Always check before you visit any of the gardens below. While most are open, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and safety measures, many must be booked in advance.
Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest
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
Château de Courances
Around 30 miles south of Paris, the 16th-century Château de Courances has stunning parkland and gardens that epitomise the French gardening tradition. The formal gardens feature 17 ornamental ponds – all spring fed – while the park offers stunning trees and structure throughout, and on a frosty or snow-peppered day is nothing short of breathtaking. In December its large vistas, lined with hornbeams, limes, chestnuts and plane trees are magnificent. Domaine de Château de Courances, 15 Rue du Château, 91490 Courances, France. Tel +33 (0)1 64 98 07 36.
RHS Garden Rosemoor
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
Cambridge Botanical Garden
Another winter garden I’d recommend is the Cambridge Botanical Garden. It’s one of the country’s premier winter displays and this year celebrates its 40th anniversary. During the darkest months, our appreciation of colour is heightened and visiting gardens full of coloured stems, scented flowers and brightly variegated evergreens is a treat. 1 Brookside, Cambridge CB2 1JE. Tel 01223 336265, botanic.cam.ac.uk
Stone Lane Gardens
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 Lane Gardens Stone Farm, Chagford, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ13 8JU. Tel 01647 231311, stonelanegardens.com