Still time to go on Wisley’s Winter Walk

Laura

If you’re already a member of the Royal Horticultural Society you’ll know that besides its internationally renowned Chelsea Flower Show each May, a more permanent jewel in its crown is the RHS garden at Wisley, just off the M25 in balmy south-east England – and luckily a manageable drive from my house. I’ve been visiting for over 30 years. Today it’s  reputation makes it a magnet for Londoners looking for a horticultural fix and the RHS has responded by continuing to invest in this truly phenomenal garden.

The new visitor centre taking shape

I’d love to keep you up to date with the latest £160m development there and share some of the ‘trending’ horticultural innovations that flow from the creativity of its young curator Matthew Pottage.

Wisley Garden is a series of garden habitats which are constantly evolving and I will bring you a taste of each in turn over the coming year.

First up – let’s explore the new ‘Winter Walk’ – still looking good now at the end of March. 

Wisley has always had a stunning collection of winter coloured stems, visible from the main restaurant and luring you out in the Seven Acres.

A symphony of cornus, salix and rubus stems, or if you prefer, dogwood,willow and bramble.

Clever positioning highlights the colour contrasts which seem to intensify as the winter progresses:

Cornus ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ blazes against the backdrop of a ghost bramble.

The RHS’s recently reported research showing that it does these shrubs no harm to be left a little further into spring before hard pruning has meant that we have had even longer to enjoy the vibrant colours this year, and some are now starting to break buds into some stunning catkins:

Salix hookeriana just breaking bud.

Wisley have now had the good sense to turn the asset of their winter stems into a full blown winter walk stretching from the cosy restaurant to the heated glasshouse in so linking the two places that it is nice take refuge in on a brisk winters day.

Massed plantings of the very best plant choices greet you along the way, firstly hamamelis, pumping scent out like you wouldn’t believe.

Massed hamamelis – all the best cultivars.

These are followed by the sumptuous Hellebore ‘Anna’s Red’

‘Anna’s Red’ – one of the best hellebores.

Further on clumps of the early Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ nestle against white birch bark.

The incomparable ‘Katharine Hodgkin’

And sheets of another of the early dwarf Iris ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’

The redoubtable ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’

Then a sight (and scent) you don’t often encounter in such profusion – a veritable copse of Edgworthia chrysantha 

Edgworthia chrysantha and friends

In the distance banks of white heather are providing vital early nectar for bees, and I know from studying this heath close up in my own garden that it is bumble bees that find this plant irresistible.

Bumble bees foraging on mild sunny days

If you plan your winter trip to Wisley cleverly you can time it to include a visit to one the many specialist society shows that take place there, as I did last February, dropping into the Cyclamen Society Winter Show, a great way to round off your visit.

Caution please – experts at work

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