Spectacular February colour at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey – Alice Cooper

In search of inspiration, this was my first visit to the gardens at RHS Wisley on a cold, bright February weekend. It did not disappoint. For anyone who has yet to visit I thought I’d share a few photographs and thoughts.

On arrival a display of Hellebores set within a raised bed was a reminder that this is a really good way to appreciate the variety of the individual delicate flowers and subtle differences between the varieties so often missed when planted at ground level.

Whilst exploring the Wild Garden I come across two superb looking shrubs – the pink and white flowers and sweetly smelling, pungent fragrance of the Daphne bholoua ‘Limpsfield’ and a mature Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Sunburst’ adding a bright yellow splash of colour.tree group

On leaving the woodland I was greeted to a spectacular display of Cornus, Rubus and Salix surrounding the far bank of the Sever Acres Lake. The combination of colourful stems and the reflections proving to be irresistible draw for both photographer and the visitor alike, many armed with pens and notepad seeking inspiration for their own gardens.

Woven willow sculptures inspired by the waterside theme.  Brightly coloured stems and reflections.     

Next stop the Alpine glass house with its colourful spring bulb display. The display inside the glass house was a hit with families lingering over the plants and overheard choosing their favourite daffodil (maybe inspired by Carol Klein’s recent daffodil appeal in series 2 of The Great British Garden Revival and being able to shelter for a while out of the cold wind!).   The outside rockery feature was both imaginative and arresting. The planting in crevices and the design of the vertical of the stonework allowing each plant to be appreciated from all angles, provided a real sense of how these miniature plants might be found within their natural habitat.

Next to the Alpine house, a walkway flanked on either side by a feature display of bonsai trees on pedestals.

Pruning work has started in the orchard with gardeners hard at work.  Very interesting to see the process half completed and comparing the individual crown shapes before and after.   It will be interesting to return to see the orchard in full blossom and see the range of fruit being harvested later in the year.

In addition to the courses run by the RHS and you are looking to develop your skills, learn a new one or just be generally inspired about community and traditional orchards and would like hear about local events I can highly recommend visiting www.orchardnetwork.org.uk.

During the winter walk a number of trees and shrubs seen below merit a special mention, plants such as:

  • Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ – covered in pink/white flowers. Strongly scented, ideally placed adjacent to the footpath as a specimen shrub where the flower and scent could be easily appreciated.
  • Daphne odora (Rebecca) = ‘Hewreb’. Creamy yellow margined leaves and rose pink buds.
  • Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’. A dense groundcover with plum/purple glossy foliage.
  • Camellia vernalis. Glossy green foliage with pure white flower and yellow centre. Nice contrast to the softer rose pink flower of the Camellia ‘Phyl Doek’.
  • Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Sunburst’. A specimen multi-stemmed shrub with sulphur yellow flowers.
  • Hebe Midnight Sky ‘Lowton’. Glossy green with outer leaves tinged reddish/purple.
  • Mahonia eurybracteata ‘sweet winter’. Low level shrub with a distinctive serrated leaf pattern
  • Salix alba var. Vitellina ‘Yelverton’. Bright orange coppice stems which if grouped with cornus on mass can be dramatic.
  • Acer ‘White Tigress’ . An eye-catching tree with fine white vertical lines against greenish tinged bark. Interesting without leaves. A lovely tree planted for winter interest.shrubshebe

If you’re an amateur photographer and interested in capturing the beauty of gardens and plants  at Wisley two websites, that of  Andy Small Photography (www.andysmall.co.uk) and Clive Nichols (www.clivenichols.com) may be highly inspirational.301 strip - Copy

I was a little disappointed at missing out on the ‘Butterflies in the Glasshouse’ event having totally underestimated the time needed to explore all corners of the 240 acre garden and it being fully booked.  For anyone taking children along allow plenty of time. Given the length of the queues and the excited chattering in the cafe afterwards the experience of having large butterflies landing on the arms and flitting around your head was one not to be missed and an added bonus! Better be quick ….the event finishes 8th March.grasses

The play area and climb up the spiral path to the top of the mound overlooking the garden and out into the surrounding countryside seemed to be a popular meeting place and in summer the herbaceous avenue will be a spectacular sight.

This and a visit into the glasshouse will be one part of the garden I shall look forward to seeing next time.


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