Wisley. 11.04.13

The Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley can always be relied on to produce the best of the season. The day started cold with grey skies and the possibility that things could turn to rain (or worse) at a moment. As meterologists might say, the glasshouses are a small pocket of air from the south that is very welcome in uncertain times. I noticed over breakfast that Gloria was wearing her dry-weather sandals. It is a silent but emphatic statement that she has no intention of trudging over field and fen today. If I wanted to explore the floral possibilities of Battleston Hill then I would be spending the day making small-talk with myself.

Sometimes the laboratory building sparkles above the waterlily canal. Today the tired dark skies were drowing in the waters of despair. In extremis one could throw oneself into the pool of oblivion from the bridge, but what woud be the point. It is barely a foot above the water surface. Gloria tells me that I should be cheerful, so of course I am.

It was clear from the outset that the outer parts of the garden were still in the grip of winter. This splendid Stachyurus chinensis flowering on the south wall of the laboratory was in full flower but there was little to see in the way of Rhododendron or Camellia. The grass paths had welcomed the little splash of water we have had this week and set a challenge that might have defeated Wellington(s). We hastened to warmer climates.

Phaius tankervilleae is an enormous fellow, the great flower stems shoot up to five or six feet before the flowers open. Gloria photographed one last year by standing on a chair but it wasn't her finest moment (she would be the first to say so). This one was displayed at a convenient height for a Gloria-sized person, a convenience that Gloria exploited to its full extent.

When it was first planted the succulent area of the glasshouse struggled to match the majestic environment. A decade of unrestricted growth has worked wonders. Parodia leninghausii is rarely a thing of beauty in a pot but here it has grown to a size that suits the surroundings.

There are some lovely Strelitzia in the collection, 'Kirstenbosch Gold' is one of my favourites. The flowers are a shade paler than the typical form and the difference is telling. This plant grows better every year and if I were asked to choose between taking home a small photographer in sandals or a similarly sized golden Strelitzia then I'm sorry to say I would tuck the cab fare in her pocket and be off. It would all be fine, Gloria has the homing instinct of a hungry pigeon, she would be home in time for cocoa.

What a pleasure to find a chocolate tree in full flower. These innocent looking blooms will develop into fat orange pods containing the cocoa beans. They are squeezed and roasted and ground for many weeks before they become Belgian chocolates but it is a worthwhile labour. I will have to purchase a small box for Gloria if she is to forgive me for threatening to leave her behind and take off with a new bird of paradise.

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