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A Walk in the Park – Attingham Park July

Here we are back at Attingham Park for another wander, this time to see what is going on in the walled garden and woodland pleasure gardens in July.

We arrived in the rain and carried on regardless. Foliage was glossy with moisture because of the steady drizzle, and large puddles had formed on the path.

 

The gardener’s cottage garden gave a little colourful cheer to the day, and water droplets hung on flowers and berries. The heritage rare breed cattle in the field at the start of the track ignored the drizzle and continued tearing at the grass heads down.

 

The walled garden gave protection and the day began to feel a little warmer as the rain stopped.

    

The beautiful, recently restored, vintage glasshouses are now becoming productive with melons, grapes, tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers.

   

We particularly liked the amazing textures of this melon and its subtle mix of greens.

 

As we entered the gardeners’ bothy we could instantly enjoy the fresh uplifting aroma of bunches of freshly picked lavender, and the sight of simple flower arrangements and freshly harvested lettuces.

   

After taking in the sights, scents and sounds offered by the walled garden we continued on our wanders, following the One Mile Walk trail.

 

Come with us as we take you along this track in a gallery of photos. As usual click on the first and navigate with the arrows. We will return for another wander in August.

 

 

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The Botanic Garden of Wales in the Rain – part one

We have come to love visiting gardens in the rain. We put up the brollies and huddle together for protection and just defy the downpours. But on a November day at The Botanic Gardens of Wales the rain was so heavy it beat even us! It was horrendous! This beautiful piece of sculpture managed to glow out in the gloom. It looked like the bark of a tree or the structure of ivy climbing a wall or …….. whatever you wish.

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We did though enjoy a little time in the rain but soon escaped by making for the magnificent glasshouse. The glasshouse emerges from the gently sloping landscape like an armadillo. On this visit it was barely visible against the low deep grey clouds.

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Once inside, the curving lines spanning overhead immediately drew our eyes upward. When architects get greenhouses right they can be dramatic and powerful but still gentle and full of beautiful curves. This is one of the best we have ever visited if not the best of all. It looks so good from both inside and out. From the outside it emerges from the countryside as if it is meant to be there, enhancing the undulation it sits on. From inside it cocoons the visitor in an atmosphere of warmth and greenery.

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The plant life housed there sits happily in micro-climates made for them. Greenhouse often seem to contain big blousie blooms with too much colour and all full of drama but here things had a subtle beauty. Very stylish. Often the colours were very delicate.

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Bright colours weren’t altogether absent though with plenty of fiery oranges and gaudy pinks. We were taken aback by the size of this Leonotis as it soared to over head height alongside the path. At home in our garden we get it to grow to about two feet tall.

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Blue flowers are often not a pure blue but these definitely were as blue as could possibly be.

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We enjoyed studying the foliage here as much as the flowers, with so much variation in size, colour, texture and shape.

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This Robin was enjoying reading the info on this sign but we were more impressed by those signs which relied on simple symbols demarcating each zone.

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We were amused when we came across this warning triangle, not the usual red unfriendly type found on roadsides but a green edged warning that gardeners were at work. The gardeners were very friendly ones too!

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After wandering around the giant glasshouse absorbed in the beauty of plants from around the temperate world we deserved our lunch break. We shared our break with our red-breasted friend who seemed to have followed us from the glasshouse.

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Some original and colourful craftwork graced the foyer. This piece was created using broken pottery shards. Join us in part two when we braved the heavy rain for as long as we could.

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Aiming for a year round garden – late spring.

It is only a few weeks since I published my post looking at our garden in early spring, but it is time for another look to see how we are doing where our aim of trying to establish a year round garden is concerned. It is amazing how much has changed in that time.

Come for awalk with me and my camera!

Let us start in the front garden with a look at our gravel garden, The Beth Chatto Border, where we find the brightest of colours radiating from various Euphorbias. In sharp contrast a near black Iris crysophagres has flowers of the darkest indigo.

