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Wildside Nursery at the end of September

October 24, 2019
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A very sad, but somehow inspiring, visit to Wildside Nursery in late September.

It seems like an awfully long time since I last posted on this blog. The monumental effort required to put together that account of our trip to the Picos rather exhausted my enthusiasm for it. I made a number of garden visits during the summer but never found the time or energy to post the pictures here. I was waiting until the Loughborough autumn show to resume posting.

However, I am afraid I have no photos of Loughborough to show you. Helen and I took a much-needed mid-September break on the Greek Island of Paxos. Shortly before we went away, our dear friend Ros Wiley, wife of Keith Wiley, and equal partner in the creation of the wonder that is Wildside Nursery garden, died suddenly after a short illness.

When we came back, we found that a memorial service was being held for her on Saturday 28 September. So I was in Buckland Monachorum (near the Devon-Cornwall border) that day, remembering Ros. It was a very sad but also an uplifting occasion.  The very moving eulogy given by Keith at the service is reproduced on the nursery website.

After the service, we visited the garden, which seemed suffused with Ros’ spirit. I have never visited after the end of July, so here are a few pictures taken on my compact camera, at the end of September, in pouring rain. The garden was still beautiful.

In the summer, Keith and Ros moved into the house they have been building for the last three years or so. It isn’t completely finished but the upstairs rooms and balcony command wonderful views over the garden in both directions.

Moving down the garden, the main herbaceous border is now foaming with small-flowered michaelmas daisies (mainly Aster ericoides I believe) which capture the impression of a wild plant community.

The pools at the bottom of the garden are sumptuous with autumn colours and textures, enhanced by the patter of rain on the water. The huge balsam Impatiens tinctoria was in full flower.

Deep pink Japanese anemones were blooming in profusion where the arching wands of Dierama dominated earlier in the summer.

The plantings along the stream bed which was reshaped last year look more established every time I visit. I don’t know what this spectacular red flower is.

Finally, the prairie above the house has autumn highlights of michaelmas daisies, lemon-yellow Bidens and deep yellow arching sprays of Solidago (I think Solidago rugosa) in amongst the grasses in place of the Agapanthus, Crocosmia and Coreopsis which featured in July.

Keith Wiley is determined to complete the unfinished corner of the garden, implementing their shared vision of it as a memorial to Ros. I believe he hopes to set up some sort of fund so people can support this effort – more details will appear on the Wildside Nursery website when available.

Keith also intends, if at all possible, to open the garden again next year, on the dates published here. The future is of course uncertain, so I urge anyone who has never been to visit next year; in particular those who have intended to do so but have never managed to arrange it. It is the most inspiring garden I have ever visited and is wonderful throughout the year, from the Erythronium in April to the Agapanthus in July. Since I first discovered the garden in 2014, I have visited almost every time it was open; the long 380 mile round trip is well worth it.

Image of Jon Evans Jon Evans

Jon lives and gardens on the north side of the Hogsback on the border between Hampshire and Surrey, on a heavy clay soil. He is a long standing member of the AGS and has been treasurer of the local group in Woking for many years. He is especially interested in bulbs of all sorts, particularly those from South Africa, and is progressing slowly towards his Gold Medal at shows, at the rate of roughly one first per year.

However, he is best known within the AGS as an enthusiastic amateur photographer. For about 10 years he was responsible for organising the artistic and photographic section of the AGS shows around the country, and also for organising the show photography. During this period, he set up and ran the AGS Digital Image Library. He is still actively involved in plant photography, both at shows (he visits many shows each year to catalogue the extraordinary achievements of the exhibitors) and in gardens both public and private, and he makes regular outings to view and photograph wild flowers in the UK.

If you have any comments or queries for Jon, you can contact him direct at