Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Wondeful Wisley!

I was going to visit a friend in Hemel Hempstead the other day. From Sevenoaks, this means going half way round the M25, past such notorious hold-up-hotspots as Clackets and around Jct 8 & 9. I decided to leave after 9.00am in the hope that most of the commuter traffic would be gone by then and that the M25 might be slightly quieter. Some hope! It wasn't long before I hit the first of many snarl-ups around junction 8. About an hour later, boiling hot and cursing like Gordon Ramsay in a bug-infested kitchen, I decided to give up on the idea and turn off at my next opportunity. Fortunately, the next slip road led me straight into the loving embrace of RHS Wisley. If nothing else I could at least pop in there for a caramel latte and a slice of cake.

Lots of lovely lovely Stipa gigantea

As I say, it was a baking hot day, and boy! was I glad to arrive at the near-empty Wisley car park. Do you know, I have an air-conditioning button in my little car and to this day I have never pushed it in, so scared am I that the wheels will fall off, or that the engine might indeed blow up. Passengers go near it at their peril. If I see a curious and roaming finger I shout "DON'T TOUCH THAT!... IT'S NEVER BEEN TOUCHED.... THE CAR WILL EXPLODE IF YOU PRESS THAT!" Maybe one day i'll be brave enough to try it out and see what happens. UUUUmmmmm...... Anyway, back to Wisley.

The long herbaceous borders were looking fantastic!
Luckily enough, I had come prepared. I had my RHS card on me, a camera, my trusty notepad and pencil, and £5 whole pounds burning a hole in my pocket! Everything you need for a day's plant spotting. Do you know (confession #2) I once told someone that I often felt I was the horticultural equivalent of a bird-spotting twitcher, a much-maligned breed of ornithologist. They were disgusted with me, and said I should never verbalise that again! Again, I wish that wasn't true... but it is. I do derive much pleasure from simply seeing a plant a haven't seen before, and ticking it off my list! 
Anyway, back to Wisley.... again!

Ricinus, grasses and Verbena 'Lollipop' - a nice bedding display if you ask me.

I approached the ticket entrance with a degree of trepidation, knowing that it was, by now, late July and gardens can often look somewhat tired and a little gone-over by then. I tend to think that gardens should look great from spring until roughly mid-July; tired and flagging a little from around then until mid-September. They should then burst back to life with a great'n final show of late-summer flowers & grasses (my favourite time).... and then slip quietly into winter with..... well, who cares about winter? You know my views on winter gardens. It takes more than one flowering witch hazel, or a few bright stems of a dogwood to make me stop and look at a border in December!
And again, back to Wisley.... 
Oudolf's borders, a snapshot of Echinaceas, Eryngiums, grasses and a perovskia - delightful..!
So anyway, I approached the ticket booth: the lady enquired, "On your own today Mr Owen?" Of course, I actually heard this as "Oh it's ol' Billy no-mates here again.... armed with enough cash for tea and scones - for one!" UUUmmmmm...... I skulked in, kicking my heels like a sweaty and spoilt child, annoyed that it was so damn hot; that it took so damn long to get here, and that my mum had only given me £5 to spend, ensuring that my day was destined to end with the pathetic purchasing of an RHS Wisley pencil and rubber!
Golden Achileas & golden oats grasses. A hundred landing pads for a thousand butterflies!
Well anyway, i'm pleased to report that I had a very pleasant time there that day. As I always do whenever I go there. I'm constantly amazed by the place! For me, I think the surprise is this. As a 'gardens-within-gardens' kind of place, with so many borders, it really shouldn't look as great as it does. You would think that with so many right plants, all in the right places.... cared and trained for to within an inch of their lives.... Well, you would think it would all look too technical... too perfect.... too clinical... Dull!
But it never does. I walk around there with two wide critical eyes, constantly watching out for that National Trust stamp about the place, but I never see it. What I see is an amazing collection of plants, grouped extremely well together, with some great associations and combinations. The plants are mostly labelled (Wisley can get away with this... the National Trust can't in my opinion!). I don't know, I guess it's just that when i'm there, I feel safe a comfortable in the knowledge that these RHS guys and gals really know what they're doing. Okay, they may be approaching horticulture from a slightly different (more technical) angle from the gardeners at say, Dixter, but the approach is still ultimately centred around the care and nurturing of plants.... and it shows!   
Although, having said that, I did seem to spot many 
an echinops in the long borders being used to grow bind weed up.
How very novel.

   Anyway, all-in-all a great day was had. I may only have had £5 on me, but how grown up did I feel when I suddenly remembered I wasn't really on a school trip back in 1979, and that this time I had my good friend VISA in my wallet: one new Rudbeckia; yet another book (!); a new pruning saw and I was £50 lighter, but who cares?!
The glasshouses looking great!
There are countless views like this at Wisley. Full of design inspiration!
 Oh well, that's it for this month. Back to the weeding! I hate it when Eric Robson says that!
* Finally, a picture of my (tiny!) front garden taken today. All in pots...all up and doing!

le jardinier

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