A good day

Mowed grass design at Wisley Salvia and bronze fennel Pink rose Tall alliums against roses and hedge Allium and peony View at RHS Wisley Phlomis The old laboratory at RHS Wisley Evergreen shrubs for topiary Candlabra primulas Wild meadow with willow edging Alliums Peony

My son is home. The dog gave him her special howl of happiness that she only does when her very favourite people are all together in their pack. There’s a mountain of bedding and clothes that need washing, boxes of books and bags of shoes. He’s already surveyed the contents of the fridge, cuddled the cats, commented on how lovely it is to be able to use a clean toilet and is now lying on his bed surrounded by suitcases and boxes. Happy. I’ve put a chicken in the oven to roast and we’ll have that in about an hour with new potatoes and salads, followed by scones with clotted cream and fruit. He’s been existing on pizza and skipping lunch and needs feeding up.

David had the bright idea that we should go and collect him today via the RHS garden at Wisley for a wander and a reminisce and coffee and cake en route. I didn’t need much persuasion. We used to live about 30 minutes away and would visit regularly when the children were small. I also volunteered here for a couple of years, working once a week in the Trials Department, and I also surveyed all the model gardens as part of my garden design course. I pretty much knew every metre of the gardens in detail, specific plants, views and buildings. But it’s changed quite dramatically since our previous visit about 4 years ago. There’s a major new visitor ‘experience’ (opening tomorrow, so the signs said), with a new plant nursery and various other attractions. All the model gardens have disappeared(!) and there’s construction work for a new plant laboratory, world kitchen garden and learning centre.

When we first used to visit with our babies and toddlers, we’d be among the youngest visitors by far, there was always room in the car park and you could easily wander round and not see many people. It felt like a horticultural haven where only Very Keen gardeners went. Today, there were car park attendants in hi-vis jackets, several overseas coaches, loads of people of all ages, lots of children running about, an outdoor music and dance performance going on for smaller children and a real sense that the garden was a destination, a great attraction. If it gets more people outdoors, looking at plants and enjoying all the benefits, I’m all for it but the place seems to have lost a little of its charm. Maybe there’s no place for charm at the forefront of horticultural progress.

Anyway, it was still possible to get photos without people in them of gorgeous plants! Alliums. Alliums everywhere – tall ones, taller than me, short ones, enormous globes and vibrant purples – all buzzing with bees. Glorious. And sumptuous peonies and roses whose scent hits you before you round the corner and clock them. There are still delightful touches here and there – a mown design in a patch of perfect lawn, lovely hooped hazel or willow (not sure) edging alongside the meadow. It was certainly a treat to spend a few hours here soaking up plant inspiration before collecting our boy and bringing him home for the summer.

Right, I must get that dinner on the table. Hope you’ve had a good weekend.


11 thoughts on “A good day

  1. It’s been about five or six years, I think, since I was last at Wisley, although I have driven past it on numerous visits to Portsmouth. I keep meaning to return but it just hasn’t happened yet! I know what you mean about the crowds: I’ve felt that with the National Trust properties – I’m torn between being pleased for the NT and wishing everyone would go away, to let me wander in peace!
    I hope your son has a lovely summer. Alex is home now and Harry’s home on Friday. Back to shoes abandoned in the hallway, wet towels draped haphazardly and a lack of food in the house: excellent! X


  2. How lovely that your son is home. I am trying not to dwell on student bathroom conditions… RHS Wisley looks beautiful, but I know what you mean about things becoming a ‘visitor attraction’. It has happened to the wetland bird place that we go to sometimes. It used to be just serious birdwatchers, but now it’s got big children’s play areas indoors and out and is much busier. Hopefully along the way it will encourage a new generation of people who care about the environment, but I agree about the charm. It has also lost some of its uniqueness. Hope you have a lovely time with your son. I love that the dog is happy too. CJ xx


  3. Glad you enjoyed Wisley – lovely photos. Hope Thomas enjoys some wonderful home cooking. I’ll be in touch later this week xx


  4. Your sentence my son is home really resonated. Mine is 49, and just dropped by after running an errand near us. It was lovely to see him spontaneously and it made our day. I went to Wisely years ago with my mum, it was a lovely outing. Enjoy your time with your son. My alliums have just started to open and I am enjoying them, forget me nots, alliums, dianthus are in bloom. Spring is late in Winnipeg this year. Lovely photos, I enjoy your blog.


  5. Great to see your photos of Wisley Sam. I used to live about 10 minutes away and joined the RHS in 1994 as it was ideal for a crawling exploring baby. Later we made the most of the excellent holiday activities for children. I recall the bug hunts with entomologists and microscopes and the Storyteller Fiona Collins who nowadays regularly pops up in the Guardian Letters Pages talking about all sorts connected to children and literacy. Your post also reminded me of all the ‘courtesy stops’ at Sissinghurst en route to Canterbury with my daughter who coincidentally is now living in Reading. Had the best day at Great Dixter last Monday, attending a Meadow Study Day with Fergus Garrett. The day was as much about biodiversity and habitats as it was about plants which was ideal for me. Two years into meadow-making and it is looking good with glowworms our most recent visitor. Thank goodness for all those years of allotmenteering on the wild side – as it has given me a healthy and laissez faire attitude to moles, rabbits …. Hope your wrist is fully recovered and wishing you a lovely summer with the children. Sarah x


  6. Has it become too commercial now perhaps? It can be hard to soak up atmosphere when there are lots people together in a place. It does look beautiful though. Lovely to have your boy home and I love the thought of Cassie doing her Howl Of Happiness xx


  7. Lovely photos. Looks like a lovely, peaceful place to visit. Some of those meadow pics were so serene, it made me want to lay down in the grass and take a nap. You’d never know there were lots of people there. Thanks for sharing your photos.


  8. I remember going with friends and all our kids to the Botanic Garden and the Zoo. The kids would mostly play with the gravel in the paths while the parents sat on benches and tried to overcome their sleep deprivation. Gorgeous photos from Wiseley, especially the Salvias and red Primulas. Sounds like you had a delicious dinner – made me hungry to read about it.


  9. Such a lovely garden Sam! I love Alliums too and I have actually just planted more in my garden. It would have been lovely to have your son home. Roast chicken is so grounding and homely isn’t it?


  10. I think it is sad the model gardens have gone, I found them and the ones at Rosemoor very inspiring. The RHS need to be carful that in their rush to modernise they don’t for get why they exist.


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