Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens have been on my ‘must visit’ list for some time.

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens have been on my radar for some time so I was pleased to finally get the chance to visit this month. The gardens are a showcase for what can survive and thrive in our climate. Aside from the favourable climate of coastal Dorset, the gardens have been planted with foresight and windbreaks to create microclimates.

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Traditional path with interesting planting

I’ve had a week of annual leave and we decided to take a day out and make the short trip to Dorset. We make regular trips to Surrey but have never managed to combine the drive past the door with a visit. I’m planning a redesign of the top garden to incorporate more exotic and Australian planting and I was hoping to get some inspiration.

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Gingko biloba hovering over the stream

How to find Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens

 

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.

The gardens are located near Chesil Beach. We turned off the A35 at Bridport and followed the stunning coast road.

Useful Information

Website: https://abbotsbury-tourism.co.uk/gardens/

Entrance: A very reasonable £12.50  per adult at the gate. There are online discounts and RHS members get free entry at the end of the year.

Opening times: Open every day except 18th December to1st January. 10am to 5pm (or 4pm in winter)

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Subtropical foliage

Around the garden

The gardens are organised into smaller areas and some larger ones. The cafe is a colonial-style building built in the old walled garden. There are grass borders, a large woodland area, and some formal ponds.

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Sunny steps

The woodland area was looking great in November. The Acers were stunning and cast a glow over the pleasant walk. There was a great Gingko next to a stream looking great in its autumn yellow.

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Contrasting leaf colours in the woodland

We took the pram and went for a gentle stroll around the grounds. There were some steps and some uneven ground but the paths are well marked and a clear wheelchair route signposted.

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Gunnera alongside the pond

We went on a cool, dry, November day and there were plenty of interesting plants to see. The coffee was great and the facilities were of a high standard and very clean. There is a plant sales area but I was disappointed to see that most of the interesting plants I had noted weren’t for sale. It may be that these weren’t offered at this time of year. The selection there was nice, the plants looked healthy, but there wasn’t anything I can’t get anywhere else.

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Acer in full autumn colours

Notable Plants

One of the great things about visiting gardens is the chance to meet new plants. I always have my camera handy for taking notes and pictures for research later.

I’ve seen Fasicularia bicolor in Australia and more recently at a hotel in Cornwall. It’s now familiar but I can never remember its name.

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Fascicularia bicolor

I think this was the largest Gingko that I’ve seen and the yellow leaves made me stop and stare upwards.

Gingko biloba

The Pseudopanax was well labelled, as were a lot of the specimen trees, and it’s firmly on my wish list.

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Pseudopanax laetus

I had to take to Twitter to find the identity of this plant. The fruit looked familiar but I just couldn’t place it. Thankfully, Dr Dale Dixon from The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney helped me out with an ID. This is also now on the wish list. Luckily Plant World Seeds lists it.

Garden Visit: Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens November 2017. Tropical, Tropical plants, subtropical, subtropical plants, acer, autumn colour, winter day out, winter garden visit, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, Dorset, South West, UK, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Solanum betaceum – the Tamarillo

Other UK Garden Visits

The Eden Project, Cornwall

Sussex Prairie Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

Kew Garden

Garden Visit: Eden Project Cornwall October 2017

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If you’re holidaying in the UK there are plenty of world-class gardens to discover and Cornwall’s flagship is The Eden Project

During a mini-break staycation for our anniversary, my wife and I met up with my lovely gardening aunt for a day out to two Cornish Gardens. We visited the Eden Project in the morning and The Pinetum, which is just down the road from its more famous neighbour, after filling up on a pasty for lunch.

How to find the Eden Project

The safest route is to head towards St Austell and following the brown tourist signs to find the main entrance. Previously we’ve followed the Sat Nav and ended up coming through some small lanes. It’s probably a longer route on the main roads but at least you cant get lost.

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Useful Information

Website: www.edenproject.com

Entrance: an eye-watering £27 per adult at the gate.

Opening times – quite variable within the month. Somewhere between 9-9:30 and closing by 6pm. The biomes open later at 10am. It’s best to check for the day you’re planning on going.

