One of the great treats of a spring visit to the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley in Surrey, where I’ve just been, is a look at the Alpine House. In fact there are two glasshouse displays of rock plants and alpines: one in which plants are grown in a rocky landscape and a more traditional display of alpines and dwarf bulbs in pots plunged in sand. Having worked for some years in the equivalent department at Kew, I especially enjoy the traditional display.
Under the expert supervision of Paul Cumbleton, whose special personal enthusiasm is pleiones, the range of plants on show is impressive. They’re beautifully grown and the whole effect draws people to marvel at these small but spectacularly colourful plants which often need the greenhouse more for protection from excessive moisture than protection from cold. Sunny helps out as Supervisor of Rodent Control.
The traditional display is supplied from a range of behind-the-scenes greenhouses, and in particular the large and generously stocked Roy Elliott Alpine Supply House. Roy was a legendary and influential grower of alpines and his family and friends, together with the Alpine Garden Society, donated this facility which was opened in his memory in 1991. This area is not open to the public but the finest plants are chosen from the supply house for public display. Dwarf bulbs, cushion alpines, dwarf shrubs and delicate climbers like the entrancing nasturtium-relative Tropaeolum tricolor are brought together in an endlessly fascinating display.
And although spring is the most colourful season, the displays are worth a visit at any time for year and it’s lovely to see the pretty foliage patterns and flowers close-to in the raised beds at every season. The display houses are surrounded by delightful raised beds and, just, a few yards away is the huge rock garden. Set aside plenty of time for your visit.