, and the spined stems of Rubus phoenicolasius.

There is much to admire in this winter palette. A delightful array of colours, forms, textures and scents continue to provide an array of interest. The experience is enhanced by timing your visit to coincide with a bright sunny day, when colours are lifted and perfumes ever-more pronounced. You can extend your visit by taking time to admire the exotic and unusual winter highlights of the Glasshouses and the Mountains House, or to admire the late winter snowdrops which adorn many areas of the Garden.

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