The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Glasshouse Borders at Wisley

The Glasshouse Entrance with Beech Columns in Grass and Garden

New Tom Staurt-Smith Plantings

Stuart-Smith Bed with Carex muskingumensis along Beech Hedge

Glasshouse Border Designed by Piet Oudolf. Salvia in the Foreground and Sambucus nigra 'Gerda' in Flower Beyond.

Pholmis tuberosa 'Amazone' with Veronicastrum Waiting to Bloom

A River of Molina caerulea 'Transparent' With Red Foliage of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Calamagrostis brachytricha and Sanguisorba menziesii Provide Texture Before Bloom

The Best of English Gardens tour began yesterday with a visit to Wisley, the flagship garden of the RHS. A new glasshouse has been completed since I last visited in 2007. The Glasshouse Borders, designed by Piet Oudolf, had already been installed when I was last there. I was impressed at how the new gardens surrounding the glasshouse designed by English gardener Tom Stuart-Smith complimented and transitioned from the Oudolf borders so well.

The Glasshouse Borders are a pair of deep gardens that flank a central grass panel leading the visitor from the highest point at Wisley down to the new state-or-the-art glasshouse. The plant palette is typical of Oudolf and is planted in rivers that diagonally intersect the central grass panel. Pholmis tuberosa 'Amazone', Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple, Cornus kousa var. chinensis and Salvia x sylvestris 'Dear Anja' were the primary plants in bloom yesterday.

The new gardens designed by Stuart-Smith embrace a semicircular pool adjacent to the glasshouse. Near the entrance to the Glasshouse, he designed a series a rectangular panels of lawn and herbacous plantings punctuated by tall geometric beech columns. The beech theme is repeated in the low sweeping hedges that follow the curves of the paths and beds around the pool. The gardens are planted in interlocking drifts in a style very reminiscent of the Oudolf.

Tom Stuart-Smith's planting is a bold, yet simple, design that seamlessly transitions to the Glasshouse Borders and is an indicator, in my mind, of Stuart-Smith's respect for Oudolf and lack of ego.


  1. Michael, you're right: that ability to collaborate or to work within the framework of another's expression, is rare. I've enjoyed these photos and hope you all have a wonderful tour.

  2. Hi Faisal,
    I was very impressed by the design and the collaborative spirit. We still have a full week and I am looking forward to it!

  3. Just a few days and I leave for England. I'm not going to be able to make it to Wisley this time so I am glad I can visit it vicariously through you. Did you get to see the trial beds? That was one of my favorite things.

  4. Kaveh,
    I did get to the trial beds for a short time. We only had about two hours at Wisley. I could have spent a full day there easily. Enjoy your trip. Looking forward to hearing about it. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Michael, what a wonderful post! I will have to make sure to see Wisley on my next visit. Those beech colunms are amazing!

  6. That mass of Carex muskingumensis along the beech hedge is striking. There appear to be some perennials interplanted in the carex. Can you identify some of them? Thanks for this glimpse at Wisley, you lucky man.

  7. Michael, how lovely to see the Stuart-Smith borders so lush! I was at Wisley (for the first time in years) in April, and they were really just coming into growth. His work is always so interesting. Glad you liked the Oudolf borders too - I had heard that the RHS were finding them a problem, and had to keep replanting them...
    Enjoy the rest of your tour!

  8. Helen,
    Glad you liked the post. I'm having a blast. Tomorrow is Hidcote!

  9. James,
    There are definitely other plants that are interplanted with the carex in a style you will be familiar with at the High Line. I think it may be a pholmis but I am not sure. You would reallt like this planting, I'm sure.

  10. Jill,
    Nice to hear from you. The Stuart-Smith borders have filled in nicely. I saw the Oudolf borders in 2007. They still look good to me. Maybe they are filling in holes each year? Thanks for the comment.

  11. I liked your last comment.
    He does come across as 'without pose' I think which I respect.
    And any designer worth their salt respects context.
    Enjoy your trip!

  12. Robert,
    I am having wonderful time. Being in context is a great way to look at it. Thanks, as always, for your comment. They always have some new insight for me.



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