Sir Harold Hillier Garden

Sir Harold Hillier Garden

I recently visited the Sir Harold Hillier Garden in Hampshire to see the Winter Garden and was lucky to have one of the very few lovely days we’ve had this winter. The garden is very impressive – not as awsome as, say, Anglesey Abbey, where there are large plantings of winter colour, but it has many more different and unusual plants and, what’s more, they were nearly all labelled! There was quite enough to keep me, and my camera, happy for some hours


You are greeted at the entrance by a planting of white-bark birches amidst a red and gold sea of Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ and Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Yelverton’.

The theme continues with various cultivars of Cornus alba, sericea and sanguinea around the garden.
Cornus sanguinea is our native common dogwood, a plant of chalk soils, with greenish, red-flushed stems and rich purple autumn colour. It grows in most of Europe and western Asia.

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

Cornus sanguinea ‘Magic Flame’

Cornus sanguinea ‘Green Light’

Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’

By far the most popular cultivar is, of course, C.s. ‘Midwinter Fire’, which found its way into our Top 30. See more about it here. C.s. ‘Green Light’ is more subtle in its colouring and would appeal to those who find the bright colours a bit garish. The RHS website tells us this is an accepted name but I couldn’t find any more details. C.s. ‘Magic Flame’ is very well named for its bare winter stems coloured orange-yellow with bright red tips. It has the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. C.s. ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ has also received this accolade and is said to be one of the best cultivars for vigour and winter colour. It has orange-red flushed stems and I certainly have never seen a brighter one.

Cornus sericea, red osier dogwood, comes from north America. It is a vigorous, suckering shrub with dark red winter stems but is rarely grown in gardens, gardeners preferring its cultivars. The one I noticed was C.s. ‘Bud’s Yellow’, which has yellow-green stems – somewhat unusual, I thought.

Cornus alba, from Asia, is also a vigorous shrub with red winter shoots. It has many cultivars and it was C.a. ‘Sibirica’, with bright red stems, that greeted me at the entrance.

Cornus sericea ‘Bud’s Yellow’

And now I have a bit of a problem. These two look very similar but had different labels. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out much about either. Cornus alba  Red Gnome is the preferred name for this plant, described as being of compact growth to about 1.2m, which seems reasonable considering its name, with foliage that colours well in the autumn. Cornus sanguinea ‘Viridissima’ is an accepted name but I couldn’t find any other details. I like them both, for their colour and their cross-stemmed texture so will be looking out for them. Does anyone grow either or know anything more? Do please add a comment below to let us know.

Cornus alba Red Gnome (‘Regnzam’)

Cornus sanguinea ‘Viridissima’

Salix is another genus that provides winter colour and I noticed two very different cultivars. The first, Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Yelverton’, has bright gold stems – vitellina means ‘like the yolk of an egg’. The other, Salix ‘Blackskin’, a name only tentatively accepted by the RHS, has very dark stems, which look good with a light background as here againt pale grasses.

Salix alba var. vitellina ‘Yelverton’

Salix ‘Blackskin’

White can also be very striking in the garden. I saw three different species of Rubus, all from Asia, with prickly stems covered with white, waxy bloom.
R. cockburnianus is a strong-growing species with arching stems. This one is the cultivar ‘Goldenvale’, which has fern-like yellow leaves in the summer.
R. biflorus is semi-erect species with especially white stems.
R. thibetanus is another semi-erect species with purplish stems covered with white bloom.
They all have the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit and need considerable space so can be seen at their best in a large garden like the Hillier Garden. 

Rubus cockburnianus ‘Goldenvale’ with Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

Rubus cockburnianus ‘Goldenvale’ with Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

Rubus biflorus

Rubus thibetanus

There are also many birches with white bark and I particlarly admired a fine Betula utilis var. jacquemontii ‘Jermyns’, which is a form selected and named at the Hillier Nursery.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii ‘Jermyns’

And, if we’re thinking about white, we can’t ignore snowdrops. There weren’t many in the garden but I did notice an unusual one, Galanthus ‘Mrs. W.M. George’, which was named after the wife of the Head Gardener at the Hillier Nursery. It’s a beautiful, strong, tall and very robust-looking cultivar. 

Galanthus ‘Mrs. W.M. George’

Getting back to colour, several plants stood out because of their red colouring.

Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’

Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Rubin’

Nandina domestica Obsessed (‘Seika’)

Bergenia cordifolia ‘Purpurea’ is a very common plant, disliked by many, but who can argue with this beautiful red colouring picked out by the winter sunshine?
Camellia sasanqua was introduced from Japan and has many cultivars, most of which do not do very well outside in this country. However, ‘Crimson King’ bucks this trend and is one of the most reliable and prolific flowering. Small, single, fragrant flowers are scattered over a large open shrub. It has the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit and I thought it was a wonderful sight.
Most of the hamamelis were over but Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Rubin’ was still stunning so I wasn’t surprised to find it had been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It forms a rounded shrub or small tree with leaves that colour yellow and orange in autumn but is only slightly scented so, even in the sunshine, I didn’t get a waft of perfume.
Nandina domestica has often been recommended by members but I don’t have one. Having seen this one showing such a glorious winter colour, which could be seen from some distance, I will certainly rectify the ommision. N.d. ‘Seika’ is a compact form, reaching about 75cm, which can be grown in sun or partial shade in a well-drained border or in a pot. I look forward to finding one.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

Sarcococca hookeriana var. hookeriana ‘Ghorepani’

The other thing we look for in the winter garden is perfume and I certainly found it in these two shrubs. Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is another plant raised at the Hillier Nursery. It is very popular with our members and was placed at No. 2 in our Top 30. You can see all about it here.
I noticed the sarcococca from quite a distance for its fragrance and distinctive flowers. There is a post in our blog about sarcococca here but it doesn’t include this cultivar. According to the Sarcococca National Collection holder, it was named after the village in Nepal where it was discovered by plantsman Christopher Grey-Wilson in 2000. It will grow to about 1m in height and needs a well-drained soil in shade. It has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit. I think it too will have to be added to the wants list.

There were so many more plants: hellebores, bamboos, ash, conifers, magnolia, tilia, prunus, mahonia oak – the list goes on and on. I really enjoyed my visit to a very interesting garden and hope you like sharing it with me.

You can see a gallery of all the images here.

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The Salutation Gardens

The Salutation Gardens

Virginia Oakes writes about an afternoon members spent at The Salutation Gardens in August 2018.

A long-standing member of Kent Group used to say, when asked a question to which she couldn’t remember the answer, “I have known that”.  Our host at The Salutation Gardens, head gardener Steve Edney, used a variation on this theme when asked a question to which he had no answer: “I haven’t committed that to memory yet”.  Admittedly, this was when asked about a plant that was new to him and only recently introduced to the garden, but I think it’s a response that might come in very handy for many of us.

However, Steve didn’t need it very often as he took us around the garden, identifying the plants and explaining why he was using them and how to look after them, with an enthusiasm and passion that made it a real pleasure to be part of the tour.  He started by giving us a short history of the house and gardens, standing in front of a glorious border of Cosmos sulphureus, in shades of orange and yellow, combined with dark-leaved dahlias and cannas in similar colours.  Red bananas added a darker element to set the whole thing off.  Then, before we’d gone but a few steps, there was a delightful willow, which was unfamiliar to all of us but quickly added to our wants list.  It was Salix rosmarinifolia with long, slender, pale green leaves and it was cleverly under-planted with a grey-leaved hebe.  This was a feature that we saw throughout the garden, using a variety of low-growing plants to cover the soil and make an attractive edge to the beds.  And so it went on, with unusual plants at every turn and Steve happy to pass on his vast knowledge and, on occasion, to disappear among the undergrowth in search of a label with a name that he hadn’t yet committed to memory.  There were bamboos, salvias, grasses, plectranthus, quinoa, fuchsias, dahlias – including the giant Dahlia imperialis – and many, many more.  It’s a real plantsman’s garden.

Although there are many nooks and crannies to explore along the way, the garden flows very well from one area to another.  We went from the Tropical Garden and Jungle along the Long Border and, after a detour to see the nursery and be introduced to the idea of ‘Summer Hedges’, one of quinoa and another of sorgum, we arrived at the Main Perennial Borders with views back to the house.  Despite the dry summer the display was quite impressive with kniphofias, rudbeckias, eryngiums, artichokes and echinops, to name just a few – plenty to keep us all chatting for ages.  Past the Holm Oak Walk, where the beautiful green pillars were awaiting their annual cut in October, we stopped at The Meadow.  This is not much to look at in August but Steve explained how wonderful it is in the spring and made us all determined to return to see it for ourselves.  A shady path then took us to the Bowling Lawn, which, as its name suggests, has a wide area of grass leading to the side of the house.  Wide borders on either side are backed by hedges and planted with trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials.  At the time of our visit the main colour, apart from green, was red in various shades: sedums, dahlias, eucomis, antirrhinums and a red-leaved acer, among many others.

As you might imagine, with so much to talk about, time went very quickly and some of the group were surprised when they realised that their parking tickets were about to run out and that they would have to leave.  Steve was happy to carry on and we went to what was I think my favourite, the Black and White Garden.  Here another wide selection of plants is grown in box-edged beds arranged around a central sitting area.  Although many of the plants were past their best it still had a lovely atmosphere and I could well imagine sitting amid that very restricted palette.  The Yellow Garden was our last port of call and from here we had to drag ourselves away, making a promise to return to this lovely garden perhaps at different times of the year to see what other treasures it has to offer.

Virginia Oakes