Wakehurst Place 29.06.12

There are a couple of good Cafe's at Wakehurst Pace, and by the time we got there they were needed.
Fortunately a half decent cup of coffee (can't give it full marks because as is usual these days, one has to wait in line for an age while a hard pressed staff make cappucino one cup at a time for each of the fifteen people in front of you) revived us. Fortunately modern catering facilities make me laugh. Two identical automatic steel and glass doors on either side of the building. One only opens inwards (but doesn't say that on it), the other only opens outwards (but doesn't say that on it).If I had nothing better to do, I could have watched all afternoon as it perplexed and frustrated the unwary. I digress.

Wakehurst Place is Kew's 'garden in the country', complete with a rather covetable country house. It is sited on a spur of high ground that drops off very steeply into the valley on three sides. The flat centre of the spur is still farmed privately, so the garden is in the shape of a dougnut, high and level on the inner side, and plunging steeply down the valley on the outer.
The circular path around the garden is about 2.3 miles long on paths through mature woodland, mostly quite wild with some more recent exotic planting.
The detailed planting is all close to the entrance and around the house.

In the valley near the house are the alpine and water gardens. This space, entirely devoted to Iris ensata in its many forms, was one of the boldest and most successful plantings I have seen. For a couple of weeks in summer it is quite sensational and it will be as dull as ditchwater for the rest of the year. In a garden of this size it doesn't matter, there is always something good happening somewhere else.
(This picture only shows a small corner of it.)

I think this is the Himalayan Glade. We got a bit lost among the paths. It isn't a problem, because they all lead encouragingly around the doughnut, but because they all curve gently I slowly lost my sense of direction. We only had a couple of hours to explore, and I think there is more to discover on the next visit, now we understand the groundplan.

The outer parts of the doughnut are characterised by these paths along the valley sides, and the big exposed rocks along them.

The Millenium Seed Bank. We were running late and put aside a detailed visit until next time.

It was only as we completed our tour of the site that we found the walled gardens behind the house. This is the most intricate planting on the site and it will clearly repay a closer look on a later visit.

This was the first time we have visited Wakehurst Place and it took a while to understand the layout of the site. It is a very remarkable garden with astonishing potential and I am looking forward to returning.

If you have any comments you can e-mail us: