a french garden

Wisley in the wet

28 Comments

I am visiting the UK at the moment and last Tuesday my son asked if I would like to go anywhere.  The idea of going to the RHS Garden Wisley to see how the Magnolias were getting on was very appealing.  The Royal Horticultural Society call Wisley their flagship garden and it is situated between Cobham and Ripley to one side of the A3 in Surrey not far from the M25.  Not an auspicious location but you forget all about that once you go in to the gardens.

Magnolia bud

The Magnolias were indeed opening.

Magnolia

Some of the trees were breaking bud in abundance.

Wisley

Over a long view you can see the mixture of leafless trees and shrubs in flower.

Rhododendron (Golden Oriole Group)

Rhododendron (Golden Oriole Group)

The Rhododendron were also providing colour.

Rhododendron schlippenbachii

Rhododendron schlippenbachii

But I had come here to see what Magnolia were in bloom.

Magnolia stellata

Magnolia stellata

The Magnolia stellata was pristine.

Magnolia stellata 'Jane Platt'

Magnolia stellata ‘Jane Platt’

And flouncy.

Magnolia cambelli

Magnolia cambelli

And all the Magnolias that were blooming were magnificent.

Stachyurus chinensis celina

Stachyurus chinensis celina

But of course at Wisley you can see some things that are more unusual.  This small shrub growing to only two metres produces its flowers in winter to late spring.

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Edgeworthia chrysantha is another small shrub I would love to have in my garden.  It has perfume and flowers at this time of year and is related to Daphne.

Osmanthus x burkwoodii

Osmanthus x burkwoodii

Another beauty I would like to add to my garden.

Pyrus calleryana 'Chanticleer'

Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’

Time was passing and the clouds were gathering when I caught sight of a tree in the distance that had an immediate appeal.  I photographed it and then checked on its name.  I was so surprised that I had admired the same tree in France but in the autumn when its leaves were a stunning red.  I was delighted to have seen it in the spring too – and still looking stunning.

Wisley

Wisley

‘The rain started and we decided to head to the cafeteria for lunch.  As the doors to the cafeteria opened the smell of baked potatoes and something else (soup?) rushed out and I veered away without looking at the source leaving my son to fend for himself in the hot food queue.  I grabbed a scone and joined the queue for coffee to be joined shortly by my son with a sandwich wrapped in clingfilm on a tray.  I drew my own conclusions about the choices of hot food.  After paying it was obvious that the place was completely full with no seating available but luckily a break in the clouds allowed us take our tray outside as it was a mild day.

Wisley it such a magic place but their self-service cafeteria inside the grounds lets them down badly.  I would recommend coming equipped with a picnic or using the expensive  restaurant.

Silver birch

Not wanting to end on a sour note, my son wondered if the white bark of the silver birch was intentionally polished by the gardeners as the lower trunk is whiter than the higher reaches.  Perhaps it is just polished by the hands of the many admirers that pass by and stroke it lovingly?

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Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

28 thoughts on “Wisley in the wet

  1. That is a place I’d love to visit. The Stachyurus chinensis is something I’ve never seen or heard of. It’s really unusual and I wouldn’t mind having one.

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    • I liked that one too. There is a small plant sale area at Wisley too. I consciously avoided it this trip as I have flown over this time and as I have no will power, where plants are concerned, I was worried I might buy some and leave them to be picked up on a later trip. Amelia

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  2. Human grease is indeed like shoe polish . . . eventually it forms a tough shine that is difficult to clean off.

    Very nice place to visit, but don’t get the implied dislike of hot food . . . or is it just English food?

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    • I don’t like smelling hot, mixed food before I even see it. Food smells can be delicious individually but mixed odours that may have been hanging around for some time are not good. I think the design leads a lot to be desired. Ventilation of food cooking/holding areas? Sufficient comfortable seating areas for clients in a climate known to be inclement? Probably you will not understand living in the States where organisation and customer service was amazing even 30 years ago. Amelia

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  3. That’s it. I simply must have a yellow rhodedendron. They like acid soils. They like mixed light and, best of all, the deer don’t like them.

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    • I could never have any as I am on limestone and I don’t like trying to grow plants where they are not happy as there are plenty others to choose from. They have lots of Rhododendron at Kew but they are just starting, like the Magnolias. I hope I haven’t led you astray with the taxonomy as I quoted the names as given, they may be more commonly known as Azaleas. It is not a plant I know much about and I don’t know where Rhododendrons stop and Azaleas begin. Amelia

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  4. I have been admiring magnolias during my lunchtime walks. The flowers are gorgeous but don’t seem to last that long, or does it depend on the species?

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    • It does depend on the species but also on the weather. Some years virtually all the Magnolias can be spoiled in the UK by a combination of excess rain and freezing temperatures when the buds open. This year is looking good for them so enjoy! Amelia

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  5. I can highly recommend the Osmanthus. Very attractive shrub, lovely scent. Mine died in the winter of 2011-12 though. I assume from cold (it got down to -27C in some places here).

    And yes, the gardeners probably do wash the birch trunk to make it more white. Lots of gardens on show do this.

    I was a member of the RHS for years but never made it to Wisley. Kew, on the other hand, is a great favourite and one of the most exciting places on Earth.

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    • I love Kew, which is great even in the coldest winter as you can always pop into the glass houses for a warm-up. The Osmanthus is on my wish list but I will probably wait until autumn to get a bare root one. Amelia

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  6. Apart from lunch looks like a great visit, we planted some Chanticleer pears last year and they are just blossoming, not quite as fabulous as Wisleys though!

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  7. My turn to say ‘you were at Wisley and you didn’t pop by’? Lovely pictures. I was there a couple of times the week before and shot practically the same things!

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  8. Stroking the bark – what a lovely thought… Shame about the cafe, but nice to see all those Magnolias in bloom. I shall be watching my neighour’s tree which has a very sheltered position and rarely gets nipped by late frosts.

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  9. Lovely pics from a place I would enjoy visiting. I think the yellow rhodo is my favorite. Love that pale shade in the spring.

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  10. Nice to see the Magnolia campbellii, it looks in peak condition. As for cafeterias, I have had similar experience in the recent past with National Trust properties, it’s a problem.

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  11. Looks lovely. Despite the rain. RH

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  12. thanks for the “garden tour”! Nice photos.

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