My winter garden "" the seasonal magic of Goldsborough Hall, near Knaresborough
PUBLISHED: 00:16 10 December 2010 | UPDATED: 09:13 11 February 2013
There is much magic to be found in the garden at this time of year, says Clare Oglesby
Once the vibrancy of summer has faded and the orange of autumn has been blown away, the winter garden comes into its own, and none more so than at Goldsborough Hall, near Knaresborough.
Once the home of Princess Mary, the Queens aunt, in the 1920s, the gardens of Goldsborough Hall have, over the last five years, been restored to their former glory. Here the winter garden combines structure with elegance and romance. It brings together coloured stems, bark and foliage texture along with winter flowers and fragrance.
For me, winter gives the chance to draw breath, perhaps to jot notes down in my garden book, create something entirely new or simply just plan for the future. It is at this time of year that the underlying bone structure of the halls gardens, laid out by Princess Mary, is clearly visible, from the frost just touching the sculptural 8ft-high box balls to the clean frame of the beech hedges lining the 120ft Long Borders.
Any visible colour is magnified and intensified. As I glance back up from the borders, the warm Jacobean brick of the hall stands out against the snow laden branches surrounding it. The views of the Capability Brown inspired landscape begin to change as trees become transparent. The stark and bare limbs of the Lime Tree Walk are in sharp contrast to the green of the everlasting Turners oak, which retains its glory throughout the winter.
Romance in the halls garden is at my every turn. Plants in the Long Borders are not cut down but remain tall and strong despite the cold. There is no better sight on a winters morning than the haw frost on a gate, on the puff balls of hydrangea and thistle heads of echinops, or the pampas grass leaning heavily with the snow, its long shadow increasing the contrast of harsh colours with the low sun.
Here and there I can see splashes of colour with the blue/greens of euphorbia wulfenii and the highly architectural yucca filamentosa, its clumps of grey glaucous straps with curly white whiskers make it a punctuation mark at the start and end of each border.
It is in the restoration of the woodlands that winter really shines for me. A band of cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire, with its brilliant orange stems makes a dramatic entrance to the woodland garden. In spring and autumn its leaves are tinted pale coral cream but in winter its wands flame with their leafless stems. The subtle and reticent colours of hellebores line either side of a pathway into the woods while various species of bergenias strike the ground with their deep maroon foliage.
The frost gently touches the green foliage of euphorbia amygdaloides var robbiae, companion planted with the delicate maidenhair fern, adiantum venustum. And skimmia japonica rubella looks simply magnificent to me surrounded by early flowering plum-coloured hellebores.
And theres drama in the gardens too. Golden sheets of winter aconite (eranthis hyemalis), that small, jolly buttercup of a flower, cheers up even the bleakest scene. While carpets of ancient snowdrops, that most delicate of winter flowers, peep through a blanket of snow. The willow, pollarded every few years, gives strong winter colour and betula var jacquemontii emphasises winter grace with its smooth white bark. Dotted about, smiling back at me are the pale, hopeful faces of yellow primroses with a promise of spring to come.
And its that hint of spring promise that helps me through the depths of winter. The daffodils are waiting in the wings for their turn to shine. Daffodil February Gold pushes up around the hall while in the urns and pots daffodils Tete a Tete and Mary Copeland are poised. Crocus Snow Bunting and Jeanne dArc emerge from their winter hideout and push through the blue pansies and violas.
Pots of skimmia, heuchera, white-flowering heather and sarcococca complete the scene. Troughs have been filled with daffodil Minnow and topped with primrose-coloured pansies to lift an otherwise quiet corner. But I am ahead of myself. Spring hasnt yet arrived. For now the winter garden gives me the chance to appreciate the formidable structure and form of the garden and in it see both drama as well as magic.
Goldsborough Halls gardens are open to the public under the NGS for two days on Sunday, March 27th (limited pre-booked tickets due to parking restrictions) and Sunday, July 24th 2011 (all welcome). Although the hall is not open to the general public, afternoon tea can be pre-booked allowing guests the chance to wander the winter garden.
The hall also has luxury guest accommodation and hosts very private weddings, functions and events.
Contact the hall on 01423 867321 or see www.goldsboroughhall.com.