Showing posts with label Wisley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wisley. Show all posts

26 Feb 2017

Wisley inspired early spring colour



At the onset of spring, we gardeners navigate towards colour like a thirsty man towards an oasis. We can spot an emerging snowdrop or primrose at fifty paces, swoon at crocus, irises and Hamamelis and can accurately identify a Daphne or Sarcococca from a whiff of scent on the breeze.  Even in a mild winter, deprivation of outdoor time in our gardens and the sight of grey skies can feel endless and leave us longing for spring to begin.

I am not immune to this and for my quick fix antidote I took myself off to RHS Wisley on Valentine's Day -  my gift to myself. That was just over ten days ago and I can't believe how many spring flowers have opened since then. As I set out, I was blissfully unaware that it was half term and the gardens likely to be busy - they were but, strangely, the only clue was that the overflow car parks were in use.  Once in the gardens, all was calm and peaceful, just how I like it.  Families, couples, visiting groups, even schools, were all there but Wisley's 60 acres had easily absorbed them all without anyone's enjoyment being compromised.

Bursts of colour were my motivation for visiting, especially the newly expanded Winter Walk, but first I headed off to see the butterflies in the Glasshouse.  To be honest, the textural planting is what lures me inside but it's still thrilling to see so many colourful butterflies swooping and gliding around. A spotter's guide is available for a small donation so I was able to identify the ones that stayed still long enough for me to photograph, although there were quite a few on the guide that eluded me. And not just because the lens on my camera kept steaming up.

Back outside, it was warm enough to grab a sandwich from the café* and sit outside watching the ducks on the Winter Walk lake. Aren't they gorgeous! I'm hopeless with birds, anyone know what kind of duck this is?  His plumage was attracting a lot of attention!

Wisley ducks


Sitting by the lake, I was surrounded by colour. The Winter Walk is just, wow, breathtaking! I promise, it's worth a trip to the gardens to see, it's such a treat for colour starved eyes.  I've been many times in the past when multicoloured stems of dogwood and Rubus lit up the water's edge but this year the planting has been extended to the borders opposite the water.  Rivers of iris against a backdrop of red witch hazel and golden willow - dramatic planting with the look of an impressionist painting. (I know I can be a plant nerd but I swear my heart beat faster at this sight.)

~ Iris histrioides 'Lady Beatrix Stanley', Hamamelis x intermedia Rubin, Prunus serrula (for red bark and spring blossom), Salix alba 'Golden Ness' in background.




Stems of Cornus stolonifera flaviramea (green), C sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire', C. sericea 'Coral Red' (centre front), C. alba 'Kesselringii' (purple/black) and Rubus cockburnianus (white bramble)
Stunning, huh?

I recently met some garden owners whose previous gardener had overlooked the colour and scents available in spring, leaving them with a view of clipped box balls, yew hedges and muddy lawns. Tidy but sterile - what a missed opportunity! The collage below shows a tiny bit of the colour I found on my walk.

Clockwise from top left:  Calluna vulgaris 'Wickwar Flame'. Camellia japonica 'Marguérite Guillon', crocus, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aphrodite', Iris histrioides 'Lady Beatrix Stanley', Hellebore (unknown)

I love to be outdoors throughout the year so, for me, a slow meander through the gardens gives an opportunity to fully appreciate spring unfolding. I marvel at the synchronicity of nature's timing, providing for wildlife who then return the favour by providing a service in the garden. Cyclamen seeds have a sweet coating that's irresistible to ants who carry the seeds away from the parent plant to increase chances of germination, while bees love the early nectar they can find from hellebores, crocus, heathers, witch hazel and iris. Even camellias which would appear to be too tightly petalled to be of use, lure bees in.  I spent a happy hour last spring watching bees all over the camellia under my window at home.

A favourite plant that I was delighted to discover in the borders was Hellebore 'Anna's Red', named for garden writer, Anna Pavord.  I last saw these at Great Dixter a couple of years ago; they're a stunning addition to the species, a deep red with marbled leaves raised by nurseryman Rodney Davey over a 12 year period. I really want some of these beauties in the garden at home; as luck would have it, the RHS plant centre has some for sale.  I had to beat the rush hour traffic back so resisted but, next visit ...

