Seasonal Garden Highlights
The gardens at Wrest Park are a dramatic showcase of three centuries of landscape design, with 90 acres of woodland, serpentine waterways, colourful parterres, classical statues and elegant buildings. Take a journey through a year of seasonal garden highlights at Wrest Park.
Wrest Park in Spring
As the days lengthen and begin to warm up, the gardens at Wrest Park come to life. The snowdrops raise their heads above ground and signal the end of winter. Within the extensive woodland areas snowdrops, daffodils and primroses flower throughout spring, rewarding those who explore the Great Garden's network of paths.
One of the earliest trees to flower in the woodland garden is the witch hazel with its spicy scent and spidery yellow/copper flowers, along with early flowering cherries. A beautifully scented winter sweet (Chimonanthuspraecox) can be found growing against a sheltered wall in the Pear Orchard, and look out for the chocolate-scented Azara microphylla in the Rose Garden border - the flowers are tiny, but it packs a punch on perfume!
Although many of the trees have yet to come into leaf, a closer look will show buds starting to swell in anticipation of warmer days to come. The new growth on an avenue of lime trees has a red tint which shows up beautifully against the background of a clear blue spring sky. Look too for the elegant creamy white buds of the magnolias before they explode into flower.
THE WALLED GARDEN
In the Walled Garden the blossom on the fruit trees and the fresh young foliage of globe artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb, and herbs such as rosemary and bronze fennel provide interest and colour, along with naturalised bulbs, which include daffodils, snowdrops, Scilla and Allium.
In the Pear Orchard, where the grass is left to grow naturally until July, native daffodils and Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus mingle with other wild flowers, among them the lovely cowslip, which has colonised well at Wrest.
The formal gardens around the house provide a wonderful display of colour in spring. Seasonal bedding schemes include a mixture of tulips, hyacinths, violas, forget-me-not, polyanthus and crown imperial fritillaries.
Camellias, sheltered from any inclement weather, can be found flowering through the winter and into spring in the sub-tropical Conservatory, along with a beautiful Acacia and one of the earliest roses, a white Rosa banksiae rambler. We know that this rose grew vigorously on the outside of the Conservatory during the de Grey family's time at Wrest.
Wrest Park in Summer
With the trees in full leaf at Wrest Park there is a wonderful contrast between the colourful bedding displays close to the house and the cooler woodland shade beyond. The restored Italian Garden and French Parterre are a riot of colour and planted up with seasonal bedding varieties such as Pelargonium, Verbena, Canna, Nicotiana, marigolds, Ageratum and Salvia, though the design changes every year.
Look out for the magnificent trained wisterias in the Italian Garden and Pear Orchard, which flower in early summer.
In the Conservatory the sub-tropical planting is now at its best, and includes striking specimens such as the dramatic climbing passion flower (Passiflora) and a 2 metre-tall dahlia.
Summer-flowering bulbs and the delicate but beautiful 'Unique' pelargoniums are all surrounded by the luxuriant and architectural foliage of banana plants, cannas and aeoniums. Later in the summer, look out for ginger lilies (Hedychium) for their unusual flowers and strong scent.
THE ROSE GARDEN
The Rose Garden, restored to its original design in 2011, contains a wide range of modern hybrid roses which bloom almost continuously from early summer to late autumn.
Cultivars include rose Harlow Carr, The Mayflower, Darcey Bussell and Winchester Cathedral - bred to look and smell like traditional old English roses, but far less susceptible to disease. Shrub roses and specimen trees grow in the Rose Garden's border - look out for our tiered wedding cake tree (Cornus controversa 'Variegata') opposite the mermaid statue.
THE WALLED GARDEN
As you enter the Walled Garden you will be greeted by a haze of purple Verbena bonariensis and the scent of old English lavender. Fruit is beginning to form on apple and pear trees, and summer-fruiting gooseberries and blackcurrants will be ripening now, along with rhubarb crops, globe artichokes and cardoons.
Wrest Park in Autumn
In the restored Rose Garden, the modern hybrid roses have been flowering almost continuously from early summer to late autumn - look out for the lovely orange chalice-shaped blooms of rose Lady of Shalott, with scents of spiced apple and cloves.
Significant trees include avenues of limes, beech on the Orangery Lawn, the dawn redwood in the meadow and a tulip tree on the lake edge close to the Chinese Pavilion.
As summer fades into autumn the colourful foliage begins to show - look out for the bright yellow autumn leaves of Ginkgo biloba, the reds and oranges of the Liquidambar and in the Pear Orchard, the Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia). One of the best locations to see autumn colour is in the meadow to the north of the Chinese Bridge.
The formal gardens will be planted up with spring bedding in late October. While this transition from summer to spring planting takes place, look out for fuchsias in the borders, which will flower until the first frosts. Hydrangeas, kaffir lilies and autumn flowering bulbs such as the exotic-looking Nerine also provide a welcome splash of colour at this time of year.
THE HARVESTING OF FRUIT
From late summer onwards, the Orchard and Walled Garden are coming into their own, with fruit trees ready for harvest. Look out for the unusual fruit of the medlar tree, along with several varieties of apple and pear.
Newly planted espaliers and fan-trained fruit in the Walled Garden include cherries, apricots, plums and peaches - watch them grow and eventually produce fruit that would have been grown by the Head Gardeners of the past at Wrest.
Wrest Park in Winter
Even though the trees are bare there is still plenty of interest in the gardens at Wrest Park during the winter months. In late winter, early snowdrops are beginning to appear in the woodland areas as well as in the borders of the Walled Garden. Colour is provided by the crab apples in the Walled Garden areas and by the berries on trees and shrubs such as holly, Sorbus and Skimmia throughout the gardens.
Some of the herbaceous plantings at Wrest can also provide stunning architectural shapes, particularly during periods of frost and snow.
THE WALLED GARDEN
Look for the tall stems of Verbena bonariensis in the Walled Garden beds, which survive well into spring before it is cut down to make way for its new growth. Walking past the beds of bronze fennel and rosemary it is surprising that the scent from the fennel can be so strong at this time of the year.
Camellias can also be found flowering through the winter and into spring in the Conservatory, sheltered from any inclement weather along with a host of sub-tropical planting. Look out for the highly scented paper-white daffodils in here, which can flower before Christmas, and other plants such as the lovely climbing Hardenbergia flower in January.
The tree canopy at Wrest looks very dramatic during the winter months, and you can see huge balls of mistletoe growing high up in the tallest trees. Without the shelter of the leaves, vistas throughout the woodland areas change, and in winter this makes for an interesting walk. New growth developing on the avenues of lime trees in late winter/early spring has a red tint, and looks stunning against a blue sky on those crisp, sunny winter days.