27 Jan Windsor’s winter wonderland: Created with the help of George V, The Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park is at its best right now
When George V and Queen Mary first visited the new garden being created in Windsor Great Park, the Queen commented to the park’s deputy ranger, Eric Savill, ‘It’s very nice Mr Savill, but isn’t it rather small?’
At 35 acres, the Bog Garden, as it was known, may not be particularly big by royal standards, but it’s now considered one of the most important gardens created in the 20th century.
Renamed The Savill Garden in 1951, and steeped in royal tradition, it is constantly evolving. A garden to be enjoyed all year round, entry (normally £9.50 for adults) is free from now until the end of February.
Eric Savill, the driving force behind the garden, felt the vast Windsor estate ought to have a beautiful garden at its heart. With the encouragement of George V, work started in 1932 and by 1939 it was almost complete.
Initially a spring and woodland garden, with a magnificent collection of rhododendrons, as visitor numbers increased it was soon a year-round attraction. In 1978, an old rose garden made way for a Dry Garden, with Mediterranean plants such as alliums, cistus and Jerusalem sage.
The Golden Jubilee Garden, a modern take on a cottage garden, opened in 2002, followed in 2007 by an area devoted to plants from New Zealand. The original Rose Garden was redesigned in 2010 and replanted with 28 varieties of roses chosen primarily for their scent.
There are beautiful trees, from colourful maples to huge oaks, beeches and sweet chestnuts. Once the deciduous trees have shed their leaves the towering conifers really stand out, a backdrop for the winter planting.
Winter colour abounds, from the massed planting of bergenias to swathes of vibrant red and yellow dogwood stems. In one bed is the rare Acer conspicuum ‘Phoenix’, the snakebark maple, the trunk and branches turning a curious reddish orange in autumn. Winter flowers and fragrance come from honeysuckles, daphnes and witch hazels.
The royals continue to be closely involved in the garden, with numerous plaques commemorating trees planted by George VI, the Queen and Queen Mother. And despite its royal links, it feels informal and unstuffy – a great place to revel in the charms of a winter garden.
The Savill Garden, Englefield Green, Surrey, is open daily, 10am-6pm, www.theroyallandscape.co.uk.