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In the other borders in the front garden the last of the spring bulbs mingle with the earliest of the herbaceous perennials.

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The Shed Bed also rings with the colour of Euphorbia and the newly revamped water feature gives a gentle bubbling sound for us to enjoy. This water feature is created from metal objects we dug up when we first made the garden and we have now planted miniature Hostas and different varieties of Tricyrtis around it. The view down the path to the chickens is framed by the richest of blues of the Ceanothus. The little slate border by the shed is displaying the first flower on our Tulbaghias along with the tiny pink blooms of the Erodium. In the insect hotel a pair of Dunnock have built their nest just a few inches above the ground and about 6 inches from the path.

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The Freda Border is full of every shade of green punctuated by the pale blue of the Camassias. Nearby in the alpine troughs and crates the Saxifragas flower like myriads of tiny red gems.

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On the opposite side of the house the Shade Garden, the only part of the garden which is shaded, looks lush and lively.

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Moving along from the Shade Garden towards the back garden we wander through the Seaside Garden and into the Rill Garden.

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From the Rill Garden we can take the central path past the greenhouse, where Jude aka Mrs Greenbench or The Undergardener, is busy tending her hundreds of seedling veggies, annuals and perennials. It is a very productive place!

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Turning left just past the greenhouse the borders surrounding our small lawned area are bursting with late spring colour and fresh growth.

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Just off this lawned area we enter the Japanese Garden with its pool which is an essential element of any oriental garden but here it doubles up as a wildlife pool.

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We can wander along a gravel path back towards the central pathway and along the way we can look at the Prairie Garden on our right and the Bog Garden on our left.

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In the Bog Garden foliage predominates with Hostas, Ligularias and Rheum purpureum. One flower worth a close up look is this stunning Primula which sadly we don’t know the name of.

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A glance over our shoulder gives us the chance to look back over the pool towards the Summerhouse.

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On the opposite side of the central pathway we find the Chicken Garden and the Secret Garden both now still full of colour from spring bulbs but bursting with the burgeoning growth of the herbaceous perennials.

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Wandering back along the path towards the shed we can appreciate close up the beauty and complexity of the Camassia flowers.

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Our little Slate Garden is colourful now with Auriculas and Primulas in full bloom.

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So there we have it –  a gentle wander around our garden in early May. It all looks very different now just a few weeks after my early Spring post. The next post in this series will be in early Summer when I guess we can look forward to even bigger changes. I shall finish this post with a photo of the Ceanothus that kept getting blown out of the ground root and all during the gales of Winter. But just look at it now! It illustrates just how resilient plants are. It has a sweet scent that welcomes us whenever we go to the shed to pick up the tools we need in the garden each day. Sadly I am not sure I like it when it flowers so heavily.

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Three Winter Gardens – Part Two – Cambridge Botanic Gardens

We had never been to Cambridge before. Lots of people told us it is just like Oxford its parallel university city. We decided to put things right and find out for ourselves so spent a few days there. One day we spent in the University Botanic Gardens where we were keen to explore the winter garden as we had heard good things about it.

We were pleased we decided to visit both Cambridge and its botanic garden as we enjoyed both immensely. The Botanic Garden was good enough to make us plan to return in different seasons. If a garden impresses in winter then it will at any time.

So for part two of my “Three Winter Gardens” we shine the spotlight on Cambridge. Look out for a post in the near future looking at the rest of the garden in winter too.

We knew we were in for a treat for within the first 20 yards of our walk after passing through the gate we were mystified by a couple of plants we did not know.

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Luckily they were both labelled and I shall say what they are in my post about the gardens in general but first off to the Winter Garden. We were particularly keen to see this seasonal patch as it had been created in 1989 so now it is well established. Many gardens now boast winter borders or winter gardens and we have even created one on our allotment site in the communal areas, but these are mostly immature.

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Trees and shrubs give the impact in any winter garden often as here at Cambridge they are birches and willows.

