The Glasshouse Borders at RHS Wisley – masterly and painterly, then – and now.


August 2015 this was, though these border will have evolved rather than been altered wholesale. The fruit mount I think is improved with alternating swirls of lavender and rosemary where earlier plantings have never been entirely successful. But a delight to spend some time wandering through these borders, down the wide grass sward to the planting around the lake and glasshouse. My opportunities to get there are limited at the moment for all kinds of complicated reasons, but I take pleasure in looking back at these images and look forward to revisiting soon. These borders in particular only improve as the season moves on, so I shan’t be disappointed if I have to wait for a few months. In the meantime, enjoy.


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….

IMG_1130.. perhaps taking a break on the bench, uncharacteristically empty despite the holidays and the throng of families elsewhere on the Alice in Wonderland trail…

Persicaria amplexicaulis Firedance
Calamagrostis x acutiflorus Kark Foerster
Perovskia atriplicifolia Little Spire
Veronicastrum Fascination
Sanguisorba Red Thunder


Sanguisorba Red Thunder
Sanguisorba Red Thunder
Sanguisorba Red Thunder

IMG_1175Some 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.

IMG_1193IMG_1196IMG_1197IMG_1226IMG_1230IMG_1231IMG_1214IMG_1221IMG_1207IMG_1200IMG_1218IMG_1211IMG_1182IMG_1222The 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.

Rudbeckia maxima
Echinacea purpurea Ruby Giant
Allium giganteum, Stipa gigantea and the blue of Eryngium tripartitum


Allium Ambassador
Allium Ambassodor
Love this river of Eryngium x tripartitum running through the grass….

IMG_1285IMG_1292IMG_1293IMG_1297IMG_1295IMG_1302IMG_1310IMG_1307Achillea Coronation Gold

IMG_1311IMG_1317Phlomis russeliana (above) with Verbena bonariensis (below)

IMG_1327IMG_1328While 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.

IMG_1125Wild Carrot

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