RHS Wisley in a Brown Winter Coat

It’s been quite some time since I made a visit to RHS Wisley, so when my friend suggest we went to Wisley on Sunday I was more than happy.  The weather, however, was not on our side and it was drear and dank with that horrible drizzle which is quite wetting.  I have been using my iPhone for taking photos so I decided to give my Nikon DSLR an airing.


After re-fuelling with coffee and shortbread we started in the the Winter Walk  which starts at the Food Hall and takes you pass beds of Hellebores and Witch Hazel (Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Robert’, ‘Jelena’, ‘Sunburst’, ‘Aphrodite’ (below) and ‘Barmstedt Gold’).


Someone said that at the moment the witch hazel looked as though someone has been busy with the marmalade and I had never thought that before but now that’s all I see!

dsc_0071 As I have already mentioned it was a dismal day so the photos are indicative of the low light levels.   We went pass the lake with the impressive different flaming colours of the Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow).



We called into the magnificent glasshouse, as did most people, wanting to get out of the rain.  Wisley was definitely wearing a brown winter overcoat with the pillars of brown leaved beech standing tall through the grasses. .


The minute we entered the glasshouse, frustratingly, my camera lens misted up so I had to resort to my iPhone.  Going into the butterfly section was like entering a children’s playground and a buggy show, it was packed (no exaggeration) with double buggies and a fair share of crying children!

It is still too early in the year for most of the butterflies but there were a lot of the beautiful Blue Morpho.  Most were feeding with their wings closed so capturing their open wings showing why they are called blue, was not that easy.


The Glasshouse Border, based on an original concept by the Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf, was also an abundance of brown, looking even darker because of the wet day.  Lots of structure was there still, and I expect a return in February will see it all cut down.


This was the view from the rock garden, again lots of brown, but we could see tiny green shoots of bulbs coming through  – signs of Spring.

We paid a visit to the Alpine House and were a bit bewildered by the array of narcissus all looking the same but actually different varieties. The only difference we could see was a slight variance in shade.


RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, is open all year except Christmas Day an.d is free for RHS members.

Monday – Friday 10am-4.30pm Sat – Sun & Bank Hols 9am-4.30pm

The Butterflies in the Glasshouse event – starts 14 January.



Osborne House, IoW and Coleus Overload

I recently had a wonderful and happy weekend on the Isle of Wight with my cousin.   We took the bus on Saturday morning to Osborne House, owned by English Heritage, the holiday home of Queen Victoria, which later became her reclusive home following the death of her husband Prince Albert.

The house is in grounds planted with many specimen trees sought by Prince Albert and makes for a very pleasant walk along the drive to the front of the house, which is painted a pale ochre yellow, I wonder if it was that colour in Victoria’s day?  It looks cream in the photos but was quite a strong colour in reality, and one wall was covered in Daddy Long Legs (Crane fly). They must have been attracted by the colour, thinking there was pollen to be had.

Prince Albert was involved in the Italianate design of Osborne House, as well as the gardens which include terraces at the rear of the house, facing the Solent.  As I walked around the corner of the house to the Upper Terrace I was knocked back in horror by the strong dark colour of the formal bedding set in geometric patterns.   This is one garden where I can honestly say that I did not like the planting in this area.   Each bed was formed of concentrated rings of different planting,  framed with tightly packed Coleus (horrid – Coleus overload),  with dark leaved Dahlias, and in the centre were very dark purple Perilla (which I particularly disliked in such large amounts) with the only redeeming feature being the Sunflowers still, surprisingly, in full flower.

We are lead to believe that the planting on the Upper Terrace is in keeping with the type of planting that Prince Albert and Queen Victoria would have had in their time.   Queen Victoria wrote in her journals of plants such as roses, stocks, heliotrope, jasmine and orange blossom.

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It was a relief to look beyond the Upper Terrace to the Lower Terrace.  Here it was much kinder on the eye, especially with  the grounds beyond sweeping down to the Solent with Portsmouth and Southampton on the other side of the water.   It is with no surprise that Queen Victoria loved Osborne, the view is spectacular.  I don’t expect, however, there were as many little sailing boats during her time.   It was somewhat hazy, and later in the day the sun broke through.

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We walked down the hill towards Queen Victoria’s Private Beach.   She loved to bathe and the children spent many happy hours playing on the beach.   In July 2012, the beach was opened to the public and here you can see her Bathing Machine.   Prince Albert, a man with very strong beliefs, thought that bathing in the sea was very healthy and had the bathing machine installed 1846 so that Queen Victoria could partake in the healthy experience.   The machine ran on tracks down into the sea, so that she could emerge from it straight into the sea.

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As I stood looking out to the sea I tried to imagine all the Royal children running up and down on the beach, collecting pebbles and shells and swimming. I could almost hear their laughter and chattering, just like any modern child having fun on the beach.

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Down here, also is a cafe, selling drinks, ice-creams and cakes, always good news as far as I am concerned.  What would Queen Victoria and her family have made of a cafe on their private beach.    I expect, though, that they may have sat on the grass with a picnic once in a while.

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We ran out of time and sadly didn’t get to visit the Walled Garden, which I have been to before.   If you get the chance to take a trip to the Isle of Wight, either by ferry, hovercraft or catamaran, of all places to visit may I suggest that you find time to visit Osborne House.   Give yourself about an hour to walk around the house, which is fascinating, but also make sure you have time to go to the beach.

Opening Times: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/osborne/prices-and-opening-times