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We were particularly impressed with the use of ground cover, an aspect we have not used very well in our allotment version. We were to learn so much and go home full of enthusiasm to develop effective ground cover in our allotment’s winter garden. Ivies, periwinkles and hellebores added so much. We already use hellebores but not ivies and periwinkles but they present so many opportunities, with all the varieties in leaf colour, variegation and shape in ivies and flower colours in the periwinkles. Bergenias and grasses together worked well in other places, because of their unusual foliage colours and contrasting leaf shape.

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This was a very effective colour combination which in any other season probably wouldn’t have worked. Daphne mezereum and Forsythia Lynwood. Of course the daphne also provided that other essential of any winter border – sweet scent. The sweetest scent of all came from another Daphne, Jacquelin Postill.

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The coloured stems of coppiced and pollarded Cornus (dogwoods) and Salix (willows) have to star in any winter garden and they certainly did here along with Rubus.

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Two gems worth a special mention are the winter flowering iris and the wonderful leaves of Arum italicum marmoratum.

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I shall finish with this photo looking back at the gently curving path through the winter border. The third of my winter garden visits will be to Anglesay Abbey, probably the best known and most polular of all the winter gardens in this country. We shall see if it deserves this accolade.

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Aiming for a year round garden. Part One – The Winter

Over the last few years we have worked hard planning to make our garden look and feel good all year round. So today I took a wander with camera in hand to see how well we had done so far. See what you think. Are we getting there?

Of course flowering bulbs come into their own at this time of year and we now have a wide selection of crocus, muscari, miniature narcissi and Iris reticulata throughout the garden. Grasses are of equal importance but only recently have they been accepted as an essential element of the winter garden. The first photo shows how well our Pony Tails Grasses contrast with the foliage of Hebes. In the second crocus team up with grasses to create a great combination of colours and textures.

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A have a soft spot for celandines, enjoying the glossy yellow native plant that lights up our hedgerow bases as well as the cultivated bronze leaved Brazen Hussey and the “Giant Celandine” in the photograph below.

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Euphorbias are another of those families of plants that are all year round essentials in our gardens but at this time of year their new bracts glow on overcast days. Foliage is perhaps more important than flowers in the winter garden as it provides variations of colour, pattern and texture. Phormiums, Heucheras and grasses are most effective.

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Scent can play its part as it pervades the calm air and delights us as we wander with the thought of brighter warmer days. Daphnes, Sarcoccocas, Cornus, Mahonias and Viburnums all perform well in our garden.

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Textured bark on our trees in our Spring Border looks especially good in winter light. The peeling orange bark of the Prunus serrula and the birch is like slithers of brittle toffee.

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Hellebores star in most gardens in winters since so many wonderful easily grown specimens have become available in most garden centres and nurseries.

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Here some of our many hellebores  are twinned with coloured stemmed cornus and salix.

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Any flower brave enough to appear in the winter is worthy of mention be they primulas, witch hazels, pulmonarias or bergenia. They would perhaps seem quite ordinary if they flowered among the stars of the summer garden but in the winter they are extraordinarily good garden plants.

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A recent discovery is the shrub Drimys with its red stems, glossy green foliage and buds looking fit to burst into life.

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Structures such as our cloud pruned box hedge that lines our central path become much more important and noticeable in the emptier garden of winter. But we hope our garden is now richer in this the coldest and darkest of our seasons.

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We must not forget the role our feathered friends play in adding colour, sound and movement to our garden in winter.

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Part Two of our search for the all year round garden will consider our garden in Spring. Signs of that season are already giving hints of what is to come such as in the buds of the quince fruit tree.

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A Garden Bouquet for August

It is time I took up my camera and took photos of the delights our garden has to offer. This is a particularly important set of photos as we have decided on August 3rd as the date we are going to open our garden for the National Garden Scheme next year. We keep looking for gaps or places in need of improvements be it little tweaks or bigger tasks such as re-laying our main central path in the back garden.

