National Trust's Winkworth Arboretum is a wonder even in winter

PUBLISHED: 16:40 24 November 2011 | UPDATED: 15:42 20 February 2013

Rob Tyler, head arborist at Winkworth Arboretum

Rob Tyler, head arborist at Winkworth Arboretum

In this month's column from the National Trust, Rob Tyler, head arborist at Winkworth Arboretum, explains why the depths of winter are far from dreary

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2009

In this month's column from the National Trust, Rob Tyler, head arborist at Winkworth Arboretum, explains why the depths of winter are far from dreary

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People often think that winter can be lifeless and dull - autumn's magnificent colours seem a distant memory while spring flowers are still a few months off. Well, that's certainly not true at Winkworth. Here, we have tried to create interest all year round - and after last year's incredible display of autumn colour, the start of the New Year won't disappoint!

Over the past three years, we have planted around 30,000 early variety daffodils, which have been known to flower as early as December and by mid-January are a wonderful and heart-warming sight. We also planted 10,000 snowdrops last year to add to the thousands we already had.

And that's not all; there are plenty of other colourful plants to see, including 15 different types of witch hazel, mahonias, flowering cherries and camellias. All of these create a wonderful early display of colour, often against a lovely snowy white backdrop, and the witch hazel and mahonias produce a lovely sweet scent, too.

Top tips
We plant the early daffodils, witch hazels, mahonias, flowering cherries and camellias in autumn, but with the winters becoming milder you can plant them at any time really - just make sure the soil is not waterlogged or frozen. If you do get a 'frost heave', which is when frozen water expands and often pushes plants out of the ground, all you need to do is push them firmly back in.

If you are planting witch hazels, make sure you dig a deep square hole rather than a round one - if you plant them in a round one, the roots will grow round and round and could eventually strangle their own tree, whereas if you plant them in a square hole, the roots will grow into the corners.
Snowdrops can be planted after they flower, so, depending on the variety, around February. If you already have some, just dig them up, split them and move them, otherwise you can buy them ready for planting when they are 'in the green', as it is known.

And after winter
Once the winter has passed at Winkworth, the magnolias, bluebells, rhododendron and azaleas come into their own from March until May. Then, during the summer, wild flowers, including orchids, cover the ground - and from September the fiery colours of autumn re-appear.
So you see, Winkworth is a place of life and colour all year round and there is always something different to see. That is why people come again and again, and that is why I love it, too.

  • Winkworth Arboretum, in Chobham, is open from dusk until dawn all year round. There is a programme of events running that offers something to suit everyone. Tel: 01483 208477 / e-mail:

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