Winter is coming.

pink peony in bloom
One of the showstoppers of the Peony display

By Andy Winfield

This weekend we begin our winter opening hours; this means the Garden will be closed at weekends until the beginning of February 2019. We’ll still be open during week days but on a Saturday and Sunday the gates will be closed. This is a reflective time for us as the plants shut down with the Garden and we look back through the summer when the now leafless trees were all life and energy.

Springtime this year
I’ll remember the summer of 2018 as having more long hot dry spells than Bristol is used to; the ground was parched and the pool water had evaporated by around two feet. Of course, Bristol being Bristol the water doesn’t hold off for long and the sky has been making up for lost time this week pouring from the clouds like a waterfall. The earlier dry weather brought in the crowds to our summer exhibition, The Impossible Garden, and more butterflies than we’ve seen here before. There is a team of volunteers monitoring our fluttery visitors every day of the week, and this year was a bonanza including a rare small blue butterfly which excited us all.
One of my personal highlights was finishing our Peony display on the edge of the Chinese Herb Garden. Peony gardens are special places in Chinese culture, places of contemplation where people sit, write poetry and attach it to the seat. We thought this might be a good thing to encourage here so…


This is the Peony Garden,
A place of peace and time,
In Chinese life they’d sit right here,
And write a little rhyme.
So if you feel creative,
Write down on a sheet,
The way it is you feel right now,
And pin it to this seat.
…perhaps needs a bit of work?
The peonies put on a wonderful display in May and will become a standout feature of the Garden in late Spring. In fact I think that Spring this year was the best I’ve seen it in the Garde
n, and it was all down to the Beast from the East! Plants had begun to do their thing when a blast of cold dry weather halted them in their tracks, for nearly a month. As a result, when it finally did warm up, everything flowered together; magnolias erythronium, wood anemones, tulips, primroses before bluebells arrived, surprised at why everything else was still up.
Luke Jerram
It has been a good year in the Garden despite the extremes; many visitors will have come to see The Impossible Garden by Luke Jerram and the Bristol Vision Institute, a great addition this year. The exhibition brought a new perspective and showed us how the same Garden can achieve a new atmosphere through art; the feedback we had was that visitors who came for the exhibits left also learning about plants. Music to our ears.
So into winter and planning for next year, finishing all the landscaping jobs we were too busy to do in the summer; the plants are all wrapped up for any eastern blasts that may come our way and we’re looking forward to the winter jewels that brighten the darkest days of a winter border.
By Andy Winfield
Winter flowering honeysuckle; its sharp lemon scent will waft around the dark winter garden.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *