My first look at RHS Wisley (this year) – Colourful winter stems, Alpine and Glasshouse finery and more…


I’m fortunate that the vast array of garden landscapes at RHS Wisley in Surrey are a short drive from Teddington HQ and that I can be as frequent a visitor as I am, without ever, ever being bored – there is always something, whatever the season, to delight and inspire.

This unseasonably mild weather (about to properly hit the skids with a decidedly chilly weekend to come) has meant that the Daphne, Camellia, Rhododendron and Witch Hazel have been a colourful and in their turn fragrant feature for several weeks and with this in mind, on this first visit of 2016, steered away from Seven Acre Woods and the meandering paths of Battleston Hill that I traversed just before Christmas.

A bright clear afternoon meant that the temperatures were already heading south, and so after enjoying the colourful twiggery by the lake, took to the Alpine House for a bejewelled tour and then on into the Glasshouse, which felt very much like a holiday, the bright chill supplanted by bright humid warmth.

By the Lily Pond, on my way out into the gardens, is a beauty of a tree, Parrotia persica, which is just beginning to come into flower – in another week or so, it’ll be quite magnificent.




Parrotia persica – Persian Ironwood – closely related to the Witch Hazels, in the same genus as Hamamelidaceae

Parrrotia persica

Below it, a shining example of Pittosporum tenuifolium Tom Thumb

Pittosporum tenuidolium Tom Thumb


DSC_2876Mahonia x wagneri Pinnacle – near the lake – while other Mahonias are long past their colourful best, this one is just getting going. I bought a Mahonia Winter Sun yesterday for a shady spot – it isn’t as big as some (3m x 1.5m) – and hope it will enjoy the difficult plot I have for it, though the ground is good and well mulched last autumn.

Chaenomeles x superba Coral Sea

Chaenomeles x superba Coral Sea – which in a week or so, will be drenched in blossom

Which brings me to the ‘stemmery’, the winter twiggy garden that reflects in the lake – many varieties of dogwoods, willows and rubus planted in distinct blocks and in all their colourful finery.


DSC_2878 (2)

Cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire – a branching dogwood, unlike say, Cornus alba Sibirica which has red stems with few short laterals. Midwinter Fire starts a deep bright gold at the base and works through corals and richer tones to the tips.



Rubus biflorus




Bone white blooms to the arching bare stems of Rubus biflorus and Cornus sericea Cardinal (below)

Cornus sericea Cardinal


DSC_2907Cornus sericea subsp orientalis Sunshine (above) and Rubus cockburnianus (below)


DSC_2917 Acer negundo White Lightening (below)



Rubus cockburnianus

Rubus cockburnianus (above, again)


Salix alba Golden Ness (above)

This is a beautiful part of the gardens at this time of year, and with low sun picking out the intense colours and architectural forms of these arching or branching stems, even more beautiful.

Salix irrorata

Salix irrorata

The Witch Hazels are out in force close by too, in a newly planted bed with Salix irrorata (the bluish-white stems) that develop the most beautiful silky catkins later in the year.



Hamamelis x intermedia Robert (above) and Hamamelis x intermedia Pallida (below) in multiple plantings


DSC_2988Hamamelis mollis Fred Chittenden – as a mature specimen, on the path towards the Glasshouse. I haven’t found out who Mr Chittenden was – nurseryman? – if you know, please do pass it on.

Hamamelis mollis Fred Chittenden


Chimonanthus praecox Luteus

Chimonanthus praecox Luteus (above) and some remarkably happy looking lawns hereabouts too ..


DSC_3029Hamamelis x intermedia Harry

DSC_3031DSC_3107DSC_3115Before plunging into the Glasshouse to warm my chilly bones …

My camera lens, inside the humid zones in the Glasshouse was completely steamed up throughout my time inside and I hadn’t brought a lens cloth, or warmed the glass up beforehand, so the remainder of the space goes unreported (though my ipod was fine and took some pictures which I’ve already tweeted).



Looking back down to the Glasshouse, from atop the rock garden – and on into the Alpine House –



DSC_3145DSC_3148Muscari neglectum (above)

Boophone haemanthoides
Boophone haemanthoides


Narcissus albidus subsp orientalis (above)

Gymnospermium caudata
Gymnospermium caudata

DSC_3155Arum creticum (above) and Muscari macrocarpum (below)


DSC_3159Iris Purple Gem and Crocus korolkowii Kiss of Spring (below)


DSC_3168Narcissus bulbocodium romieuxii (above)

Muscari neglectum
Muscari neglectum

DSC_3170DSC_3176DSC_3253Lachanalia aloides var quadricolor (above) and Iris histroides Lady Beatrix Stanley (below)



Haemanthus pauculiifolius
Haemanthus pauculiifolius

Haemanthus pauculifolius (above) and Crocus sieberi subsp atticus Firefly


Gymnospermium albertii
Gymnospermium albertii

Gymnospermium albertii (above)

DSC_3197Daubenya aurea yellow-flowered

DSC_3202Lewisia cotyledon hybrid

DSC_3203Fritillaria striata

DSC_3223 (2)

DSC_3207Cyrtanthus brachyscyphus (above)

DSC_3215DSC_3220Crocus sieberi var atticus and Arum creticum (once again, below)

DSC_3227DSC_3238Possibly Iris reticulata JS Digt (above)

DSC_3240DSC_3241DSC_3243DSC_3245DSC_3249DSC_3250DSC_3259Leaving the Alpine House as the sun begins to set over the Orchards, from the top of the Herb Garden it is soon near twilight and time to head home… passing a perfect crop of Helleborus argutifolius




and a final footnote, having called into the Plant Centre so briefly, a look again at the Hellebore Terra Nova Doubles, a varied selection of flowers from white to blush pink –

Hellebore Terra Nova Doubles

Primrose Zebra

And finally a primula that I have a love/hate relationship with – I think because from my time at Syon Park, they were bought in their hundreds upon hundreds – while here there are discreet little pockets of them amongst the other selections – Primula Zebra or Zebrina – and just at the moment I think I like it very much!

3 thoughts on “My first look at RHS Wisley (this year) – Colourful winter stems, Alpine and Glasshouse finery and more…

  1. Hello Martin,
    This is a year later, but Hamamelis mollis ‘Fred Chittenden’ is in flower again, and was included in our student ident today…
    F.J. Chittenham was the first director of the RHS garden Wisley, there is a Wikipedia entry under Frederick Chittenham listing his many achievements.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.