So I went off around the garden with my zoom lens attached to see what’s what in our patch. As it panned out there was so much to see in the back garden that all this month’s photos were taken there. Please enjoy the journey and feel the damp, cool morning air which acted like a soft lens filter giving a delicate misty blue atmosphere to some of the shots.

In the “Shed Bed” the delicate china blue flowers popping out of the spiky spheres of the echinops provide sustenance for our bees and the apple tree trained over an arch will provide sustenance for us. The odd white flowers come from the gentle creamy colours of the hydrangea heads.

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Our tulbagias continue to flower in the new slate garden close by and above them the purple sedum foliage hangs from the old gypsy kettle on our old ladder.

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There are lots of plants to look at around the end of the greenhouse where the vine is dripping with grapes awaiting late summer sun to ripen them and paint them in purple and black. The Quince vranga tree has a few fruits hanging at the tips of the branches and the soft pink curled flowers of Sanguisorba “Pink Elephant” brighten the border below.

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In the long “Tree Border ” this lilac flowered clematis is dripping with flowers and the thornless blackberry is heavy with young unripe fruits.

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The Secret Garden and the Chicken Garden are at their best, blooming brightly with the cordon apples full of ripening fruit acting as a backdrop, many of which are just beginning to develop a flush in their cheeks. The Shropshire Damson tree overhangs one border and its deep purple fruits are weighing down its branches so heavily that the fruits look like they are reaching out to hold hands with the flowers.

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A few new plants are waiting, still in their pots, in the Secret Garden while we decide where to plant them. They seem to be the colours of citrus fruits!

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Along the central pathway our pears are close to their peak picking time. As I pass each day I look longingly to see if a couple are ready. Surely this is the ultimate gardening experience, eating a juicy, scented pear still warm from the sunshine just seconds from leaving the branch. The few plums look sad and lonely – from all four cordons we have just one clump of fruit. A poor year!

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In the greenhouse the tomatoes are producing prolific amount of fruit in shades of yellow, red and purple. We are picking and enjoying them daily and adding some to the store of produce in the freezer. In the late autumn we shall make them into chutney coupled with our onions and apples.

From the greenhouse door I can look out across the “L Bed” and the “Long Border” through an arch draped in richly scented roses and a delicate china blue clematis. This is a herbaceous clematis rather than a climber, but it does enjoy a good scramble over everything in its path.

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This strange fruit is a heritage cucumber called Booths Blond, which Jude the Undergardener tells me is very tasty. I don’t eat them, they are one of the few fruits and veggies I don’t enjoy. This variety certainly looks very different to the long straight regimental cucumbers sold in supermarkets.

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We have been concerned about the lack of butterflies and bees this year but recently they have come back in good numbers. Honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees are all feeding furiously on any simple flowers. The butterflies are particularly tempted by the buddlejas and the marjorams. We garden with wildlife in mind particularly in the choice of plants we grow. Our flowers tend to be simple and  open, just the sort preferred by pollinating insects. We rely on our insects and birds to look after our garden for us. We garden totally organically relying on wildlife to do our pest controlling and pollinating of our crops.

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As I am writing this the sky is full of House Martins and Swallows gathering together in readiness for their long migratory journey to the African continent. There they will find flies to feed on while here in the UK the insect population will disappear with the onset of winter. These acrobatic flying little birds seem to be celebrating a good English summer!

In the shrubs and trees warblers and titmice are busy feeding up after a period of moult. August and September are when we tend to see our warblers, Willow, Garden and this year even a Grasshopper Warbler. Chiffchaff and Whitethroat tend to be with us most of the year.

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Two Welshpool Town Gardens

June’s Hardy Plant Society garden visit took us to two little town gardens. The first garden was truly tiny and the second slightly less tiny. They were perfect if very different examples of what it is possible to achieve in such small spaces. The secret to them both was wriggly paths leading the eyes and feet around to discover hidden secrets.

