Wisley. 10.06.14

Summer has arrived at Wisley, as comforting as a warm teapot, and we have arrived with it. Gloria has travelled like a Wandering Albatross over the Surrey seas to bring us safely home-from-home.

The front of the Laboratory building sizzles with diligence like an ant on a summer flagstone. Gloria says that I am insane and I ask if it is more than usual. She agrees that nothing has changed and that she was simply making conversation which is not her strong suit. We laugh, partly at ourselves but mostly at eachother.

We have arrived in Philadelphus season and the scent pervades the garden. We find them around every corner, seeing them long after we know they are there. They have a fruity scent, like tinned pears. Gloria doesn't really remember the war but she remembers the end of rationing. She says they smell of the fear of unfamiliar foods.
Whatever the truth, they are in full bloom and they set the character of the garden today and make the roses smell dull.

Summer has brought the succulents out from their winter fastnesses. These Aeonium make an informal hedgeling above the trials field. There is little chance that they will survive the winter, but Aeonium are expendable. Sooner or later they will outgrow the space that they justify in a greenhouse and this is a useful and honorable way to die.

Dracunculus vulgaris thrives on the warm sandy soil of Battleston Hill. Here it has formed a close association with a Hydrangea. Nowadays we have come to call it the Dragon Arum though as a girl I remember another name and Gloria has said that if I use it she will pull the plug out.

The RHS have arranged a magnificent trial of Foxgloves. It is wonderful to see the new varieties grown together and it demonstrates that in decades of breeding nothing of great significance has been achieved. There are some colour breaks and some additional flowers on the spikes but nothing in the trial can hold a candle to the banks of white Foxgloves growing under the trees.

The Alpine House is feeling the impact of summer, and it is a tribute to the skill of the Alpine team that it continues to house a spectacular display of small wonders. The metallic shutters are pulled down and remind me of the day Gloria went to get a tan on a sunbed to prepare for a holiday in Greece. She returned wrapped in a survival blanket and plastered from head to foot in barrier cream. The following morning she shed her entire skin in a single piece. We found it in the bed after breakfast, and Gloria as pink as a flamingo.

A day at Wisey is always filled with delight, and travelling with Gloria is a pleasure that I rarely mention. These borders of seed grown perennials designed by James Hitchmough are a stimulating challenge to expectations. We always seem to walk away laughing among ourselves. This is the spirit of the summer garden, and if you can't laugh at other people in summer you have become ridiculous.

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