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Wisley's Alpine Diary

This entry: 25 October 2007 by Paul Cumbleton

Log 7

Wisley’s Alpine Log

By Paul Cumbleton

Log 7 … 25 Oct 2007

Colder nights have meant the first touches of frost and preparations for winter have been on our job lists. Some of the glasshouses have heaters to give frost protection for our marginally hardy plants and these have been checked ready for use. Another job concerned the house we call the Elliott House.

This house is glazed on the sides with polycarbonate sheeting. We remove this –as you can see above-for the summer to give better light and increased air circulation. This week the sides were put back on for the winter.

Despite the colder temperatures, there is still colour on the Rock Garden. On an acid bank the berries of Gaultheria procumbens glow brightly:

This is a particularly good form of the plant which we got from Peter Catt of Liss Forest Nursery and it always berries up well.

Another reliable autumn flowerer is Saxifraga fortunei, a native of Japan, China and Korea. A lot of breeding work has been done on this in recent years, especially by Shimchi Kudo in Japan. But the dwarf forms produced in the U.K. by Keith Lever of Aberconwy Nursery are also really excellent. He developed these by crossing some of the taller types with the dwarf forms such as ‘Mount Nachi’. We have them at several points on the Rock Garden, wherever we can provide the moist, lime-free, humousy and shady conditions they prefer. Reflecting the waterfall next to it, a river of the white form called ‘Conwy Star’ flows down a slope:

This plant looks good even before the flowers, as the leaves go shades of bronzey-red:

Nearby, the pink ‘Pink Mist’ performs well in a semi-shaded pocket:

Flower up close:

Of a paler pink, ‘Pink Haze’ looks good by a dark rock near the water’s edge:

Finally another of the pink series, ‘Pink Cloud’ contrasts nicely with the blue branches of the conifer Abies procera ‘Glauca Prostrata’

Also flowering now on the Rock garden is one of the taller forms of S. fortunei, variety suwoensis:

While enjoying the flowers, there is always work to do. As the leaves fall, sweeping them up is a constant task at this time of year. They are added to those collected in other parts of the garden and composted to produce lovely leafmould.

Weeds seem to ignore the seasons these days and removing them goes on almost the entire year. Here our volunteer Linda along with supervisor Chris Allan weed and tidy the beds next to the large ponds at the bottom of the Rock Garden:

If you think the people on the bridge behind them are unusually interested in watching a bit of weeding you would be wrong. They are looking at the fish in the ponds – we have a lot of large carp which always seem to attract more attention than the plants or the weeding activities of gardeners! (There is a picture of one of the fish in Log no. 5).

When the old alpine display house was taken down to be replaced with the new Alitex house, we did it carefully so we could re-erect it. This week we made a start clearing the area where it is going (behind the scenes in the frame yard). The major task here was to move plants out of a frame that is in the way and then demolish the old frame to make way for the old display house.

Finally this week, going back to the Saxifraga fortunei theme, in the alpine house is one of the most strikingly coloured forms , ‘Cherry Pie’:

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