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RHS Wisley


by James Alexander-Sinclair

One if the best places at this time of year is the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley in Surrey...


March is not really prime garden visiting time: a few gardens with specialist collections are open for the wonderful National Gardens Scheme, but most of them are keeping their powder dry in readiness for spring and summer.

However, gardeners still want somewhere to go especially when it is dry and sunny. One if the best places at this time of year is the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley in Surrey. To be honest the garden has some flaws but, if you want somewhere to spend a very jolly day with some great plants (all of them clearly labelled), then you can't go wrong with Wisley.

I was there a week or so ago to watch things grow: the whole garden thrums with the promise of approaching spring. There are, of course, the obvious candidates - lots of little bulbs cropping up all over the place, like snowdrops, crocus and Iris reticulata - and wonderfully scented Hamamelis mollis, Sarcococca and Daphne bholua.

The winter stems were also looking particularly fine - in particular the ghostly shafts of Rubus and lots of brightly coloured cornus. Most unusually there were tangled nests of hairy stalked Japanese wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius).

As interesting, however, were the beautifully trained skeletons of fan- and espalier-trained fruit trees. Looking at a well cared for tree is like admiring the work of a skilled craftsman - with the advantage of knowing that someday soon it is not only going to flower but produce something edible. Not something that can be said about most crafty stuff.

If it rains or is too cold then you can always take refuge in the vast glasshouse and look at pineapples and vulgarly shaped dangling bananas. There was also a spectacularly flowered Sparmannia africana - if you have a big conservatory or greenhouse then it is well worth the effort.

There is always something going on at Wisley, some sort of new development or improvement, and this time it is the continuing construction of a new rose garden designed by multi-Gold medal winner, Robert Myers.

And, as if all this was not enough, there was some fine cake (the ginger was particularly good) and I found a robin tame enough to sit still while I took his photograph.



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Gardeners' World Web User 15/03/2010 at 15:50

Little irises only bloom once? Really? My purple ones have just reappeared in my neglected Cambridgeshire garden for the fourth or fifth year. the Iris Danfordiae have, however, sunk without a trace. Ah, well, the lord giveth and the lord taketh away, and jolly glad I am that he doesn't take it all away; it saves a powerful lot of money.

Gardeners' World Web User 17/03/2010 at 08:14

I have miniture Iris in a large pot that come up every year,mind you my garden gets freezing, they think they are at home. back to Wisley what a delight the place is whatever time of year.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/03/2010 at 01:19

fairweather girl, if you plant Iris danfordiae really deep it comes back every year. About 9 inches/22cm. Amazing that a small flower comes up from so far down, but it does.

Gardeners' World Web User 30/03/2010 at 00:06

So what is the prime time in southwest England to visit gardens in the spring.

Gardeners' World Web User 24/08/2010 at 08:41

James, What does Rosemoor have to offer? Seeing I am from Ireland, Any insight about the place would be great Thanks, Aanee xxxx

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