Indian summer

piet-oudolf-border.JPGWhat a cracking day. Blazing sunshine about 20 Celsius; one of those Indian summer days which just feel so inspiring for people who feel they have lost their summer too early. And to get in the right gardening mood, I have spent most of the day at the Royal Horticultural Society Wisley Garden. Only a 45 minute drive from our Knightsbridge flat. Which is odd, as it takes me about that long just to battle through the traffic north to the allotment.

I wanted to get a good autumn look at the Piet Oudolf borders that are in the garden; and I am so glad I did. First of all it felt like a pilgrimage to be seeing a planting design that I have been reading about in one of my books. But also it was a salutary lesson in the live state of gardens. In the book they are divineĀ  and in proportion and neat. Well, as neat as the Natural Planting style gets. But now a few years on you can see how the borders have developed.

img_0535.JPGAnd there are huge successes, but also some odd sights.. It doesn’t look like anyone has taken a pair of secateurs to any part of the border. The rudbeckias are way too large, some of the gaura bushes are trying to escape into another part of the garden altogether, and many of the Echinacea plants and the Heleniums look tragic at the end of their season. But many of the grasses are absolutely divine, and very inspirational. And the entire border is very bold indeed. I wonder what neat gardeners think of them.

I took heaps of photos, but they wont show up too well as the sun was just so glaring and I only arrived there at 10am (the second the gates opened).img_0506.JPG

I stalked off up to the fruit and herb gardens, did a lap of the show gardens, stuck my head down the traditional English borders (bursting with late summer treats) and then ended up photographing almost every grass variety in the grass borders outside the restaurant. Too early for lunch, I went into the lovely little library and devoured the extra books on designing with grasses that I haven’t on my desk already.img_0527.JPG

I think I have narrowed the choices for the bank down to two (or three) designs.

A single block planting of prairie dropseedĀ  Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)
A single block planting of miscanthus Gracillimus (Maiden grass)

gracillums-design.JPGprairie-dropseed-sized.JPGNaturally I wanted to buy examples of each grass to show David and give them a winter trial in the garden to see if they are hardy. The books were not unanimous on their hardiness. I think Marsanoux is Zone 7 on the hardiness chart that was developed in the United States, and some books said the prairie dropseed was only hardy to zone 4, but others said 8. But the sample of miscanthus was enormousĀ  too tall really to take on the train; and I couldn’t find any drop seed. I did bring back another small pot of another grass (sorry the name escapes me) and it’s lovely. But I need to do more hunting. We are off to Ponteland this weekend and I want to stalk about the Dobbies garden centre and see what they have.

I couldn’t resist buying five small euphorbia plants. The Wulfenii variety, it is about six months too early to be buying such things, but you can’t really escape a great plant shop empty handed.img_0472.JPG

I also bought 120 crocus snow bunting bulbs. Tiny little things; but they are the ones that Christopher Lloyd preferred at his garden at Great Dixter. Plus six Regal lily bulbs, two packets of verbena bonariensis seeds, Echinacea, nicotiana sylvestris and black paeony poppy seeds. And ten more allium purple sensations. Not sure where I am going to put them. I really have to come up with a grander garden plan.