Outside areas

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A view over the two large Biomes

The site is split into a few areas of note. The two main Biomes share a linkway which houses facilities and restaurant. One side is a tropical rainforest biome and the other house is a more arid, Meditteranean-like environment. There are purely ornamental plantings and on the steep slopes at the far end are various food crops from around the world on show.  It’s sold as a full day attraction, and it would have to be for the entry costs, but even with two gardening fans in the group we only managed 3 hours before it was time to move on.

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Sunflower planting in front of the Rainforest Biome

The biomes

The biggest draw is the two biomes. These amazing structures are the real highlights for me. It’s interesting visiting again after living overseas and spending some time in Thailand and Singapore as the rainforest biome. On my first visit the plants we alien to me and I didn’t find them that interesting. Coming back this year they’re now familiar, almost ubiquitous, and I found myself spending more time looking at the foliage and flowers.

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Inside the Rainforest Biome

The temperate biome has a special feature on Western Australia which is an interesting, if small, new addition.

In summary

I’m glad to have visited again as it’s been a good number of years since we were last there. That being said there’s nothing really new to see so if you’ve been in the last 5 years you’re not missing out. For the money spent it feels a bit overpriced, as impressive as the biomes are, it almost needs more here to keep your interest. We also noted that the amount of plant labeling is poor. Where plants are so international and unique you have to have labels to fully appreciate what you’re seeing.

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Grass borders on the slopes

Other UK Garden Visits

Sussex Prairie Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

Kew Garden

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.

Making the most of my RHS Membership with a visit to the partner garden – The Sussex Prairie Garden

I remember seeing the Sussex Prairie Garden on Gardeners’ World in 2015 but had managed to forget it was on my ‘to visit list’. We had a spare afternoon when visiting family in Surrey so made the short trip to West Sussex.

This eight-acre garden focuses on prairie-style plants planted in large drifts through sweeping borders. The site is flat and it has wide grass paths for wheelchair accessible viewing. They have a cafe and terrace on site.

How to find the garden

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Where to find the garden

We took the A24 south from Horsham and onto the A272 where the brown tourist signs start. There’s free parking in a field adjacent to the site.

Useful information

Website: www.sussexprairies.co.uk

Entry Fee: Free for RHS members. £7 for adults with some concessions.

Opening Days and Times: Open 6 afternoons a week (closed Tuesday) 1pm -5pm

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Bendy straws of sanguisorba species

Main Features

  • Main garden with large borders
  • Cutting Garden
  • Tea Shop
  • Terrace
  • House Garden
  • Art Installations
  • Pigs!

Main Garden

The large open site at Sussex Prairie Garden is really impressive. We visited in the late afternoon in September which must be a peak for the garden. The sun was low and lit the borders beautifully. Most of the plants were in full display and the tapestry of colour and texture was a masterclass in prairie planting.

I like this style of planting due to its naturalistic feel and benefit to wildlife. It was popularised in the late 90s by Piet Oudolf and has since become mainstream.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.

Looking back towards the cafe terraceWhilst the borders are wide and generously planted, there are narrower bark paths traversing them so you can get right inside the planting. This makes you feel enclosed and part of the garden. A very neat trick as it’s easy to feel that some gardens are tableaux to be simply observed and not experienced.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Narrow bark paths take you into the wide borders

Garden Structure

Any loose style of planting can appear lacking without a good structure to contain it. I loved the structural elements of the garden for the formality they brought but also as great examples of planting and maintenance. These three Betula trees provide a steady rhythm to the scene and this tree was also repeated throughout the garden.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Betula trees planted for structure

The hedges could have been left as rectangular boxes but the heights varied as you went down the central axis. This made them function as backdrop, concealer and framer all at the same time.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Tapering hedges form structure in the garden
Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Ornamental grasses mimic the line of the hedges.

Key Plant Highlights

There’s always a few new plants to discover when visiting gardens. This time my eye was caught by Sidalca for the first time. This tall and airy plant provided contrast to some of the other, denser, specimens.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Sidalcia ‘My love’

I was amazed to find that this startlingly bright plant was herbaceous. I had assumed it was a semi-tender tree. Apparently, it’s native to America, as are so many of the prairie plants.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Phytolacca americana
American pokeweed

I have a similar Eryngium in my garden but this species has a more upright basal cluster and smaller, more numerous, flowering clusters.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Eryngium pandanifolium forming strong silhouettes

Another bright pink shock amongst the planting was this Meadowsweet relative.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Filipendula rubra, a pink relative of our native Meadowsweet.

