Travelogue: RHS Garden Wisley

The house at Wisley seen from the far gardens.

Good morning campers! Did you think the travelogue was over? Ah, no, it is not. We have many more places to go and things to see. Click on the galleries below to see the photos in a larger format.

Today’s garden destination is RHS Garden Wisley in Woking, Surrey, GU23 6QB, given to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1903 by Sir Thomas Hanbury. However, George Fergusson Wilson was the real spirit and driving force of the garden. Sir Hanbury bought the property after Wilson’s death. It seems he was into saving gardens as he bought others too. In Wisley, Wilson created the oldest section, called the ‘Oakwood experimental garden,’ in 1878. He was set upon growing difficult plants. I laughed when I read this description because all gardeners seem to be about growing difficult plants. Wisley has quite the pedigree as do most places in England. You can’t go anywhere in Great Britain that you don’t stumble over history. If the U.S. were as old, maybe we would see the same. We do have great arboretums and historic botanical gardens–Longwood Gardens, among others, comes to mind–but most aren’t as old as those in England. We just don’t have as long a history from which to draw.

I suppose as history goes, Wisley is rather a young English garden. It’s also HUGE and covers 240 acres. In some ways, it reminds me of all public gardens I’ve visited. It’s full of plant collections, has large greenhouses–which I love–long walks, espaliered fruit trees, a rose garden, splendid views, and so on. I found it a bit overwhelming. I tend to like more personal spaces, but it was very beautiful. After Bill and I walked around most of the garden, we decided to go have tea. We had tea in nearly every garden we visited. I should do a whole post on tea. I wish American gardens less processed food like their English counterparts. The English are especially good at sweets. Every garden and pub I visited in England had something gluten free for me to eat. Everything had dairy, but I was able to eat dairy there with no problems. I don’t know why, but I have my suspicions. Food in the gardens is considered expensive so if you’re on a budget, you may want to pack a lunch. We did bring some lunch, but later had cream tea. Such a lovely thing, cream tea.

This was actually a cream tea at Harrod's, but it will give you an idea. When you've walked a large garden all day, you need a yummy respite.
This was actually a cream tea at Harrod’s, but it will give you an idea. When you’ve walked a large garden all day, you need a yummy respite. Of course, Harrod’s tea is served on Wedgwood China. And, yes, that’s a gluten free scone.

What I’d give for a delicious gluten free scone and clotted cream right now.

I’m shaking my head to bring myself back to reality. Okay, back to the gardens. If you’d like to learn more about the history of the Wisley, just clickety click the link.

Of course, you know we stopped in the temperate house while we were there. They were in the midst of a pelargonium (often called geranium here, but actually a cousin) show, and had lots of lovely varieties. I liked ‘Rimfire.’ Check out that color. No, it probably wouldn’t like Oklahoma’s hot, sunny days. I thought the planters were shaped so nicely too. Also, they were on castors so they could be rolled in and out of the space. Smart. When I travel to botanical gardens, I always hit the temperate house and avoid the warmer greenhouses. It’s hot enough here at home, and I’m not into desert plants, or even tropical ones indoors. I can grow so many tropicals outside here.

If you liked this travelogue, I have more! You can also travel with me to Sissinghurst Castle and Hever Castle. I’m determined to take you on my entire English and French trip. That way, we’ll both remember the details before I get too fuzzy on them.

One more thing, before I let you go, here is a wonderful video from the RHS showing Wisley in all its glory from the sky. It’s worth watching. You’ll get a real sense of the gardens that I’ve shown you in photos.

 

Fantastic plant combos of 2013

One more from Bustani Plant Farm.

The end of the year usually marks a roundup of posts. However, this year, I thought I would change things up a bit. Let’s look instead at a series of fantastic plant combos. I mean, we’re in the depths of winter, but the Winter Solstice is past. The days are growing longer, and it’s time to look ahead to the new year and 2014’s garden. The following are combos I saw around the country and here at home that I thought especially beautiful or striking. Will you agree? Let me know what you think.

Several are from my favorite nursery, Bustani Plant Farm which is always worth the drive. I make at least two trips out there every year, in spring and in fall. I go in fall to pick up any asters and non-asters Steve and Ruth found, along with other perennials, but I also go to look at the gardens in their full and bounteous glory. They use a lot of tropicals, and it takes heat to get these babies going. Oklahoma has plenty of summer heat. By Autumn, Bustani’s gardens and mine are at their peak, and I can see how things fared.

'Cathedral Windows' and 'Anna' coleus.' The coleus on the far left is 'Copper,' and the dark plant in the back is Euphorbia continifolia 'Atropurpurea,' Caribbean copper plant.
‘Cathedral Windows’ and ‘Anna’ coleus.’ The coleus on the far left is ‘Copper,’ and the dark plant in the back is Euphorbia continifolia ‘Atropurpurea,’ Caribbean Copper Plant.

