Trials and titillations at RHS Wisley after lockdown

I love RHS Wisley. I will always credit the garden and the teams who manage it with truly opening my eyes to horticulture. When I’d booked my ticket to visit after months of covid lockdown, I was incredibly excited to be back. And it’s changed so much in so many positive ways in that time.

The new centre for Science and Learning has appeared out of nowhere and will be a fantastic asset for everyone. Settling in nicely too is the new welcome building which – I know some weren’t sure about at first – I have to say is definitely better than what existed before. If anything, I make my customary way to buy a coffee and pain au chocolate faster now the entrance is closer to the cafe.

Normally I rush toward the trial field (above) as it’s one of my favourite bits but this time I went for a leisurely stroll around the garden first. The whole of the south east has been incredibly dry this year and although Wisley hasn’t escaped this, it still looks marvellous. I found it particularly interesting seeing which plants were revelling most in the dry conditions around all the gardens.

In the end, I did make it up to the trial field to take a look at the trials I am taking part in and others. The echinacea trial – overseen by Richard Eborn – is really interesting because it put to test once and for all a group of plants that many people struggle with. Now a few years in, the real troopers are becoming obvious.

As you can see below, it will be a case of last echinacea standing as so many of the cultivars simply haven’t survived. There are many reasons for this, largely – I find – to do with the breeding. I have best success with species echinacea, as well as the white and green flowered cultivars ‘White Swan’ and ‘Green Jewel’. Provenance also seems to play a part as ‘Fatal Attraction’ has died for me multiple times from various nurseries but three I bought from Scampston Hall, experts in echinacea, have survived now on my allotment for three summers.

I’ve covered this before on my blog but the aim of the trials is exactly that, to trial as many different cultivars available to the public to test their suitability for gardens. The RHS then gives any that deserve it (there may be none) the Award of Garden Merit (AGM). Where you see a plant with AGM next to its name, you can be sure it has been grown by experts and then reviewed by a further panel of experts on that genus or species. Trials can last for a number of seasons to really put the plants to the test.

On the trials field I found my favourite display of the day with these beautiful pots. There are also some fun meadows for taking selfies if you’re that way inclined… I’m not massively but here I am:

Other trials worth seeing right now were the Hibiscus and Crocosmia trials which have some stunning specimens. Having not looked at these groups of plant in great detail I found them very interesting to review.

Elsewhere, things were feeling positively Australasian.

Borders looking spectacular.

A lovely woodland walk full of hydrangea in or coming into flower.

And the tropical garden now going at full pelt.

But the question remains, are gardens art? Well, Wisley seems to think so and I do too! Check all of this out at RHS Wisley by booking your slot now. I found it all run really well and I felt very safe walking around the gardens able to easily social distance.

On a side note, I was pleased sustainability at the fore with the shop full of bamboo and peat free fibre pots, promoting peat free compost and selling lots of organic fertilisers in prime positions. With recent events around diversity, I also made a mental note of all of the people who were visiting and I was pleased to see a good mixed diversity of visitors. I’ve always felt the RHS was open and welcome to everyone and I’m glad to see that appears to be the case.

3 thoughts on “Trials and titillations at RHS Wisley after lockdown

  1. What a fab post – thank you. Not all of us are out and about so much yet, so this is welcome view of Wisley and what is happening there. Wonderful!

    And thank you for confirming that every time I have lost an Echinacea, it may not have been ALL my fault. I love them but they don’t seem to reciprocate, apart from my one purpurea (not a sexy cultivar) which looks the best it has ever looked this summer.

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