I like Rudbeckia, not being one for the common aversion to yellow and orange in a garden, but I have become tired of reading about Goldsturm. My eyes almost glaze over when I see it listed as a recommended plant. Having seen it in this context and planted en masse I might have been converted. I’ve recently sown some Rudbeckia maxima for the garden but if I need a lower growing type it will have to be Goldsturm.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

Art in the garden

Art installations in gardens don’t often catch my interest much, there are plants to be seen after all, and the garden hosts a variety of classes and exhibitions that were placed amongst the borders.

Garden Visit: Sussex Prairie Garden September 2017. Prairie, prairies, prairie planting, perennial, grass, grasses, piet oudolf, american prairie, echinacea, rudbeckia, herbaceous, autumn, autumnal colour, late summer garden design, garden, gardening, west sussex, RHS, RHS partner garden, RHS membership, RHS membership benefits.
The late sun lights the borders

 

I’ll be sure to make the trip to Sussex Prairie Garden again in the future, now I know where it is, but it would be good to see it at another time of year to assess how well the planting holds interest in other months.

Other Garden Visit Posts

RHS Wisley

Melbourne Botanic Garden

Le Manoir aux Quat’saisons

Gardens by the bay, Singapore

 

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,

Taking a look at the Zinnia trial happening at RHS Wisley

As part of my recent visit to RHS Wisley, I made a point of visiting the Plant Trial Beds. These are where the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) plants are trialled and awarded the highest horticultural accolade. This year I was pleased to see the Zinnia and Echinacea trials in full bloom.

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Trial beds at Wisley

The Zinnia trial was planted this year, which makes sense when you consider that they are annual plants in the UK so they can’t run longer trials, and there are 100 varieties on trial. I’ve grown them a few time over the years. I try to find varieties that have bright, clear colours that age well. A lot of the plants on show had a muddy colouring and tend to have unsightly flower heads as they age. If you’re quick to dead-head that won’t be too much of an issue.

If you want to find out more about the current plant trials happening at Wisley then follow this link to the PDF.

RHS Plant Trials 2017-2019 list PDF

 

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
The trial beds at RHS Wisley

Zinnia ‘Red Spider’

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Zinnia ‘Red Spider’

This one had really strongly coloured petals. It’s not the blowsiest of the varieties on offer but I thought the intense blooms were very special. The older flowers still looked good on the plant and it was nice and tall.

Zinnia ‘Zinderella Peach’

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Zinnia elegans ‘Zinderella Peach’

All the plants in the Zinderella breeding program were very strong contenders for my favourites. This burnt-orange flower was such an unusual colour I had to have it. The older blooms have a yellower tinge but they complement the fresh flowers well.

Zinnia ‘Envy’

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’

Envy was a variety known to me before seeing it at the trial beds. The clear, bright white flowers are large and impressive.

Zinnia Benary’s Giant White

Zinnia: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017, cut flowers, cutflowers, annuals, annual plants, drought tolerant, flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, varieties, plant comparison,
Zinnia elegans ‘Benary’s Giant White’

Another white variety is Benary’s Giant White, which has larger blooms than Envy, that has a creamy tinge when they age which is really pleasing on the eye.

In Summary

If I had to choose from the 100 varieties on offer then this group of 4 plants would be top of the list. These can all be grown from seed so you might get some variation. The seed strains for some of the mixed varieties on trial contained good coloured forms but I struggled to enjoy the colour mixings all mixed together. I prefer just one type at a time.

Suppliers

Chiltern Seeds – Chiltern Seed list 25 varieties including all 4 on this page

Plant World Seeds – A local seed producer here in Devon lists 3 varieties.

Higgledy Garden – 3 varieties from a South West seed company

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017

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Picking my favourite varieties in the 2017 Echinacea Plant Trial

As part of my recent visit to RHS Wisley, I made a point of visiting the Plant Trial Beds. These are where the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) plants are trialled and awarded the highest horticultural accolade. This year I was pleased to see the Zinnia and Echinacea trials in full bloom.

The trial is in its second year of three and, for me, there were some clear winners in the patch. I didn’t have any Echinacea in my garden when I visited Wisley but I soon corrected that by buying ‘Magnus Superb’.

If you want to find out more about the current plant trials happening at Wisley then follow this link to the PDF.