Hellebore 'Anna's Red'


My visit was a very successful and inspiring day out, especially as entrance was free as I'm a member of the RHS. The butterflies will be in the Glasshouse until Sunday 5th March, entrance is free to garden visitors.  And I presume the winter walk dogwoods will have to be cut back soon.



(*)  I chose a very affordable kid's lunch bag, choice of 5 items for less than a fiver, which I filled with drink, 2 sandwiches, fruit and crisps. It was all very fresh and delicious.




19 Feb 2017

Never mind the roses

Hellebore atrorubens
~ Wisley borders, Valentine's Day - Hellebore atrorubens aka the Lenten Rose ~

It's rare that I can look back on a week so positively plumped with gardening goodness but the past seven days have been  just that - filled with gardening hygge, the feel good vibe that I get when surrounded by nature, chatting to fellow garden enthusiasts or getting my hands into the soil or around a pair of secateurs.

8 Oct 2015

Insta-update: Whoosh! There goes another week

It's entirely typical of the week I've just had that I'm posting this a couple of days late.  There were highs and lows including a day off sick, a day without internet, two contrasting garden visits (one large, one titchy) and an awards ceremony. We had some wonderful weather last week which made it feel more like late summer; I went to Wisley (the larger of the two garden visits) convinced that I'd get some gloriously autumnal shots but, no, the sun shone, the skies were pure blue and late summer seedheads and grasses looked fabulous.

I've been very quiet about the results of Camden in Bloom.  The awards ceremony was last week and I can now bashfully reveal that I was awarded second place in the Best Individual Garden category!  Not bad for a first timer, eh?  Naturally, I sought out the gardener who was awarded first place and secured an invitation to visit her garden at the end of last week.  This was the 'titchy' of my two garden visits, a courtyard space probably no bigger than 15' x 8', and surrounded by high walls which makes it very shady, but absolutely crammed with plants and her amusing art installations - there's even a pond in one corner. It's extraordinary the amount that this lady is growing so I take my hat off to her success.  

Here's my week in nine Instagram peeks:



From top left:

1.  'HUG' - the Ficus microcarpa bonsai being grown by the Camden in Bloom first place winner. She likes to name her plants and this one is very apt and made me smile hugely.

2.  Rosa roxburghii seen at RHS Wisley. Also known as the chestnut rose - you can see why. Intriguing, spiky and beautiful but a rather challenging rosehip for all but the most intrepid of foragers.

3.  Inspirational combination planting: Euphorbia myrsinites growing through Stachys byzantina.  Extraordinary textural contrasts from two of my favourite plants - perfect for a sensory garden.  No doubt an idea which will soon be appearing in the garden here, plagiarism being the sincerest form of flattery. ;o)

4.  Physalis.  This is the first ripe fruit this year from my Cape Gooseberry shrub.  I grew it from a seed two years ago and love it - the flavour is much nicer than shop bought and very worthwhile growing.  Let's hope that it's not too autumnal for a good harvest as it's usually fruited well before now!

5.  Saffron crocus starting to appear.  Small plants were put in during late 2013; I had only leaves last year then read that saffron crocus like to be buried deep. Some were left, others replanted a good 10" deep.  Let's see what happens … 

6.  'The Twelve Apostles'.  Another garden installation from my Camden in Bloom rival.  She collects stones with faces carved by the elements for  use in her garden.  As she says, "Jesus looks rather sad." Perhaps it's the apostles on the other side of the table we should be worried about.

7.  Slightly off-piste here but I was very taken with these gorgeous Aeoniums on display out the ladies' loo at Wisley and couldn't resist a quick snap! They were over 4 feet tall and thriving outdoors in their sheltered but sunny location but I imagine will be moved back to the big Glasshouse soon.

8.  Very little autumn colour in late September at Wisley - more like a warm blast of late summer with blue skies and yellow Heleniums in the Glasshouse Borders. Autumn surely won't be long now, though.

9.  I realised that the fruit thieves had left four pears high up in the branches of my tree where they couldn't reach. I stood on my upturned bucket and managed to bring the branches down enough to reach the pears for picking. Bizarrely, this tree is supposed to be a Conference Pear.  Does anyone else think that pear looks more like a Williams pear?  

Hoping everyone is having a good week - I'm amazed at how quickly the leaves are falling or turning red now so I think next week's update could have a lot of autumn colour in it! 

30 Apr 2015

A fruitful visit to RHS Wisley's orchards



As Chief (some might say 'only') Grower in the food garden here, I enjoy an opportunity to see what other people are up to, so it was with a happy heart that I went to have a good nosey around the orchards and trial grounds at RHS Wisley.  Here's what I found.



Harking back to my perennial fascination with the art of pruning, I couldn't help but notice the way the apple trees have been shaped over the years. Look at the way whole branches have been pruned off these trees, leaving the centres open for ventilation and better pollination. The pruning cuts seen on young trees were also very edifying - look where the central leader has been removed on the tree in the middle.  It's healed over, possibly a couple of years past, so I assume this shaping is to encourage production of fruit. Return visits with my membership mean that I can pop back to see how that's working out.

There's something very special about seeing this range of varieties and the ways in which the trees are managed. I'd love to know more and hope to find out on one of the Wisley courses. The Summer Fruit Pruning workshop in July looks mighty tempting and I'll definitely be thinning out my plum trees this summer so a boost of knowledge would be put to good use.

Onwards to the trained fruit. I do love the look of this, it's just so clever, so neat and tidy.  I wish I'd known how to do this with our fruit trees at home. It not only looks beautiful but is productive and perfect for a small growing space or as an edible boundary.  (I recall my grandad used espaliered apples to cleverly section off his allotment area from the rest of his 150 ft long garden.)  A range of shapes can be seen: pear and cherry trees growing as fans, apples grown as step-overs and cordons against the shed.




I stopped to photograph the step-overs - making note of the tub that each tree is being grown in and how the length of the main stem has been bent and tied in with pruned spurs left for fruit bearing. I imagine they'll be moved in the future once the trial is finished and illustrates how well a tree will do in a good sized tub (and the right care).

I was intrigued by the way grapevines (top left) are being grown, up a column. Where's it going to go when it reaches the top - or will it be stopped? Very interesting, worth following up. It was the same in January when I came across a row of gooseberry standards. Eh?  I thought they had to be grown in a low growing goblet shape (so the berries could be accessed without injury). I'll make a point of going back because if this works, this is very good news for growers with little space.  I must admit that I've pruned my redcurrant bush as a standard although it hasn't given me more than a small bowlful of fruit yet!

There is much to be learned here.  Strawberries are spaced far apart; at home, mine are pretty much crammed in as nature would have it. Not that I have an option, space is in short supply, but I wonder what the benefits are of leaving that much room between plants. Bigger strawberries, do you think? Less slug attack?

Note the straw mulch over the raspberry beds - a good way to keep the soil moist in hot or windy weather.

And these raspberries… In the past I've pulled out all the runners, now I'm thinking I should leave a few as long as they stay within the set boundaries. What do others do, I wonder?



But it was the rhubarb trials that were the real eye-opener.  Four wide beds with two plants of each cultivar growing on each side.  There were over 60 rhubarb varieties growing there! Most I'd never heard of but noted the difference in size - the 'Earlies' were huge while others had barely started to put out leaves; others had much thicker stems and smaller leaves; some had the bulbous centre growth that also heralded the flowering of my rhubarb. Again, worth taking note of any varieties that appeal as rhubarb plants can produce over many years so choosing a monster plant for a small garden may cause regret. Specialist fruit suppliers will be able to advise on the wide range of choice available.

But for any gardeners reading this who grow blackcurrants, I'll leave you with this advice from the RHS. Their bushes have been cut down to try and eradicate Big Bud Mite as indicated by this sign.  I don't grow blackcurrants but, if I did, I'd be checking the buds right now.









23 Apr 2015

Blossom, bulbs, bunnies and bees - Spring at RHS Wisley

Rhododendron, Hellebore, Magnolia stellata,
Primula 'Iris Mainwaring', Skimmia, bee on comfrey.

