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Wisley's Alpine Diary
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Wisley's Alpine Diary

This entry: 30 July 2009 by Paul Cumbleton

Log 53

Wisley's Alpine Log

By Paul Cumbleton

Log 53... 30 July 2009

Providing an eye-catching display in the Alpine House on 364 days a year is a challenge and the high summer months of July and August are the most difficult for us. Most of the things we grow have either already done their thing or are awaiting autumn glory. So it is difficult to provide a lot of colour in the house right now. Instead we use plants with fine foliage or structure. While this means the house is a lot greener in summer, it still has plenty of interest.

The area shown above is largely a mixture of ferns and saxifrages. Below is an area where small hostas and a Petrocosmea also mix well with ferns:

The house is not entirely without colours other than green. One or two late campanulas give a little blue and an Ipomopsis still has some striking red flowers:

Another corner of the house:

You will notice Sempervivums in the above picture. These are invaluable to us at this time of year and we put a lot of them out on display. While their flowers are not especially spectacular, the leaves can be so colourful and architectural. Here is just a small selection of ones currently in the house:

Above: Sempervivum ?Flamingo?

Below: Sempervivum ciliosum


Above: Sempervivum ?Director Jacobs?

Below: Sempervivum ?Koko Flanel?

One thing none of us had expected to see in the house was this visitor:

This young Grass Snake had panicked a foreign visitor who came across it and did not know if it was venomous or not. When I assured him it was harmless he joined with the rest of us taking photos of it. It soon slithered away down a dark drain hole outside to escape the attention.

In a bed just outside the house is Convolvulus cantabricus. From warm, dry places in southern Europe, this is a delightful, perennial, non-invasive member of the family. The stems all radiate out from a single central, woody rootstock and bare pink flowers up to 2.5cm wide.

Also in pink, but softer, the flowers of Crepis incana are always popular with visitors whose expectations before seeing this plant are that all ?dandelions? are yellow:

In previous logs I have mentioned that as well as the alpine areas, our department also tends the Monocot Borders. This and other plantings in amongst our alpines extend the range of plants we care for. Two things at their best right now are the Agapanthus and the Kniphofia. One of the former is a bit like the Crepis in that its colour is a surprise to visitors. This is Agapanthus ?Windor Grey? which as the name suggests has blooms of an unusual shade of greyish blue ? the colour is hard to capture well on a photo but the one below gives some idea. The flower heads are also very large and held on tall stems.

I will end by showing four of the many Kniphofia we have in and around the department:

Above: Kniphofia ‘Painted Lady’

Below: Kniphofia ‘Star of Baden Baden’






Above: Kniphofia uvaria ?Nobilis?

Below: Kniphofia linearifolia

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