We're getting to that time of year again, when garden visiting here in the UK is becoming harder - winter's on the way and short of looking for good frosty scenes, there's not a lot to see ... although I will be going in search of good glasshouses and winter gardens in the next few weeks. So as we hurtle into December and I contemplate my Christmas tree, I'm planning to spend this month reflecting on some of the wonderful gardens I've been lucky enough to see this year.
|Winter colours at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire|
January is always a tricky month for gardens in the UK - there's not a lot to see except frost and snow, but one of the places definitely worth visiting is Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire. It has a wonderful winter garden and many fine trees. This shot was taken early in January this year, and shows just how much colour you can achieve in a winter garden if you plan ahead with your planting.
|The cottage garden at Castle Bijaipur, Rajasthan|
February is another cold and grey month here, when I head off to work on my Udaipur hospital project! The gardens in Rajasthan are at their best in the winter months and this year I was lucky enough to travel with Paul and Pauline McBride of Sussex Prairies, in search of plants and ideas for the garden at Disha Hospital. One of the places that really surprised us was the cottage garden at Castle Bijaipur.
In March, I'm usually in Florida with my husband, because he doesn't like the cold English winters, but we won't be going back next year. So I'm reflecting on some of the wonderful sights I saw this year when I visited Florida's east coast, and spent time at McKee Botanical Garden. This is a garden that looks set to become quite an eye opener in the next few years, as new life is breathed into a plot that narrowly missed the property developers' axe! It's only three and a half acres, but there's plenty to catch the eye and several other interesting gardens nearby.
|McKee Botanical Garden, Florida - saved from the axe by local supporters|
|The water garden at Woolbeding House, Sussex|
April took me to Woolbeding Garden for the first time - former home of Simon Sainsbury, it was opened to the public for the first time this year by the National Trust. It's a fascinating garden divided into two distinct parts - formal areas adjacent to the house and unusual water gardens across a Sussex meadow filled with sheep and flowers. Part of the charm of this property is that it's hard to access due to limited parking, so visiting can be a challenge, but well worth the effort if you can get there.
|The laburnum pergola at the Dorothy Clive Garden is one to rival Barnsley House|
In one of my first forays north of London this year, I called in at the Dorothy Clive Garden when the rhododendrons were in bloom in May. I certainly won't forget the glorious laburnum pergola there (above) - definitely one to rival Barnsley House! And there's plenty to see here throughout the year, so one to put on your wish list for 2012. I shall certainly be returning.
|The Japanese Garden at Green Island - one of a series of garden rooms at this remarkable property|
June took me to several new gardens in Essex that I'll be featuring in later round-up reviews this year, but one that sticks in my mind is Green Island, near Colchester - a stunning 20-acre triangular oasis, well off the beaten track. Particularly memorable is the Japanese garden, shown above in full bloom - one of a series of garden rooms at the property. But you'll find plenty to see here in the summer and part of the charm of this garden is the many acres of woodland.