ELSPETH THOMPSON’S GARDEN CHOICE
Six months ago, at midsummer, the rose garden at Wollerton Old Hall in Shropshire was brimming with colour, its borders billowing with pink and white roses and the path between them almost buried in sprawling mauve nepeta. Now, at the winter solstice, the turning point of the year, it is quiet and still – almost frozen in time. A study in symmetry, clipped box cones in terracotta pots frame the view down the path to the classic octagonal summerhouse at the far end, where taller box spirals stand sentry to either side. After a hard overnight frost the roses in the borders, awaiting their annual winter prune, are delicately outlined in frost – the odd late bloom stiff and sparkling as if dipped in sugar. And the nepeta, following its annual cutting back in August, is back under control – for now. It is curious to consider that, as the Earth turns on its axis and the daylight hours slowly begin to lengthen, slowly, invisibly and inexorably the garden will embark once more on the long upward path to its summertime peak.