November 5, 2011

My Own Little Wisley

When I built my greenhouse ten years ago, I was inspired by the raised sand beds at Wisley. What is Wisley you ask? Wisley is The Royal Horticultural Society garden and greenhouses in the United kingdom, famous for many horticultural delights, but mainly for their alpine house displays - special greenhouses designed with raised sand plunge beds, ( beds of sand, where clay pots are plunged to their rims so that they are kept at a perfect temperature and moisture wicking). These sand beds hold seasonal displays of alpine plants and bulb plants which are rotated through from other growing areas

Potted plants at Wisley are kept in alpine houses and cold frames, but when they are in peak bloom, they are pulled from the other houses, and placed in a sand plunge bed, in a display house. Look at a sample of their displays this week here. My house is no Wisley, but it does provide a sample of what they can grow ( and I have a staff of one).

A Massonia jasminiflora bulb, which I have had for three years, is almost ready to bloom (finally). This South African native is a rarer form of the Massonia genus, than the one most collectors, collect. I know, most of you have not heard of Massonia, but they are more familiar to those who grow South African bulbs and sometimes those who collect succulents. More on this species in a week or two, once it blooms.

I always admired the Wisley alpine house displays in photos ( I have yet to visit), and I am one of those crazy people who if I won megabucks, I would not go to Vegas or Hawaii, I would travel the world and collect more unusual plants and build a custom designed glass house to keep them in. When I built my current greenhouse, I found these metal sand plunge beds in England, so I ordered them and I use them regularly for my own little indulgent displays. ( I know, even more crazy, but hey, I admit that I am more than a little obsessive about such things ).

On weekends, I like to walk through my greenhouse, and pull the best looking plants to set in my display beds. It's a little sad, because no one sees them but me, but since I only get a few hours a week in my greenhouse, I try to enjoy every moment. Hey......I make up my own rules.

A pot of Crocus medius blooms in the sunshine. This autumn blooming crocus looks like it has a virus, which is not uncommon from stock grown in the Netherlands.

This is one of the rarest plants that I have, a bulb, also from South Africa. Strumaria unguiculata. When it is mature, it will have magnificent while umbels of flowers. I am growing it in pure sand, and have been cultivating it for 6 years.

Lydia enjoying some cabbage stems as I clean the garden after our snow storm last week. Looks like a pipe.


  1. I love it. I can't wait to have a greenhouse so I can create my own little Wisley. I saw the old alpine house at Wisley back in 2004 but I believe they have built a new one since then. Just saw Kew's new alpine house this past May and it was rather neat.

    Looking forward to the Massonia blooms and are those fancy botanical garden grade plant labels I see on some of your plants?

  2. hopflower10:55 PM

    Anyone who has to have Wisley explained to them is no gardener and does not deserve to know about it. I love Nerines.


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