Environment

“A place to feel refreshed and inspired by the promise of nature”: 10 years of Dunham Massey’s magical Winter Garden

By David Prior at

Next month, the National Trust at Dunham Massey marks the 10th anniversary of the Winter Garden.

Visited by millions of people since it first opened during the winter of 2009-10, the Winter Garden was developed to provide interest in the gardens all year round. Planted under the guidance of leading plantsman Roy Lancaster CBE, it was officially opened by him in February 2010 alongside those who gave donations to make the creation possible.

The winter garden at Dunham Massey opened 10 years ago

The area – once part of the deer park – was encompassed into the main garden at the turn of the 20th century. The family who owned Dunham created a woodland walk with a wilderness feel where they could roam with a certain amount of privacy. When the National Trust acquired the Dunham Massey estate in 1976 after the last Earl’s death, this area had become overgrown and untidy. Maintenance resumed but it wasn’t until 2007 that plans emerged to breathe new life into this part of the garden.

Retaining the woodland feel, work set about to create meandering paths with large swathes of planting either side giving the feel of walking through a garden rather than around it. The towering beech trees were retained, and the new planting introduced was chosen for its form, colour, texture, scent, berry, bark and sound.

Over the last decade the garden has become a haven for wildlife

Over the past 10 years the Winter Garden has continued to grow and has become a haven for people and wildlife. Head Gardener Emily Chandler says: “The Winter Garden has a really special feel to it. It’s often where you’ll find a peaceful corner and whether you’re looking down at the carpets of bulbs or up into the trees and sky beyond you feel refreshed and inspired by the promise of nature.”

From January to early spring there are different moments to treasure in the Winter Garden’s calendar. New plants awaken every few weeks, starting with early narcissus followed by snowdrops and then carpets of iris and scilla, crocus and chionodoxa. The brightly coloured stems of cornus and salix and the ethereal white trunks of birch trees bring colour and light to the coldest winter days.

The planting was chosen for its form, colour, texture, scent, berry, bark and sound

Whilst the uplifting site of thousands of snowdrops can be enjoyed each year, for Emily and the team of garden staff and volunteers, the Winter Garden continues to be a labour of love. Every autumn thousands of new bulbs are planted ensuring that there’s always something new to see.

2020 will be no different as visitors can join in with the celebrations marking 10 colourful years of the Winter Garden. You can even take a little bit of the garden home with you. Visitors might also pick up a tip or two from the ever-helpful volunteers and staff on a weekday garden tour.

Thousands of new bulbs are planted every autumn – ensuring there’s always something new to see

“This year you’ll be able purchase Erythronim ‘Pagoda’, Musicari ‘White Magic’, Iris ‘Harmony’ and ‘Katherine’s Gold’ and it’s nice to know the money you spend goes back into helping us look after the garden each year.”

For full details of Dunham Massey’s Winter Garden celebratory events, visit the website.