This year, my husband John and I decided to buy each other an annual membership to the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens (formerly know as the Hillier Arboretum) for our birthdays in October and November respectively.
Part of the gift was an agreement to visit the gardens at least once a month.
By the way, we have realised that we are going to have to put a date in the diary for each month otherwise time just slips by and before you know it, you’ve missed a month.
Our first visit was, as you can imagine, full of autumnal colour. I had barely got out of the car when I had to take this first picture. Such a lovely start to our first visit.
As we left the car and walked towards the gardens entrance, there is an avenue of deciduous conifers (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).
I am very proud that the name trips of my tongue with barely a hesitation. This is due to the fact that they are a favourite of a very dear friend of mine who told me about them when she was studying horticulture at Sparsholt. I have learnt to love them for their own sake. When given their due space they have a lovely conical shape and go the most amazing colour in the autumn.
In this approach, they were still green with hardly any signs of turning yet.
Hilliers have many activities and events that go on around the year, including Art in the Garden and the day we visited it was sculptures from recycled materials.
This next photo sums up autumn in the gardens for me.
Everyone seems to take a photo of this tree as they go past, and I am sure it will turn up more than once in my posts of Hilliers through the year.
Visiting the gardens with my friend Jane (of metasequoia glyptostroboides fame), we saw a vibrant flash of pink in the midst of the bare branches and evergreens.
Then we spotted, a few steps away, its close relative the Euonymus alatus rotundatus (winged spindle to you an me) doing its best to out do the spindle berries with its leaves.
Leaves be green eh?
The gardens are in full winter mode now and I love the bare branches of the deciduous trees against the sky.
They are so clever with the planting, these dark burgundy colours are offset beautifully by the golden stems of the ones behind….
…and these golden/red ones against the steely grey of the others.
It does the heart good to see flowering plants in winter..
..and when they smell beautiful it is even more pleasing.
Just before we left, we saw this rather unusual (to us) specimen.
This really appealed my love of the slightly weird and my love of science fiction. I could imagine this in an episode of Star Trek! Sadly we couldn’t get a better picture of these strange buds, but apparently they are about to burst into flowers which are small, delicate and have a light scent.
I really did not expect to see such a wonderful display in deepest December, apparently the winter garden is renown, and I doubt I would have visited at this time had we not become members, so our gifts have already given us great and unexpected pleasure.