Now I’ll admit that at this time of year, I have an overwhelming urge to hibernate until Spring arrives. But one bright, sunshiney, blue sky day last week, conscious of my dwindling Vitamin D levels and general seasonal pallor, I wrapped up warm and headed to the Botanic Garden which has to be my favourite green space in the city. Home to one of the region’s largest tree collections, it’s a magical place in every season, even – and maybe especially – in Winter.
Snowdrops are one of my favourite flowers and it always makes me smile when I come across their cheerful white blooms in midwinter. You’ll find around 30 different varieties of snowdrop dotted through the Garden and there’s a map to show you the snowdrop “hot spots”. These little white flowers look so delicate and yet they are so strong; they have anti-freeze proteins to inhibit ice crystals forming and causing damage to the plant plus they have seriously hard leaf tips which help them to break through frozen soil. This drift of snowdrops under Isaac Newton’s apple tree is just beautiful and reminds me that Spring must surely be around the corner.
The Winter Garden is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and is stunning with textures of coloured stems, bark and foliage alongside winter flowers and scented blossom, all highlighted in the brilliant sunshine. I find wandering through this space is restorative in itself but to get to grips with more detail of the planting, I’ll sign up for a free 60 minute tour of the Winter Garden, which happens at 2.30pm every Sunday in January and February.
The Botanic Garden runs a terrific range of events for all ages year round. Children will love the Crazy Cone Caper, a self guided family trail where they become a secret agent and track down six trees in the Garden to solve a mystery, collecting a prize once they’ve successfully concluded their investigation. Crazy Cone Caper has been created by the Garden’s Learning Team and runs until 1 April.
For adults, Cam Late in the Glasshouse Range on 21 February offers craft beer, mulled wine and atmospheric light displays in these amazing glasshouses, where you’ll find plants ranging from tiny alpines to spiny cacti to exotic tropicals. Day or night, the glasshouses are spectacular whatever the time of year. And they’re also nice and warm if you get chilly outside on a cold day!
With my appetite sharpened by the fresh air, I popped in to the light, airy Garden Cafe for lunch. Its menu of home made goodies includes warming soup, delicious cakes and children’s meals. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options are always available. High chairs, baby changing facilities and a selection of children’s books to borrow make this this a truly family friendly spot.
For more information on Cambridge University Botanic Garden including their 2019 programme of courses and workshops as well as details of special events planned for the February half term break, take a look at the website.