Postcard From Wisley

I had a great day at the RHS Wisley Flower Show yesterday and found this fab woven sculpture on the way to the orchard where 9 apple varieties awaited us for a taste test (and invited 'scrumping'). I discovered the apple harvest is around 2 weeks early this year: another sign of the early autumn I wrote about recently.

As well as the gardens themselves (the borders were looking fantastic and the new rose garden doesn't look like it's in its first year at all) there's around 30 nurseries displaying their wares until Sunday. I was pleased Sean and Jooles from Heucheraholics were awarded best display (and they were thrilled), even though they were invited to attend just a couple of days before the show started.

For once I bought some plants: an unusual Lespedeza thunbergii ready for a competitive planting to compare with the one Ms. Arabella Sock bought (I've sat in the Sockmobile - get me!), plus a Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' ready for evaluation as a possible replacement for my front lawn. I had quite a few to choose from, but after some discussion with the nurseryman, I believe this cultivar might work better with the spring bulb interplanting I'm thinking of.

My absolute highlight of the day was a guided tour around the trials field to find out how the Award of Garden Merit works, but that deserves a post all to itself :)

Update: Forgot to mention that visitors to the trials field this weekend can vote on their favourite Dahlia being trialled :)


  1. Who ever thought of that apple sculpture is it looks as if it has just been chopped in half :D Thanks for inspires ideas...

  2. adore willow sculptures. And lucky you scrumping in Wisley's orchards - yum!

    and I shall look forward to that AGM post ... the trials areas are also fantastic at Wisley, not somewhere most people visit but one of the best areas of the garden I think

  3. Pauline - welcome! Isn't it great? Not only is it inspiring, I chose it because it made me smile and it's an aspect of Wisley (and other RHS gardens) which usually isn't shown elsewhere

  4. CG - oops your comment came in whilst I was answering Pauline. I asked how many visitors make it to the trials beds - not enough was the reply!

    For me it's one of the most important places.

    People don't go because - it's a long trek up the hill and they're put off by the formality of the layout. However, they've put in a new pavilion at the botton of the field to try and encourage people to walk down the field and spend time there. There's new signage too explaining what the trials are.

  5. CG - also forgot to say that the 'scrumping' marks a change in the RHS' approach. Colin Crosbie told me that taking the apples used to be really frowned on, but now if people are 'caught', they're invited to try other varieties. It's now seen as an opportunity to educate people about the fruit, the orchards, what the RHS are doing etc. and encouraging people to grow their own. Fruit tree sales in the plant centre are on the increase as a consequence...

  6. Lovely sculpture, and your visit sounds wonderful. I visited Wisley the first weekend in July when the new rose garden opened, and already it looked well settled.
    I have loads of pictures waiting to be dealt with and posted about, including some amazing shots from the trials area. No guided tour for us, although the signs were really interesting. I'm looking forward to your insight on the awarding system !

  7. hillwards - ooh let me know when you post because it'd be great to link to a post showing the trials beds much earlier in the year. As you can imagine, the Lobelias were looking very 'back endish', though the Dahlias were all waving away happily.

    Many of the beds were being dug over when I was there or had green manure or caliente mustard as part of their preparations for next years trials.

  8. Craig and I always used to scrump at Wisley *looks guilty* but usually windfalls.
    Did you want your Hakonechloa to be there at the same time as your bulbs? Or did you want it to come up afterwards? Because it can be quite late to get going in spring.

  9. Victoria - it was a privilege to be able to scrump :)

    I'm thinking about bulbs because there'll be a time when the grass will look awful/be hacked back ready for the new year's growth. As it's the front garden, I think it's important to have something of interest for that time of the year. I'm also thinking that the grass growing afterwards will disguise the dying bulb foliage. What time of the year should the grass be chopped back?

  10. Well, it dies off to a sort of straw colour in late autumn, and you can cut it back any time between then and early spring. Usually when you get sick of the sight of it, in my experience! Unlike taller grasses, it can look a bit tatty because it's at ground level.
    My advice would be to cut it back earlier rather than later. Then you can be sure that it's not growing, and that you're not accidentally going to damage any bulbs that are starting to come through.

  11. Hmm - that's why I've decided to buy a trial plant first to see how it performs/looks. I'm worried we'll have a front garden looking like it's bare earth for quite a while

  12. great guided tour yesterday and something you don't get as a regular visitor, nice that the RHS gave the time for an interesting tour. The apples were just delish, I even bought some in the shop before I left to add to the ones were given! I missed the apple sculpture - so much to see in one day. I also missed the trials beds - I'm going back in October so I'll have to make sure I look for them. Amanda

  13. Esther - it is!

    Amanda - lovely to see you and Danielle again yesterday :) It's confession time: I've wanted to see the trials beds for ages and to find out how the trials are conducted, so Laura and Erin from the RHS kindly arranged for me to have a guided tour. A shame we didn't get round to talking about it yesterday, 'cos I'm sure you could have come along too. Do go there in October - they're not a 'garden' in the conventional sense, but the work is so important to us gardeners :)

  14. PS Forgot to say - to get to the trials beds you go up the hill past the double border and the Henry Moore sculpture at the top. The trials beds are down the hill afterwards - there's a big board showing what this year's trials are at the entrance to the garden, plus boards explaining each plant's trial within the field itself. If anyone's feeling puffed after their walk, there's a massive pavillion at the bottom of the field with lots of benches

  15. That really is a fabulous apple sculpture, although it also looks like good garden habitat too. I'd wonder what might decide to move in!

  16. I want, I want, I want... I have sculpture envy. Plus am dying to hear about the trial beds and which dahlia you voted for... Do you have to be "special" to visit the trial beds? I think it is one of the best things the RHS does for us gardeners, I love the way you can download the detailed trial results from the website. Does the sockmobile have special upholstery?

  17. Curbstone Valley Farm - welcome :) I was imagining all kinds of critters in there when I took the photo!

    Janet - everyone can visit the trial beds, but not that many do which is a pity. I'm really pleased that my mentioning them in passing has created so much interest. I'll be posting about them early this week. The Sockmobile certainly does have special upholstery - heated seats!

    Victoria :)


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