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The tiniest of the two had planting at all levels from tiny specimens right by your toes to trees above your head and the borders were full of unusual plants. Little surprises.

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The gardeners here even found room for an alpine house, a fruit cage and a couple of little water features.

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Humour is essential in any garden however small.

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Humour reigned supreme in the second garden we visited that morning. There were interesting arches, grottoes, seating areas all surrounded in lush planting.

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Hidden throughout this little patch were containers planted up skilfully to give surprises wherever we turned.

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Deep in the heart of this little paradise we came across a cool enclosed garden where we found ourselves in for a real treat – a little glimpse of the Far East.

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This garden was tightly fitted within a group of houses close by the town’s main church and occasionally we caught glimpses of these other buildings through the foliage.

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Atop one of the many little outbuildings lived a very healthy and happy green roof.

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This was a very special garden – a place to relax and become engulfed in plants. In the afternoon we met again as a group to enjoy a very different garden in a very different setting. We found ourselves out in the open high up on a hillside with big skies above a wide view. This garden features in my next post.

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The Gardens of the RHS Part Six – Orchids at Wisley

The new Centenary Glasshouse at Wisley is one of our favourite, regular places for visiting and enjoying.

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In our September wander we made several detours through its big sliding doors and into its warm, dry interiors as thunder storms threatened to periodically drown us. We always enjoy the glasshouse plants but Jude the Undergardeners favourites have to be the orchids, although here she is admiring a Passionflower.

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If we visit any garden with orchids hardy or greenhouse varieties she is drawn to them. But I don’t complain – they are unbelievably beautiful, the blooms richly coloured and eccentrically shaped. Here under the protection of Wisley’s glass roof they flourish.

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With such a stunning, varied and comprehensive collection of orchids what glasshouse could wish for more?

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Wisley Part Five – The Centenary Glasshouse

I promised you a sample of the delights of the RHS’s Centenary Glasshouse, and here they are.

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Usually in glasshouses the flowers are the stars of the show so just for a change let us begin by bringing foliage to the fore and letting leaves revel in the lime-light.

Foliage in all shapes, sizes, textures, markings and colours are to be found around every corner.

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Now for the flowers!

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The Gardens of the RHS Part 1 – A Tour of Wisley

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The Royal Horticultural Society is probably the most important, most well known and most influential gardening society in the world. We are lucky to live in the UK where we have access to their own gardens and to their recommended list of gardens open to the public.

Last Year we enjoyed visits to three of their four gardens, Rosemoor in Devon, Harlow Carr in Yorkshire and their main garden Wisley in Surrey. The one we didn’t get around to seeing was Hyde Hall in Essex – maybe later this year.

In this series of posts I shall share our visits with you. We naturally begin with their main garden, Wisley. There is so much of interest to gardeners that I shall post a blog each day this week based on different aspects of Wisley. Hopefully these will provide a little respite from the cold and wet. So please enjoy my Wisley Week.

Perhaps we had better start with one of the classic Wisley views. Then I shall share a few views to give a feeling for this special place.

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These huge sloping double borders were designed by the great Piet Oudolf. We saw them first just as they were planted when it was mostly soil dotted with little young plants all raring to go. Every visit we make to Wisley we head for these borders to see how they have developed. Over time they have been altered with some plants replaced with more effective, more appropriate ones. They are now at their peak. See more of Piet Oudolf’s borders in a future post “Meadows and Prairies at Wisley”. DSC_0094

The recently built Centenary Glasshouse is a work of art in itself, one of the finest examples of garden architecture to be seen anywhere at anytime. Look out for the future posts, “Orchids at Wisley” and “The Centenary Glasshouse at Wisley”, to see what is going on under all that glass.DSC_0095 What would a visit to Wisley be without a gallery of plants?

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In my next Wisley blog I invite you to share a selection of sculpture which was displayed around the grounds at the time of our visit.