I know I’ll be adding ‘Anna’ and ‘Cathedral Windows’ coleus to my collection next year. Hard to believe I’ve never grown them, but I must rectify that. The striking plant in the back is Euphorbia continifolia ‘Atropurpurea,’ Caribbean copper plant–a long name for a very pretty tropical.

'Black Varnish' Pseuderanthemum with coleuse
‘Large Marge’ coleus with ‘Black Varnish’ Pseuderanthemum

On the photo above, I’m not sure about the coleus. It could be ‘Large Marge’ or ‘The Line.’ UPDATE: Steve told me it is ‘Large Marge.’ The real impact of this combo comes from the play of light and dark. This garden sits in partial shade, and the plants look really good together. As you know, I’m a huge coleus fan. Foliage is very important in Oklahoma because summer heat keeps many things from blooming. Not so, for the Crossandra below, though.

Crossandra 'Marmalade' is one plant I'll be adding to next year's repertoire. This is also from Bustani and blooming in full sun.
Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade’ is one plant I’ll be adding to next year’s repertoire. This is also from Bustani and blooming in full sun.

Steve is really excited about this Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade.’ He told me it was one plant I need for my garden next year. It’s a very soft orange and would be an attention getter in a couple places in my garden along its sunny edge. One more from Bustani, and then we’ll move on. I think the combo below works because the coleus is only two colors, and the white shrimp plant stands out against them.

Justicia betonica, White Shrimp Plant, in front of 'Alabama Sunset' coleus. Although this coleus is an older variety and doesn't look like much in spring, check out the yellow centers once the heat hits.
Justicia betonica, White Shrimp Plant, in front of ‘Alabama Sunset’ coleus. Although this coleus is an older variety and doesn’t look like much in spring, check out the yellow centers once the heat hits.

In my garden, I used a few old favorites to impact the lower beds. I bought the Pink Knockout roses on sale a long time ago before Rose Rosette began to claim the original Knockouts throughout Oklahoma City and Edmond. I now see it in Guthrie too. I’m just hoping my Pink Knockouts survive because I love them so. They bloom all season with very little care. I’ll knock them back by about half in February. Oh my, that’s not very far away. The variegated tapioca I buy from Steve every year. I’m thinking about growing it in large square terra cotta pots this year to get more height and have that solid color beneath to break things up a bit. I’ll run drip irrigation from my soaker lines to the pots so I won’t need to water twice a day.

Variegated tapioca with Pink Knockout roses and 'Little Bunny' fountain grass
Variegated tapioca with Pink Knockout roses and ‘Little Bunny’ fountain grass

Another combo from my garden. I grew the New Zealand castor bean from seed. I will again this year. I’ll start it indoors at the beginning of March or end of February. It’s tropical.

New Zealand castor bean with Helianthus angustifolius, Narrow-leaf Sunflower
New Zealand castor bean with Helianthus angustifolius, Narrow-leaf Sunflower

This was striking not just because of the size of the plants which are both over five feet, but also the color contrast and large, jagged, dark purple leaves versus the thin and reedy sunflower foliage. Note that the sunflower is perennial and needs a lot of space, preferably at the back of the border. This native is somewhat aggressive in a watered garden so I pull up about half of it at the beginning of spring and move it about in other places in the garden.

'Maui Gold' elephant ear with red begonias at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
‘Maui Gold’ elephant ear with red begonias at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens

There are a lot of new elephant ears coming out of Hawaii, hybridized by John Cho, that can handle full sun or partial sun in many places. This is good news for us in Oklahoma. The combination, above, was at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I visited while I was at the Garden Bloggers’ Conference in September. It’s not a huge botanical garden so you can visit it in half a day or so. I don’t know if these pots are moved about a lot, but they were healthy and thriving when I was there. I’m betting the elephant ear is ‘Maui Gold.’ You can find it at Plant Delights Nursery. I am also excited about ‘Hawaiian Punch’ which is smaller and has red stems. Do I think these can handle Oklahoma’s full sun all summer? No, because we are too dry, but I do think they can stand a bit of morning sun here, and that gives us more options.

Begonia Baby Wing White, Caladium humboldtii Mini White and Hemigraphis exotica
Begonia Baby Wing™ White, Caladium humboldtii ‘Mini White’ and Hemigraphis exotica, purple waffle plant, growing in shade

I must admit I have a love/hate relationship with purple waffle plant. Its crumply, bumpy foliage gives me the creeps especially when it dries up and starts to fall off in our heat. However, it is a great plant for morning sun if you don’t mind its other issues. I would probably replace it with ‘Black Patent Leather‘ coleus though.

Finally, one more from my garden, and then I’ll let you go. It’s good to review what worked and what didn’t. Armchair gardening can be quite satisfactory in the wintertime.

Coleus, probably 'Kiwi Fern' and Tecoma stans Bells of Fire esperanza.
Coleus, probably ‘Kiwi Fern’ and Tecoma stans Bells of Fire esperanza.