Gardens Illustrated
Foliage Garden at RHS Garden Rosemoor Elaeagnus pungens 'Frederici', Yucca recurvifolia 'Marginata', Carex morrowii 'Fisher's Form', Hebe
© RHS/Jason Ingram

The best gardens to visit in December

Published: December 6, 2020 at 11:21 am

Tom Brown, head gardener at West Dean College in Sussex, recommends his favourite gardens to visit in December.

Always check before you visit any of the gardens below. As a result of safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, they may need to be booked in advance.

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Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest

Christmas light shows: Bedgebury 2020

Tom says: 'In this month of overindulgence, there’s nothing quite like burning off those extra calories in a beautiful landscape. Even better if it is also home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of conifers. Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest has more than 12,000 specimens planted over 300 acres, and also offers cycle tracks, plenty of walking routes and running trails. With good disabled access, a playground and café, it’s a great day out for the family, and a fabulous place to get some ideas and inspiration for growing conifers.' Bedgebury Road, Goudhurst, Kent TN17 2SJ. Tel 01580 879820, forestryengland.uk/bedgebury

Bedgebury is also hosting after-dark walks, lit up by over a million lights. Read more about 14 fabulous Christmas light shows taking place around the country this festive season.

RHS Garden Rosemoor

Photo: RHS/Jason Ingram
Photo: RHS/Jason Ingram © RHS/Jason Ingram

Tom says: 'Many years ago, I was blown away by the juvenile yet imaginative winter planting combinations at RHS Garden Rosemoor. The Winter Garden is now an established highlight with a wonderful balance of mature specimens and groundcovering associations – using conifers, evergreens and perennials. The plant drifts are substantial, delivering a seasonal spectacle using many winter favourites, including witch hazels, viburnums, daphnes and willows.' RHS Garden Rosemoor, Great Torrington, Devon EX38 8PH. Tel 01805 624067, rhs.org.uk/rosemoor

RHS Garden Rosemoor is hosting a Glow light trail this winter. Read more about Christmas light shows that are taking place around the country.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Tom says: 'Established in 1979, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden continues to be one of the country’s premier winter displays. During the darkest months, our appreciation of colour is heightened and visiting gardens full of shrubs with colourful winter stems, scented winter flowers and brightly variegated evergreens is a treat.' 1 Brookside, Cambridge CB2 1JE. Tel 01223 336265, botanic.cam.ac.uk

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Stone Lane Gardens

Tom says: 'In December, trees take centre stage in many gardens, and one of the best trees for large and small gardens alike is birch. The best place to see birches is Stone Lane Gardens in Devon. This five-acre woodland and water garden on the outskirts of Dartmoor houses the National Collection of wild-origin birches. Kenneth and June Ashburner began the collection more than 40 years ago and now run the garden as a charity, under the stewardship of garden manager and arboriculturist, Paul Bartlett. The birches are planted in accordance to their native provenance, a group of Chinese red birches being particularly spectacular and worth looking out for, along with a large planting of the whitest of birches: Betula utilis var. jacquemontii.' Stone Farm, Chagford, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ13 8JU. Tel 01647 231311, stonelanegardens.com

Authors

As head gardener at West Dean College in West Sussex, Tom Brown has an avid enthusiasm for great, garden-worthy plants. Tom is also an RHS Show Judge and Herbaceous Committee Member.

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