Built as a priory in the 12th century, Anglesey Abbey had fallen into disrepair when it was acquired in 1926 by Huttleston Broughton (1896–1966), who became the 1st Baron Fairhaven in 1929. Under his direction, the property, located a few miles away from Cambridge, has become one of the most sumptuous, 20th century British gardens. Bankrolled with a family fortune made in the American mining and railway industries, Huttleston devoted his time and wealth to restore the house and collect beautiful furniture and artworks, which can still be seen today. But one of his greatest achievement was the creation of an 18th-century style garden between 1930 and his death in 1966. The extensive landscaped grounds (46 hectares) were divided into 23 gardens with classical statuary, topiary, flowerbeds, tree-lined avenues and countless walks. Created to be an all-season garden, visitors enjoy the rose garden and the dahlia garden in summer; the spring garden with its 200 famed and incredible varieties of Snowdrops (Galanthus) in early spring or the breathtaking Winter Walk.
Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna, pollarded Salix alba var. vitellina in hoarfrost ©National Trust Images/MMGI/Marianne Majerus
How gorgeous this walk is in the middle of winter! The rich mix of texture, form and color creates almost a fantasy landcape. The outstanding glossy reddish-brown bark of the Ornamental Cherry (Prunus serrula) constrasts vividly with the silver frosted Bloodtwig Dogwood 'Winter Beauty' (Cornus sanguinea) and its orange-yellow stems tipped with red twigs.
Prunus serrula, Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Beauty' with hoarfrost ©National Trust Images/MMGI/Marianne Majerus
This undulating path unrolls its collection of trees, shrubs and perennials in colorful drifts of Hellebores (Helleborus orientalis), Narcissus such as ‘February Gold ’ and ‘February Silver’, golden Crocus chrysanthus and other ground cover. Primarily included in the landscape for its showy fall display of vibrant violet-purple berries, Beautyberry ‘Profusion’ (Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii) is a real treat.
Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion' in frost ©National Trust Images/MMGI/Marianne Majerus
Like a vertical exclamation point, the Irish Yew 'Fastigiata' (Taxus baccata) is also a feast for the eyes with its dark green needles and sparkling red berries.
Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata' berries in frost ©National Trust Images/MMGI/Marianne Majerus
Petrified in veils of translucent crystals, loosely deposited on their stems and leaves, they softly exhibit all the colors of the rainbow in a spectacular display - demonstrating that even in the middle of winter, gardens can still be colorful, beautiful and even scented.
The Winter Walk with rubus and cornus ©National Trust Images/MMGI/Marianne Majerus
A small, intimate garden room mid-way on the walk is brims with evergreen New Zealand Wind Grass (Stipa arundinacea) and Elaeagnus macrophylla hedge.
Statue in enclosure with Elaeagnus macrophylla hedge, Stipa arundinacea ©National Trust Images/MMGI/Marianne Majerus
One of my favorite spots: a grove of ghostly white-stemmed Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis var jacquemontii). A leafmould mulch provides a dark backdrop, broken in spring, when thousands of Tulips bedeck it with pink stars, and in autumn, as birches scatter golden confetti.
Copse of Betula utilis var. jacquemontii with bench ©National Trust Images/MMGI/Marianne Majerus
Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum), an iconic Chinese species, with beautiful exfoliating cinnamon-colored bark that never fails to grab attention.
Bark of Acer griseum in frost ©National Trust Images/MMGI/Marianne Majerus
A Feast for the eyes! Huttleston did not marry and had no heirs. He died in 1966 and left Anglesey Abbey to the National Trust (www.nationaltrust.org.uk). The house and its grounds are open to the public as part of the Anglesey Abbey, Garden & Lode Mill property, although some parts remain the private home of the Fairhaven family.