Yesterday, the gods smiled, the sun shone and I finally got to spend a day at RHS Wisley Garden. I have wanted to visit properly for a while but it’s around a 3 hour drive each way and the journey skirts the edge of London. As I am rapidly becoming a country hillbilly the thought of all that traffic has been too much for me and I have repeatedly dismissed the idea of a visit. However, this year I decided that I needed to get over it and go. Luckily a conversation with my friend Victoria provided the answer. Victoria moved from London some 18 months ago and missed her regular visits to Wisley. She lives just under halfway between me and the garden so yesterday I got up early drove to hers and then she drive the rest of the way.
I’m not sure why I was so keen to visit this year but I particularly wanted to see the Alpine House and rock garden and spring is a good time due to all the spring bulbs. I was also interested to see the new Henry Moore statue, the King and Queen, that is temporarily residing at the top of the lily pool by the entrance. I have seen quite a few photos of the statue on twitter from the back with the pool in the background so I was pleased to see the statue from the front. I think it is rather wonderful and reminds me of medieval images almost Spanish in its appearance.
The weather was amazing and having left early leaving behind rain we were somewhat overdressed but never mind it was a nice problem to have. I was amazed at how busy the garden was on a Monday morning but I suppose everyone is keen to get out into the sunshine and there were lots of small children with their mothers, nannies and grandparents.
First up was the Alpine House and all the dinky pots of bulbs. I was interested to see how they were presented in the sand beds. How wonderful to have the luxury of an alpine house for displaying those pots that are in flower. The colours were a wonderful boost for the soul after the drabness we have had for months. It is also interesting to see the variety of alpines in flower at the moment – if you relied on the media you would think the only things in flower were snowdrops and crocus.
Seeing these plants and the rock garden and crevice gardens outside confirmed my feeling that my real interest in alpines is in the bulbs rather than cushion plants.
Neither of us were particularly taken by the rock garden and crevice beds although we realise that this isn’t quite the best time of year but it was all so grey. However, we were very taken with the small crevice garden made of terracotta tiles. I think it’s the colour which attracts me but it’s certainly something to consider in the future.
Being February there obviously wasn’t a lot of colour in the main gardens aside from the bulbs although there were one or two camellias starting to flower and this wonderful Prunus. We did spend quite a bit of time looking at exotic appearing plants for my new whim to have hardy exotics in the garden. I have many photos of Agaves, Aloes, ferns and other foliage plants to inspire me. Talking with Victoria helped me crystallise my feelings about my garden and recognise that my interest is really in interesting foliage and we talked at length about other people’s perceptions and how hard it could be to create the garden you want rather than being influenced by others. I think over the recent period I have started to become more focussed and less influenced by the media and others views and it is a nice feeling. It amused me that when seeing some shrubs underplanted with Pulmonaria we both quickly agreed that we didn’t like this plant but had both planted it in our early gardening days as the media and other gardeners told us how wonderful it was.
We discussed how shrubs planted for winter interest worked and how really you needed a number for the effect and you needed to take into account the light in the garden. We saw the first brimstone butterfly of the year which was surprisingly thrilling for me. As Victoria knows the garden so well she knew exactly what bits would look good, which areas would help inspire me and what we should avoid as it would be full of small children!
We were particularly taken with this planting of crocus amongst grasses, I suspect it may be replicated in both our gardens.
Needless to say we ended up in the Plant Centre and left with two trolleys of goodies between us.
I think if we can find a day or two that we can both do later in the year we will be going back as we had such a great day. I would really like to see the new rose garden as I think the combination of the roses and perennials will be wonderful.