Wisley Gardens, a plant heaven

As some of you might know, I recently moved to the UK, and now live in a lovely town called Guildford.

About 10 km from Guildford lies the second most visited English Garden, Wisley, which is maintained by the Royal Horticultural Society. Covering around 100 hectares, it’s a lovely place, with many different features…I haven’t seen everything, but I will certainly go again, now that I’m a RHS member! 🙂

The visit begins with the “Laboratory”, an old mansion and its pond with many different waterlily varieties….and a rather proud heron!

After the laboratory, we walked to the “Alpine Meadow”, a gentle hill covered in blooms with scenic ponds and great views over the the garden.

Next to the Alpine Meadow lies the “Rock Garden”, which displays alpine plants, bulbs, or exotics all loving dry and rocky slopes. I particularly liked the pink bed made by these South African bulbs, Rhodohypoxis sp.

Climbing up the hill, we arrived at the “Alpine Houses”, a small but really nice display showing more fragile alpines, as well as cacti and succulent plants (like this bright pink Delosperma cooperii). Aren’t those colours lovely?

Wandering around the alpine houses, we noticed a peculiar smell…that’s the smell of hundred of different rose varieties, coming from the Bowes-Lyon Rose Garden. The pictures are lovely, but you need to go there, take a breath and feel all those scents!

It started raining (ahhh, good old English weather!), so we headed to the gigantic glasshouse, passing through the  “Wild garden”. Despite being carefully planned and designed by the skillfull horticulturalist of the RHS, this is a nice part of the park, which really feels like a quiet and wild jungle.

The “Glasshouse”, which is recent (opened in 2007) is a technological masterpiece, with many energy-saving features. The three zones (tropical zone, moist temperate and dry temperate) recreating climates of the world are connected, with a humidity and temperature gradient from one end of the glasshouse to the other. Here’s a view of the glasshouse and of the lake, which serves as a water reservoir.

The first zone representing the tropical climate, with a temperature of 20-30°C, and a humidity higher than 70% is home to an interesting orchid display, like this wonderful hairy orchid, Pleurothallis amparoana from Costa Rica. It’s also a nice place to see rainforest climbers : the big leaf belongs to Anthurium veitchii (the leaves can actually reach a length of 2 meters!) while the divided leaves on the left side of the picture are those of Monstera deliciosa (climbing on trees, it can grow to 20m high..in the wild of course!).

There is a small pond inside this zone, with the typical tropical bright blue waterlilies, and tropical wetlands flora (for example Papyrus…yes, like the ones used to make paper!, or Colocasia, which gives the root vegetable called taro). And another weird plant, this bromeliad, which grows on a tree trunk and takes its water and nutrients from the moist air.

The moist temperate zone, kept at 8-12°C minimum with a high humidity recreates the conditions found in the cloud forest (high-altitude forests in tropical zones), or in temperate forests (UK, New Zealand…). There is a lovely waterfall which helps to maintain a high level of humidity. The typical vegetation of these forests includes huge tree ferns, as you can see on this pic :

The dry zone shows the vegetation of semi-deserts and arid zones from all over the world : cacti, succulent plants, doing their best to retain water!

Finally, the horticultural theatre displays plant collections with many different varieties, like these Fuschia bells or the multicoloured Streptocarpus.

The “Glasshouse Borders” area is in full bloom at the moment, with a wildflower meadow, and gorgeous perennials arrangements.

A peaceful view on “Seven Acres” lake to conclude this little visit. If you happen to come near Guildford, don’t hesitate, Wisley is a must-see. 🙂

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