Anglesey Abbey is a well known destination for galanthophiles in East Anglia and its extensive, landscaped displays of over 300 varieties of snowdrops are well worth a visit in February. This year though, due to the usually warm winter weather, the snowdrops are out early and the National Trust’s usual celebratory festival has been brought forward. In fact, it starts tomorrow.
However, when we visited yesterday our main focus was to see the Winter Walk in some beautiful, golden sunlight (and discovering a good hellebore and snowdrop display was a bonus).
The winter garden was developed in 1998 to commemorate the centenary of the birth of Lord Fairhaven, who donated house and garden to the National Trust. It is a narrow enclosed area, running for some 450m with a wide sepentine pathway meandering its way through an impressive selection of ~160 different plants selected to maximise winter colour and fragrance. It ends with the show-stopping Himalayan silver birch grove.
These birch trees are power-washed annually to make sure that those trunks gleam in the winter sunshine.
Last year, in a future-proofing exercise, an extension to this grove was planted with a further 112 Himalayan birch trees.
These are expected to come into their own in about 10 years and will initially double the size of the existing planting. Longer term, this addition is looking forward to a time when regeneration work will need to be carried out on the older trees.
Over the years the Winter Garden it has turn into a phenomenally colourful tapestry of bulbs, grasses, shrubs and trees.
Scents hit you in waves as you pass stands of viburnum, lonicera, wintersweet, mahonia and sweetbox. There are brilliant planting combinations in small dells.
There is high contrast in the selections of ground-cover grasses and shrubs.
Bark on more established trees adds drama against blue skies:
Eruptions of coppiced, startling-yellow willow burst from the low blends of narcissus and mahonia
We continued our walk past that wonderful facade of poplars lining the canal that feeds Lode Mill
It is worth taking the detours through the woodlands which are filled with snowdrops, hellebore and small birds.
Here, catching the sun, there was outstanding colour from the only dark hellebore that I saw in flower yet.
We really enjoyed the Winter Walk again and there has been a considerable amount of replanting and renovation along the path adding new interest.
However, whilst there were a good number of bulbs in flower at Anglesey Abbey already, the best is yet to come. Of course, so then will the queues and crowds.