Gardening at Winchester College

9th September 2019
BY Alan Smith, Tim Cox and Lily Livingston, Winchester College gardeners

Gardening at Winchester is a privilege and a pleasure, working in the shadow of a school built in the fourteenth century is a rare and treasured opportunity. But it is so much more than providing a beautiful setting for the school and its medieval buildings. With a constant flow of boys and new ideas the school is not a museum with gardens set in time but is always looking to the future.

As the present custodians, in a long line of gardeners, we have the fascinating and delicate job of balancing past, present and future, as one does in all gardens but sometimes on quite a large timescale.

Within Winchester College we have medieval courtyards with lots of green, which works so well against the old stone and flint walls. A stunningly beautiful War Cloister built after the Great War was planted to give a simple sense of order and calm after the chaos of war. There are quads and formal gardens accommodating school activities, a recently planted, peaceful garden that provides teachers with space for a moment's contemplation, and a more vibrant, modern planting scheme to complement the glass and London brick of the music building extension. Currently we are trying to encourage wilder areas at our hidden edges to give a haven in a busy place for nature to relax and be less manicured. Winchester's main palette of greys and greens gives a calm and peaceful backdrop to the school’s everyday life, with the brighter and more floral areas tucked away for people to discover.

One of our recent, exciting projects has been the planting of cuttings taken from the College’s old and venerable London Planes, planted around 1780. Hopefully, our small cuttings will mature into magnificent trees that will be with us for the next three hundred years!

As gardeners we are so fortunate to be given the luxury of time, especially in this day and age. To plant small and wait for growth is a precious value that comes from the very place itself.

It is an enormous privilege to garden at Winchester and when, in the middle of winter, our toes and fingers are freezing from the cold, we have but to look up and see where we are and it lifts our souls and makes us smile.

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