RHS Plant Trials 2017-2019 list PDF

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017. Coneflower, prairie planting, prairie plants, american native, american native plants, perennial, perennial plants, drought tolerant, daisy, daisy flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, echinacea varieties, plant comparison,
Echinacea trial beds

Traditional pink Echinacea

When I think of Echinacea the first thing that comes to mind is tall, pinky purple, daisy-like flowers held high amongst a mixed grass border. Their rich, deep pinks are complemented by the central cone that often has burnt-orange tints.

For this reason, my favourite selection has to be ‘Fatal Attraction’ – apparently bred by Piet Oudolf – and has a real quality of colour with strong dark stems. The Sombrero Baja Burgundy (possibly a breeding label rather than its eventual commercial name) had petals that were much closer to a cherry-red. ‘Pink Shimmer’ seemed to glow and really stood out amongst the rest.

White Echinacea varieties

I like the white versions too. They can bring a lighter feel to a border and are a little more restful to look at.

‘Green Jewel’ was white/acid green on the petals and stood tall. ‘White Meditation was a much more compact bush and would suit the front of a border or a pot. The species variant ‘alba’ has relaxed reflexed petals.

Double Echinacea varieties

I’ve never grown the double echinacea varieties and at first glance, they’re a little off-putting. The more you stare the better they get and I think I could get used to them.

‘Catharina Red’ and ‘Elegance’ were the least fussy of the varieties on offer.

For something different

Echinacea: RHS Wisley Plant Trials 2017. Coneflower, prairie planting, prairie plants, american native, american native plants, perennial, perennial plants, drought tolerant, daisy, daisy flower, pollinator plants, good for bees, good for butterflies, wisley, rhs, plant trial, echinacea varieties, plant comparison,
Echinacea ‘Tiki Torch’

I really liked ‘Tiki Torch’ and it is my second favourite variety on trial. The orange is rich and could easily be mixed in a border with yellows and purples and the plants looked healthy.

In summary

These nine varieties are my favourite of all the types on trial. Some of the plants don’t have commercial names yet so are very new. It’s hard to know how well they will perform in a garden setting and how much hardiness and longevity they can muster. A lot of the varieties, particularly those most often flaunted in catalogues as being a colour break, were a disappointing, almost muddy, set of colours. Many had few blooming stems or had flopped untidily.

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017

I’m making the most of my RHS membership for a day out at RHS Garden Wisley

 

As we are members of the RHS we get free entry into the four main RHS gardens. There’s nothing better than a day out to see RHS Garden Wisley and to watch it evolve from one year to the next. This visit was special as it was the first visit for us with our new daughter to the garden.

My last post about RHS Garden Wisley

There have been some big changes around the garden. The new Exotic Garden was top of our list to see.

The new Exotic Garden

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017. RHS, garden, garden visit, horticulture, sunflowers, runner beans, gardening, garden blog, exotic garden, sculpture, plant trials, garden tourism, hortitourism, pumpkins
The fountain sits at the centre of the Exotic Garden

The former rose garden was re-landscaped and planted earlier this year. We saw it in April when the old layout was still visible but the roses had all been removed.

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017. RHS, garden, garden visit, horticulture, sunflowers, runner beans, gardening, garden blog, exotic garden, sculpture, plant trials, garden tourism, hortitourism, pumpkins
Leaves of Amica zygomeris
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Bananas form a grove at the lower end of the garden

It’s impressive to see how much work has been completed in such a short space of time. The garden will fill in and mature over the years.

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Dahlia imperialis in a mixed exotic border

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The main central axis of the Exotic Garden

The site of the new centre for horticultural science and learning

Garden Visit: RHS Garden Wisley August 2017. RHS, garden, garden visit, horticulture, sunflowers, runner beans, gardening, garden blog, exotic garden, sculpture, plant trials, garden tourism, hortitourism, pumpkins
A large planting of pumpkins and sunflowers

At the top of the hill where there used to be a large lawn, is a new planting of pumpkins and sunflowers. They’re informally planted with meandering paths between them. The varieties are well labelled and there are signs showing the different types being grown.

There were kids running around the site, clearly excited by all the different types of pumpkins.

Trial Beds

I love seeing the AGM planting trials that are always taking place at Wisley. I have two special posts looking at the Zinnia and Echinacea trials taking place coming up.

