Winter sees the four main gardens put to bed, where upon most of the plants are cut back to ground level. The gardens are hoed and spot-weeded around the crowns of the perennials to get rid of the odd rouge weed which self-seeded itself in spring and missed our attentions throughout summer.
Although all the vibrant colour of the past months disappears during this season the Hornbeam Walk still holds great structure and texture that is only enhanced on a frosty or snowy morning.
From the Molineas stepping down, to the Sedums, each individual plant is picked out in its winter guise by the frost and snow. The Hornbeam Walk is designed to give a multitude of textures during this period, ranging from the rough green foliage and whorled seed heads of the Phlomis ‘russeliana’ to the dense buff foliage and feather-like top of the Micanthus ‘sinensis’.
With the border’s flamboyant display subdued for the year, the diagonal planting scheme becomes apparent.
Although the walk maintains symmetry from left to right, stripping back the foliage leaves the standard sense of uniformity noticeably off-set. This gives an added depth to the planting when the new spring growth emerges the following year.
Remarkably, colour can still be found at this time in the form of Penstemones ‘blackbird’ and ‘raven.’ These flower much earlier in the year, and are cut back in July to stimulate fresh growth that gives rise to small bell-like flowers in November through to December. On a frosty morning they shine like jewels against the grasses and Ecinacea.
In recent years the trend has been to leave plants standing during the winter months to provide decorative structure and a food source for birds. We have made a decision to leave large groups of Echinacea ‘purpurea’ and Monadias of many varieties for this very reason. As well as giving a strong form during this season it also allows us to provide a major food source for the flocks of Goldfinches that congregate here.