Last weekend I had to return a plant to the nursery at Wisley. I'd bought two identical white Echinacea in mid-January; one grew, the other didn't. No problem, the RHS nurseries guarantee their plants so I was confident of getting a replacement or refund. As a bonus, the sun was shining so the trip also provided a good excuse to use my membership to have a wander round the gardens.

There was a Lindt sponsored bunny hunt over the school holidays, an excellent idea to tempt visitors into all areas, with the promise of chocolate at the end. Who could resist? Not I! I collected a form and kept an eye out - even adults like a treasure hunt! It also provided a good framework for my walk, taking me through areas that I explore less frequently like the Glasshouse, Rockery and  Children's play area.


I had every intention of making this a short-ish visit, a couple of hours max.  But that's just silly.  Even at this time of year, I was stopping every few paces to take photos or peer at a label - hence the delay in writing this post, so many photos!  I'd last visited in mid-January in search of scent, winter colour and texture; in the three month interim, most of that has now, as expected, been overtaken by spring planting. People not busy hunting for gold bunnies were busy photographing the magnolias in full bloom - a breathtaking sight on a sunny day.



As ever, I found wandering around such an education.  Admittedly, I'm completely addicted to plants but there really is no substitute for seeing established plants growing throughout the year or how to combine plants for maximum effect: Muscari under a gorgeous ornamental cherry (Prunus 'Shirotae') or primula next to saxifraga growing out of a wall in the rock garden, sedums (starting spring growth but with last year's seedheads intact) next to grasses Eragrostis curvula. Often shrubs will grow much larger than nurseries would have us believe, given the right conditions - at Wisley, you'll see how big that unpruned bay (Laurus nobilis), sweet box (Sarcococca) or Fatsia will grow! (I walked around a huge mature Fatsia, checking to see if it really was just the one shrub. It was.)





Banks of Skimmia took over where January's Daphne odorata left off, scenting the air all around; white camellias were still looking good while the red camellias were getting a bit, well, past it.  I walked past swathes of Erythronium 'Pagoda' on my way up to the orchard, a small woodland plant I was particularly taken with. Useful and beautiful ground cover is always worth noting.

Erythronium 'Pagoda'


The pruning in the orchard is a lesson in itself which I'll cover in a second post on the soft fruits and edibles growing at Wisley. I always have a look at the trial grounds when I visit, it's so interesting to see the methods that are used and what's growing. The route that I usually walk to get there is via the Glasshouse Borders; as a big fan of Piet Oudolf planting, this is my must-visit part of the gardens. In January the borders were breathtakingly lovely in their midwinter monochrome with the dried seedheads of herbaceous perennials left intact; now those have been cut back as new growth comes through and all is green and fresh, albeit seen at a distance as the borders have been roped off while the grass is reseeded.



Part of my bunny hunt directed me into the glasshouse. There were two bunnies to be found here but first you had to tear yourself away from the scented air at the entrance! Scented plants had been lavishly arranged around citrus trees - it was an extraordinary treat to smell the gorgeous clove like scent of a dianthus or sweet pea in April!

Sweet peas, freesia, dianthus, Linaria reticulata 'Flamenco', Heliotrope and geranium

Lilies clambering up through palms gave me more than one photographic Georgia O'Keeffe moment and heavily scented stocks (Matthiola incana) added to the perfume although eventually I reached sensory overload and had to move on. All of these can be grown outdoors in the garden in the summer. (Although a neighbour here in NW5 has freesias in bloom in a sunny spot under her window as I type!)

I admit that I hadn't expected the gardens to offer so much of a sensory treat this early in the gardening year but there's always something to take away from a garden visit whatever the time of year. In my case that was literally true as I came away with a haul of useful pollinator plants plus some low maintenance/high visual plants for my mum's garden. More importantly, I found so much inspiration for transitioning 'spring into summer'/'shade into light' planting, no matter what size a garden is - an invaluable resource for a fledgling garden designer.

There are heaps more photos which I haven't found room for here so, if interested, have a look at  my Flickr slideshow and I strongly recommend a visit soon - I've pencilled my next visit into the diary already.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...