Winter might be a time of rest for most home gardeners, but there are some stunning gardens open to the public which are at their best during the coldest months of the year. Head to one of these fantastic venues on a crisp and bright day and you're guaranteed to find yourself in a winter wonderland...
The National Trust owns and operates the 13th century former abbey and gardens at Mottisfont in Hampshire – and the property is particularly noted for the beauty of its gardens. It houses a national collection of roses – which is best seen in summer obviously - but actually has a dedicated winter garden as well. Planted with shrubs and perennials, it uses familiar plants in unexpected ways to create a vibrant and beautiful sight for the colder months.
Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Dunham Massey's seven-acre winter garden is the largest of its type in the UK and promises dazzling displays of dahlias, salvias and asters – among more than 700 plant species and a further 1,600 shrubs (count them if you don't believe us). Dunham Massey is a Georgian manor house with extensive gardens and an enormous deer park, which provides scope for a longer visit and the opportunity to really stretch your legs. The National Trust property also has great facilities including outdoor play areas and cafes.
If you can't afford a winter sun holiday, a visit to Abbotsbury near Weymouth on England's south coast on a sunny day might just be the next-best thing. The gardens feature a huge variety of exotic plants such as bamboos, magnolias and winter flowering shrubs ranged over 30 acres. Set in a sheltered woodland valley, the gardens are also close to Chesil Beach if you fancy a more bracing winter walk afterwards.
National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire
Located in Llanarthne, South West Wales, the National Botanic Garden of Wales is used to a drop of rain or two – which may be part of the reason that it's home to the largest single-span glasshouse in the world (designed by Sir Norman Foster). The Tropical House is home to some of the world's most-endangered plants, with rare species from every corner of the globe – along with palms, coconuts, pineapples and orchids. And the outside is equally worthy of attention, with a glorious Regency water park, lakes and streams weaving through the stunning gardens.
Alnwick Garden, Northumberland
Northumberland is a county of rugged charm, with a remote and almost wild feel – but it's also home to an oasis of contemporary garden design. Masterminded by the Duchess of Northumberland and designed by Jacques and Peter Wirtz, the capacious grounds are home to more than 4,000 plant species and some truly memorable design features.
A bamboo labyrinth, water sculptures and a "poison garden" provide interest and intrigue all year round – not just in the summer months.
Mount Stewart, County Down
Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland has been voted as one of the 10 best gardens in the world – and its collection of formal gardens combine rare plants from around the globe with adventurous planting methods and landscaping. The relatively mild climate allows tender plants to thrive and provides colourful displays all year round. There's also a healthy population of red squirrels to watch out for while you're strolling around the grounds.
Do you have a favourite garden that's open to the public? Leave a comment below...