From a vantage at the top of The Mount, looking down towards the lake and Glasshouse, these double borders mix perennials and grasses with stands of shrubs (like Cotinus), planted in ribbons that hop across from one side of the grass to the other. Well, you know this since I’ve come back to these borders time and again so I shan’t repeat myself here. The design is deceptively simple though it looks like there really is no design at all.
Later in the year, there is real drama, as the grasses take on gold tints and the ribbon design becomes more apparent. From this viewpoint it looks a little, well, dull. A shaft of sunlight would have helped at this point perhaps.
Climb down from the spiralling Mount and take a closer look….
.. perhaps taking a break on the bench, uncharacteristically empty despite the holidays and the throng of families elsewhere on the Alice in Wonderland trail…
Some rather beautiful, impressionistic effects are created, the silver Eryngium giganteum Silver Ghost and blue Perovskia are key to this, but the gauzy Gaura (Whirling Butterflies), Echinacea and Phlomis are important elements too.
The balance of individual elements in the design has changed since its initial planting by Piet Oudolf, as plants thrive or fail, battles and skirmishes are won and lost, ground gained and advantages given up (you get the idea) and there is an ongoing management of these borders by the RHS team which take it away from the original design. But it works and will only get better, as the season moves on into Autumn – and as the seasons go by year on year, new effects will present and I will watch them with interest.
At the bottom of this double feature sit the Glasshouse Borders wrapping around the lake – the older ribbons of planting that caress the lawn lapping the water’s edge and play up and down the shallow sloping site – and the wilder gravel garden which has been more recently developed.
It is the gravel garden that I explore this week.
Phlomis russeliana (above) with Verbena bonariensis (below)
While I complained that another garden here at Wisley lacked structure, with overblown planting, there is no apparent order to these latter beds at all, but the effect is completly different and very successful. Planting is more sparse and the colour palette more mute with spots of colour. Paths meander and there are tributaries of these paths through the planting, on gravel, that might not even be paths but which beckon you on into the middle of the planting. Always a new vantage point to gain, planting combinations to line up, see through, round, over and into the landscape around, or contrast against the uncompromising outline of the Glasshouse, or to take in the reflections of sky on water.
Beautiful. There must be a management regime – to keep the right balance and mix of plants but hard-growing is prerequisite for many of these inhabitants and benign neglect must feature in there somewhere.