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.


We can’t sit around here all day feeding robins


IMG_0030 IMG_0018 IMG_0015 IMG_0007 IMG_0002 photo 3 IMG_9991 IMG_9987 IMG_9981David is home for a couple of weeks and the children are still at school (they break up tomorrow), so we took the opportunity today to do something they object to strongly – we visited a garden. We used to take them to visit gardens at every opportunity when they were little and had no say in the matter but these days they groan and roll their eyes and the older two flatly refuse to come. We can sometimes persuade the youngest but even she’s starting to turn. As a result we haven’t spent a day out at a garden for ages.

Wisley is a place we know very well. When we lived nearby, we’d go there for a weekend stroll and a mooch around the plant centre; it was a place we’d take visitors; I’d often meet up with friends and our babies/toddlers for the day; I worked as a volunteer in the Trials Department once a week for about three years. We both love the place and miss it, so we set off in the car this morning for a much-needed garden-fix and day of happy memories. I took loads of photos (under a flat sky and in dull light but they give you a taster) and we checked out all our favourite spots and the new planting schemes. One bed was being entirely dug over by about 10 gardeners, all plants carefully removed into crates and buckets – there’s a problem with bindweed in several of the borders apparently. One guy looked as though he was digging down to Australia, all in search of a pesky bit of root. Even in RHS gardens there are no short cuts.

We sat on a bench to eat our lunch and were entertained by a toddler chasing moorhens, another attempting to uproot a sapling and an extremely bold robin interested in our food. The time flew by. We could have spent at least another couple of hours wandering about and a fortune in the plant centre (we restrained ourselves to some seeds and bargain narcissi) but we had to tear ourselves away to beat the rush-hour traffic. The kids are all away on a school trip in May so we’ll be back again soon.