Wakehurst’s Winter Garden flourishes one year on: Top tips on how to recreate yours at home

Release date: 16 January 2020

The Winter Garden at Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, reaches its first birthday in January 2020. Bursting with the colour and fragrance of over 33,000 plants, arranged in a bold, contemporary composition beside the Elizabethan Mansion, it is the jewel in Wakehurst’s crown this winter.

The design of the ornamental garden references wild winter habitats such as Himalayan, tundra and heathland landscapes. Its designer, Francis Annette, explains: “The garden has come to fruition very nicely. It was designed so you can appreciate the entire area rather than individual plants. There are actually only 46 different varieties, planted en masse so the garden feels more emotionally arresting. When the snowdrops flower underneath the trees in mid-February they will create a lovely colour contrast with the purple Bergonias.”

Winter Garden, Wakehurst
Winter Garden, Wakehurst

Winter Garden highlights

  • Mature Himalayan silver birch trees (Betula utilis var ‘Jacquemontii’), are at the centre of the garden. Their pure white trunks are dramatic interspersed with the coppery gleam of the Tibetan Cherry (Prunus serrula ‘Tibetica’).
  • The rich fragrance of Daphne and Witch Hazel, placed close to the path for multi-sensory stimulation.
  • Blocks of red Cornus (including the cultivars ‘Midwinter Fire’ and ‘Bud’s Yellow’) create texture and colour along with succulent bronze Bergenia, soft, feather-like Calamagrostis and Hellebores.
  • Swathes of Cyclamen, grasses, Crocus and box hedging all draw the eye through the garden.
  • An all-weather path twists and turns throughout the garden, making it fully accessible and giving the feeling of discovery as you weave your way through the garden.

Top tips for creating a Winter Garden of your own – just follow the five C’s rule!

Wakehurst Garden Supervisor and designer of the Winter Garden, Francis Annette, gives his top tips for recreating a winter garden at home:

  • Colour is the first thing to consider. You want to cheer up a cold winter’s day and choosing plants that have vibrant colours during the winter months will lift your spirits.
  • Next consider how to contrast and complement those vibrant colours. A colour wheel is good for this to identify contrasting and complimentary colours.
  • Then consider contours. Avoid having everything the same height. Vary the shapes and use the tiered planting approach: ground cover, bulbs, low shrubs, medium shrubs, small trees.
  • The last thing to consider is continuity. In order for the design, however big or small, to be coherent there must be a strong element of continuity. It is visually more stunning when there are lots of the same plant rather than having lots of different plants shouting for attention.

The Winter Garden was congratulated by the Horticulture Week Custodian Awards scooping the ‘Highly Commended’ award for Best Planting Design. It is just one of Wakehurst’s diverse landscapes worth visiting during the winter. Its temperate woodlands provide surprising seasonal delights including the stunning National Birch Collection and the ancient evergreen Wollemi Pines.

Images of Wakehurst's Winter Garden


Notes for Editors: Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex is home to the Millennium Seed Bank and over 500 acres of the world’s plants including temperate woodlands, ornamental gardens and a nature reserve. It is situated in the High Weald of Sussex, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and focuses on wild plant collections. The Millennium Seed Bank houses and protects seed from the world’s most substantial and diverse collection of threatened and useful wild plants, making it the most biodiverse place on earth.

RBG Kew receives just under half of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.

Please note that Wakehurst is referred to just as Wakehurst, not Wakehurst Place. It is not a National Trust property.

Press enquiries: Sandra Howard, Communications and Content Manager (s.howard@kew.org 01444 894336)