The aptly named Winter Garden in London’s Battersea Park was created by Dan Pearson, who was awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours. The aim, he explained, was it would have its high point in a season that is ‘too often neglected’.
When it was opened 11 years ago, the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson welcomed it as a ‘spectacular new feature’ and today it continues to bring pleasure to the park’s thousands of visitors.
Rewind to the early 2000s and the garden’s site was a neglected spot in the south west corner of the park.
But in 2004, the Friends of Battersea Park approached garden designer Dan to draw up plans for transformation, with initial funding of £10,000 coming from a legacy by park friend Elaine Hodges.
It took several years of work and fundraising for Dan’s designs to be finally realised, with shrubs being cut back or removed to open up views of the site, and paths built.
If the Winter Garden was going to live up to its name, the planting needed to be carefully selected, so Dan concentrated on plants that would come into their own between ‘leaf-drop and bud-burst’.
Some 300 trees, such as silver birch, hollies, larch and pine, were planted as well as 22,000 perennials.
Unusual plant varieties were deliberately chosen, such as orange and rust witch hazel, to crank up the sense of delight among visitors, while scent is provided by daphnes, sarcococca and wintersweet.
The appeal of the Winter Garden is enduring.
As well as Thrive client gardeners undertaking regular maintenance work, the garden is enjoyed by many Londoners who come to appreciate its tranquillity, particularly the peaceful seating area with Persian ironwood trees.
During lockdowns, more people were keen to get out into a green space and the Winter Garden became a popular place to visit. The downside was the increased footfall did damage the garden’s planting.
However, some fencing and revitalisation work by volunteers, notably supported by the Friends of Battersea Park, has helped the Winter Garden get back on form.
If these dark days leave you needing a pick-me-up, Thrive’s Winter Garden is the place to head for.