The runner bean trial was interesting as I’m still researching the varieties I’m going to try and grow on the allotment next year. I’m always drawn to edibles that have ornamental value. These two runner beans had large straight pods with healthy foliage and attractive flowers.

I’ve only grown Zantedeschia once; when we lived on the Isle of Wight. It hasn’t really caught my imagination since. That was until I saw these two varieties growing in the trial beds. ‘Montevideo’ had blood-red stems and a fun drooping flower spathe. ‘Sumatra’ had cherry-red spathes.

The glasshouse gardens

I’m on the lookout for new plants to go in the Far Garden at the cottage and we’re looking for bright / exotic plants. I would like some more tall perennials and Rudbeckia maxima caught my eye from meters away.

Other botanical garden visits

Queens Park, Toowoomba

Singapore Botanical Garden

Melbourne Botanic Garden

Queens Park Botanic Gardens, Toowoomba

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The botanic gardens in Toowoomba are a pleasant stop on a road trip

I’ve been traversing the East Coast of New South Wales, Australia, in a campervan with my wife and our dog. One of the many stops was to visit some relatives living in the West of Brisbane. We spent a day heading into the cooler hinterland where a higher altitude brings a relief from the humid conditions nearer sea-level. The higher, more inland, towns of Australia have a feel much more familiar to us Brits and show a wider range of street trees and historic buildings. Waiting for us there was the unexpected Toowoomba Botanic Garden.

Queens Park Gardens

To the East of the main town centre sits the Queens Park Gardens which contain the botanic gardens, playgrounds and cricket pitches.

The highlights were the mature trees and the fountains.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Vera Lacaze Memorial Fountains

These space-ship fountains looked great in the sun. What’s clever is that they’re all different sizes but that’s not so easy to see from the photo. The largest fountain is closest and they get smaller the further away they get. This clever trick of perspective makes them look like they’re stretching away into the distance. Such a clever design trick I’ll have to remember.

Botanical Gardens

The best thing about botanical gardens, apart from the free day out, is the opportunity to get close to some plants you wouldn’t have space for or may never have come across before.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Wollombi Pine (it lives behind a caged enclosure so I apologise for the interrupted view) 

The Wollombi Pine is an extremely interesting bit of botany of recent times. It was thought to be extinct and to only be found as fossilised samples but was rediscovered by chance in the 90s. Its natural location is a closely guarded secret to avoid people raiding the wild population for plants.  More work is being done to understand the genetics at play to inform research and conservation efforts. You’ve got ancient history, botany, science, conservation all unfolding in our lifetime – what could be better?

toowoomba botanical gardens
Grass Trees in a mixed border

The native grass trees are impressive with their soft fibre-optic-like foliage radiating out from the main stem. It can take 100 years to turn into the tree as it’s so slow growing. It adds an interesting addition to a mixed border.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Castanea sativa – Spanish Chestnut

This Chestnut was a strong impressive specimen just begging for a photo.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus tiliaceus – Sea Hibiscus

I always find it funny seeing such large blooms on a tree. A very elegant specimen.

toowoomba botanical gardens
Hibiscus mutabilis – Confederate Rose

This tree looks like a white rose has been on steroids. I had never seen it before.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Singapore Botanical Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Melbourne Botanical Garden

Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

During a recent weekend away to Melbourne my wife and I took a leisurely stroll from the hotel down to the botanical gardens. We have been there twice before but it’s always a highlight of our stays and since this is going to be our last trip for a while we made the most of it.

The Melbourne Garden is one of two botanical gardens run by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. The other is Cranbourne and is a large site to the south east of the city. We visited this two years ago on our way to Philip Island.

How to find the garden

The gardens are a large area of green sitting below the River Yarra that bisects the main city. We walked from the CBD through the open parks to the west and entered at the Observatory Gate which is located beside the Shrine of Remembrance. A full PDF map of the garden can be found here.

Melbourne Botanical Garden map
A tram line runs below the park but it’s easily accessed from the river by foot
Map of Melbourne Botanical garden location
The garden is located to the South East of the CBD.

Useful Information

www.rbg.vic.gov.au

Entrance Fee: FREE!

Opening hours: 07:30 until sunset every day

There is cycle parking at the Observatory Gate as you’re not allowed to cycle around the garden itself. We weren’t aware of this when we first visited and entered through the top gate and spent the morning pushing to very heavy rental bikes around the garden.

Main Features

  • Guilfoyles Volcano
  • Children’s Garden
  • Lakes and Islands
  • Canna Bed Rain Garden
  • Tropical Glasshouse
  • Herbarium
  • Potager
  • Eucalyptus Walk
  • Rainforest Walk

Guilfoyle’s Volcano

Guilfoyle's Volcano Pond
Guilfoyle’s Volcano Pond

At the top of the garden is a cone of planting with a raised pond. This is the where the parks water management system begins and rainwater is collected and managed as it passes through the grounds. It’s a lovely elevated spot for viewing the gardens with the city skyscrapers in the background.

Guilfoyle's Volcano
Guilfoyle’s Volcano at the Melbourne Botanical Garden.

Canna Bed Rain Garden

Canna Bed Rain Garden
Canna Bed Rain Garden

This eye-searing display is planted over a sump that forms the next part of the waterway that eventually leads to the lake. It was nice to see the variety of heights and colours in this genus. Instead of being a utilitarian eye-sore they’ve turned this into a feature to make use of the damp soil. Everyone had their phones out taking pictures and selfies with this backdrop.

Lakes and Islands

A main focus of the garden is the lake where you can take a gondola ride or have something to eat from the cafe overlooking the water.

Lotus in flower on the lake
Lotus in flower on the lake

This is the first time I had seen a lotus in real life. It’s easy to see why they’ve been revered for centuries. Simple yet elegant flowers stand proud of the foliage.

Potager

This summer I will be back in the UK I’m looking forward to starting a new allotment project. This potager garden is great inspiration for an orderly and beautiful productive space. My wife even conceded that a vegetable garden can be pretty as she’s not normally too enamoured with them.

Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Sunflower blooming in the Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Unusual infestation at the Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden
Ordered beds in the Potager at Melbourne Botanic Garden

 Plant Highlights

Mother-in-laws Cushion (Echinocactus grusonii).
Mother-in-laws Cushion (Echinocactus grusonii).

This cactus was growing at the volcano on steep well-drained borders in full sun. It’s also known as the Golden Barrel Cactus (but where’s the fun in that?).

Hosperaloe funifera
Hosperaloe funifera -a mexican agavae relative

Throughout the park there are large flat-leaved Agavae with names and initials scraped in to them. I’m sure someone will find it an interesting urban trend like graffiti but I don’t like it.

Agave
Grafitti or community engagement? This Agave looks abused.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Singapore Botanical Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Singapore Botanical garden 

Singapore Botanical Garden

Holiday Horticulture: Singapore Botanical Garden

My wife and I spent a long morning exploring the Singapore Botanical Garden during our recent New Years Eve city break. As usual when I’m on my travels I like to seek out an interesting garden or patch of nature as an antidote to the city.

This was a warm and sticky overcast day but with plenty of water and lots to see it was a fantastic activity for a tropical weekend away.

Information

www.sbg.org.sg

Entry Fee: FREE!!

Opening hours: 5am until 12 midnight daily

Boardwalk through lush tropical planting
Boardwalk through lush tropical planting

How to find the Singapore Botanical Garden

Map of Singapore
Map of Singapore
Local roads and public transport links to Singapore Botanical Garden
Local roads and public transport links to Singapore Botanical Garden

We took a local bus from our hotel to the Tanglin Gate Entrance at the south end of the garden. We walked through the gardens in a northerly direction and used the MRT (Botanic Gardens stop) back.

Gardens

  • Bonsai Garden
  • Sun Garden
  • Children’s Garden
  • Evolution Garden
  • Healing Garden
  • Fragrant Garden
  • Ginger Garden
  • Orchid Garden (Home of the National Orchid Collection)
  • Foliage Garden
  • Trellis Garden

Main Features

  • Bandstand
  • Swan Lake
  • Botany Centre
  • Heritage Museum

Plant Highlights

Vanda 'Miss Joaquim'
Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’

The national flower of Singapore is the Orchid Miss Joaquim which was bred in the country from bringing together two native species.

Heliconia 'lobster claw'
Heliconia ‘lobster claw’

The exotic Heliconias are bright and eye-catching plants.

Heliconia
Heliconia
Petrea Volubilis
Petrea Volubilis

This climbing plant was seen in the Trellis Garden (designed to show the different ways of growing climbers within a garden). This plant is interesting in that the colour of the blooms intensifies as you get to the end of the panicle.

