The winter garden

Glimpses of Driftwood by sea in the depths of winter.

Early morning sun at Driftwood garden

Many visitors who come to the garden often ask if I open through the winter months, as they would like to come and see the bare bones of the plot. To date, this is not something I have done, primarily I suppose as everything is put away for the winter and I’ve got no undercover areas for anyone to sit and enjoy refreshments in colder weather.

I always say to them if they are really desperate to come and see then to give me a ring and if it is convenient, then fine! Over the years, I guess a dozen or so people have done this but I’ve not charged, just asked for a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support.  

Frosty landscape

In some ways it is a shame not to open, especially on a cold frosty winter morning. The garden becomes a winter wonderland with a light dusting of snow or a heavy frost. The large presence of rusty metal pieces, across both front and back gardens, creates the perfect framework upon which snow and frost are beautifully displayed.  

frosty metal flowers at Driftwood
Frost covered metal flowers. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

There are many rusty metal flowers throughout the garden and they are beautifully decorated with glistening frost in the winter too. I always tell visitors that the excessive use of metalwork across the garden not only enhances its look through the summer months but really comes into its own through the winter months. In the summer there is generally lots of colour on show but in the winter the vistas around the plot rely heavily on the range of greenery and metal sculptures.

snow on metal sculptures at Driftwood
The snow covered metal sculptures stand out in the winter garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Winter wonderland

I am extremely lucky to be able to look out on the garden from my rooftop office and it never ceases to amaze me how beautiful the back garden looks each and every month of the year for differing reasons. Simple things, like this set of ceramic groynes, take on a wonderful winter presence with a hint of snow. To be honest, I never tire of walking around the garden any time of the year as I feel there is always something to catch your eye and that can be very photogenic. I usually take several images, every day of the year, and post on my social media channels. The wonderful comments they attract prove to me that there is always something of interest to see. 

I always find there is great light across the garden in the winter too, creating fabulous photo opportunities like this one taken last January around the corten steel pond.

Sun in early morning at Driftwood
Early morning light. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Winter by sea

If pushed, I think my favourite part of the garden in the winter is the beach garden. It looks wonderful all year around and is such low maintenance too. The gorgeous Hellebore argutifolius and the dazzling Coronilla glauca paired together at the end of the boat always catch ones’ eye, even when frozen as in the image. The gorgeous yellow flowers are a reliable ray of sunshine on cold dark and chilly days. 

frosty beach garden at Driftwood
The frost covered beach garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

There are some plants that are really at their very best in the winter, so visitors have to rely on looking at images. One in particular is the Siberian Dogwood and its gorgeous red stems. Its proper name is Cornus alba “Sibirica”, Dogwoods are mostly grown for their wonderful coloured stems and can provide a fabulous bright flash of colour in Autumn and Winter. They look good with other species in a mixed hedge or standing on their own. Dogwoods are very hardy and do well in sunny sites or partial shade and especially in moist areas. Mine is in the back garden, adjacent to the new patio by the shed where it is clearly visible from the house, especially through the winter months.

siberian dogwood red stems at Driftwood
The gorgeous red stems of Siberian Dogwood. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Another gorgeous winter shrub is Camelia ‘Yuletide’, producing these stunning flowers. Mine is located in the shade near the house and can be seen from the kitchen to cheer up any dull winter’s day. It is a very pretty shrub, flowering in the garden just in time for the festive season, it is well-named for its profusion of rich red flowers at this time of year. Each crimson bloom boasts a golden crown of stamens at its centre, creating a vibrant festive display. Mine has just started to flower and should reach its peak in time for Christmas, when the garden is most in need of a splash of colour. The glossy evergreen foliage adds year-round structure to my patio and is a superb hardy, specimen shrub that requires virtually no maintenance, once established. I bought mine, in memory of a friend who died just before Christmas, several years ago, so it’s called “Peggy” and conjurs precious memories.

camellia yuletide at Driftwood Garden
‘Peggy’. Geoff’s Camelia ‘Yuletide’, planted in memory of a dear friend. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

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