Mussaenda pubescens
Mussaenda pubescens
Delonix regia
Delonix regia

 

Wildlife within the Singapore Botanical Garden

Monitor Lizard
Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizards roam free through Singapore but tend to stick to the parks and more rural areas. We stayed far enough away not to bother it and not to put ourselves too close to those teeth.

Other Botanical Garden Visits

Phuket Botanic Garden

RHS Wisley, Surrey, UK

Bicton Botanical Garden, Devon, UK

Gardens By The Bay, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

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This could be the most impressive urban garden in the world

Continuing this series of reports about the gardening highlights we’ve experienced during our recent holidays.

The Singapore skyline seen above the Grey Garden
The Singapore skyline seen above the Grey Garden

A highlight of my recent trip to Singapore was a visit to the Gardens by the Bay which has been on my bucket list since I first saw glimpses of it in a magazine article. Singapore is hoping to be a City in a Garden rather than a Garden City. The wider bay is a development on reclaimed land which is a new focus for the city and the site of the New Year’s Eve fireworks. The garden development consists of three larger sites named the Central, East and South Gardens. The most iconic of these is the South Garden with its grove of Supertrees. Since we were only staying in Singapore for a few nights we only visited this garden.

Gardens by the Bay Map

Gardens by the Bay Map
Gardens by the Bay Map showing the Bayfront MRT
Gardens by the Bay Map
Map showing location of Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

How to get to the South Garden

The nearest metro station is the Bayfront station located next to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel complex. From there you walk through the hotel lobby and over a skybridge into the garden proper.

An alternative is to get to the Tanjong Pagar metro station and take the 400 bus which drops you at the garden entrance.

It’s possible to walk directly from the city around the bay and into the gardens. One word of caution though – the distances covered are huge and that’s before you even get in to the garden. Pace yourself.

Entrance Fees

Entry to the wider garden is free. To enter the Conservatories or the Sky walk there is a fee (see below). If you’re looking for a beautiful walk for the day then utilising the free entry means you see the attractions from the outside and get to enjoy the main gardens on a thrifty budget. For those visiting just for the day then the Skywalk and Double Conservatory price is definitely worth paying for a full experience.

  • Skyway SG$8
  • One Conservatory SG$12
  • Both Conservatories SG$20

Garden Highlights

  • Flower Dome Conservatory
  • Cloud Forest Conservatory
  • Skyway
  • Supertrees Grove
  • Heritage Gardens
  • World of Plants
  • Silver Garden
  • Gold Garden

Flower Dome Conservatory

Pyrostegia venusta 'Orange Trumpet Vine'
Pyrostegia venusta ‘Orange Trumpet Vine’

The Flower Conservatory is a temperate zone showing plants from across the world. When we visited there was a Christmas display. It’s odd walking from a hot and humid environment into a cooler and drier conservatory as we’re so used to experiencing the other way around.

This bright climbing plant caught my eye (and my new camera’s lens) as we strolled around. I think I’ll try and source this back in the UK. I’m not sure yet whether it will be hardy enough but it can always be used as an annual.

Cloud Forest Conservatory

The waterfall within the Cloud Forest Conservatory
The waterfall within the Cloud Forest Conservatory

The mountain in this conservatory is planted with sheer walls of mountain plants displaying their variety of foliage types and colours with exotic orchids mixed in. The experience takes you through the levels of cloud forests and educational signage and displays highlight the strengths and threats to these environments.

A living green wall in the Cloud Forest
A living green wall in the Cloud Forest

Supertrees grove

Supertrees Grove
Vertical exotic planting seen on the Supertrees Grove

The Supertrees are designed to draw hot air up and away and collect rainwater for the garden. They are architecturally stunning but also provide planting opportunities. The Heritage gardens are located on a circular loop around the grove.

Bourgainvillea flowering on the vertical planting of the Supertrees
Bougainvillea flowering on the vertical planting of the Supertrees

Skywalk

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay Skywalk

The Skywalk takes you above the gardens for a unique vantage point of the dense planting below. This semi-circle walkway is suspended from some of the Supertrees and gives great photo opportunities of the city skyline.

A world-class display of science and society striving for better

This has to be on anyone’s bucket list but I would especially recommend it for anyone interested in horticulture, gardening, urban development and planning, sustainable cities and architecture.

The grey garden
The grey garden