Frosty Wisley.

We had to make a sudden journey last week to the furthest SE corner of the UK , unfortunately to attend the funeral of an aunt who lived in Kent. Where she lived in Margate is right on the corner of the British Isles and when we looked out to sea, I’m not sure if we were looking at the English Chanel or the North Sea, whatever it was, the wind was coming straight from Russia and it was freezing! We woke up the next day to a lovely sunrise and made the decision to call in at a couple of gardens on the way home.

Sunrise over Margate

RHS Wisley

Our first stop was at Wisley, the flagship garden for the RHS. This garden is just off junction 10 on the M25 motorway,  how I hate all that traffic! Wisley doesn’t have a winter garden as such but we were sure we would find something to admire. In the photo above, compare the grass on the left in the sunshine with the grass on the right which is still frosted from the night before. I was so pleased to see my old friend, the red stemmed  Cornus on the left.


They had even planted some in a large urn, yellow and red stemmed in together. These looked like some stems just pushed in for the winter, which is an idea which is easy to copy, then can be removed for summer bedding, by which time they will probably have rooted ready for planting elsewhere.


When I saw all the frost glistening in the lovely sunshine I knew  the camera was going to be busy. I don’t know what the red leaf is from, there weren’t any red leaved trees or shrubs near where we were, but they look pretty together.

Mahonia Winter Sun

Mahonia Winter Sun looking beautiful in the winter sun!

Coloured Stems

Don’t the coloured stems of willow and cornus glow in the low winter sunshine.

Salix Yelverton

When we got round to the other side, we found that the willow is Salix alba var. vitellina Yelverton. Coincidence – Yelverton is a village near us in Devon.

Japanese folly

A lovely Japanese folly beside the lake.

Taxodium and gunnera

In the foreground there are the remains of Gunnera, with their leaves placed over them to protect them from the frost.  Over on the other side of the lake  the red tree looking so beautiful is a Taxodium.


You know me, I can’t resist a lovely sculpture!! They look beautiful with the coloured stems in the background, double the effect because of the reflections!

Willow bullrushes

More sculptures, but not so obvious this time. Bullrushes made out of willow on metal frames – very effective.

Foliage of Nyssa sinensis

Walking round the lake we found a huge pool of beautiful golden leaves, all from the tree, Nyssa sinensis above.

Frosty seat

Such a super sinuous seat! However we weren’t tempted to sit on it as it was still covered with a thick layer of frost!

Sleepy ducks

Ducks are not keen to go into the water, not surprised as part of the lake was still frozen, they’re still trying to warm up in the weak winter sun!

Last look at the lake

A last look at the lake before we continue our walk, just love the reflections.

Frosted grasses

A row of frosted grasses glistening in the sunshine.

Viburnum farreri

I found some flowers on Vibernum farreri braving the frosts that Wisley has had for a few days now.

Winter protection

Something has been wrapped up for winter protection, couldn’t find any labels so I don’t know what is hiding from the winter cold.


It’s not always the expensive plants that look the best. A clump of Lunaria annua, the common honesty, looked so fantastic, backlit by the sun.

Fatsia japonica

A huge bush of Fatsia japonica was covered with flowers, I doubt if any insects were out the  day we were there, but if it warmed up a bit, there would be plenty of food for them here.

Brown bear

A bit further round, we came to the stream garden and rock garden. I remember when this lovely sculpture of a brown bear with his fish was new, over the years he has started to grow a winter coat of moss to keep himself  warm and cosy.

Pitcher plant

We found a container full of pitcher plants, sorry, the label was so worn, I couldn’t read it. I had no idea they were hardy, would have thought that they would all be collapsed in a heap at this time of year – it looked very happy in spite of the ice crystals!


Decorated with frost is Hebe lycopodioides, a large spread of it up on the rock garden, the frost almost looks like flowers.

Rock garden

The rock garden in its bleak simplicity, there is still beauty in the bare trees, the rocks, the frost, the bridge and the splash of red from the cornus. Just imagine it in a couple of months time when all the rock plants start flowering, it will be a mass of colour, so different from now.

Time to go now, we really enjoyed our visit to Wisley but it was now time to find somewhere for lunch and warm up, before visiting the winter garden at Hillier Arboretum, but that will be another post for another day.



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24 Responses to Frosty Wisley.

  1. Kate says:

    Oh, how lovely! I haven’t been to Wisley for ages, and you quite took me back (plus wonderful frost shots – thank you)!

    • Pauline says:

      Kate, visits are few and far between for us now that our daughter has moved to Bristol from Essex, so we always try to pop in if passing. I think the frost added extra sparkle to the sunny day!

  2. wellywoman says:

    What stunning weather for a visit to Wisley. I love the idea of those cornus stems in the urn. I do love Wisley there’s always so much to see. I hope I can get there again soon.

    • Pauline says:

      To start with WW, I thought they had planted cornus plants in the pot and was thinking they would soon outgrow them, when I discovered that they didn’t have a base to the stems so must have just been pushed in – a good idea I thought, we can always learn something from the RHS each time we visit one of their gardens!

  3. catmint says:

    dear pauline, what a superb garden. what divine pictures you have taken. each one more wonderful than the one before! I want to be there but you going there and taking those photos and posting has made me very happy and excited. Thank you. What a waste. I lived in England for nearly 10 years but was not into gardens, so never visited any.

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you Catmint, RHS gardens are always a delight no matter what time of year you visit, always something new that could be tried when you get home. I know how you feel, gardening came to me late in life, when we moved here 22 yrs ago from up in the NW, when I think of all the lovely gardens that I haven’t visited, so frustrating!

  4. Christina says:

    Wonderful frosty images, beautiful indeed. Wisley has something to offer on almost every day of the year, but the sunshine and all the frost are a combination that it would be hard to plan for, so your sad journey was made to have happy memories, I’m sure your aunt would like that idea. Christina

    • Pauline says:

      Christina, my aunt was also a keen gardener, so I think she would have been delighted that we combined our visit with Wisley. I always find something new each time we go there, so much to see to inspire us to make changes back at home.

  5. Cathy says:

    As you say, it will another way of remembering your aunt, knowing you combined the visit with her funeral. As everyone else has already said, what delightful photos – not sure which my favourite would be. The first one with the sky is stunning (there have been some lovely skies recently), and I like the mahonia too. Lovely sculptures – the idea of the bullrushes was great. I see that Wisley is not far from Elder Daughter’s so I will have to try and arrange a visit to the gardens next year.

    • Pauline says:

      I found Wisley so inspiring Cathy when designing the garden here. Whichever part of the garden we were developing (woodland,bog garden etc) we used to make for that area at Wisley for our inspiration and then buy the plants in their plant centre! Do visit if you can, no matter what time of year it is, there is always something to look at.

  6. Jason says:

    Beautiful pictures. I love the Lunaria. The common names for it here are Money Plant or Honesty.

    • Pauline says:

      The same names apply here Jason, must sprinkle some seed in the garden here, planted so that the sun can shine through them, the same as at Wisley.

  7. The view across the lake with the trees reflected in the water is gorgeous. Such a lovely clear day. I would like to visit Wisley some day.

    • Pauline says:

      I love the reflections too Carolyn, with the water so still, they were beautiful. If ever you get the chance, do visit, the garden is so large I was only able to show a small part of it, it would take all day to see it all!

  8. pbmgarden says:

    I’m sorry for the sad occasion Pauline but glad you were able to enjoy this lovely garden. So many beautiful scenes.

    • Pauline says:

      PBM, I think my husband knew what would lift my spirits after the sadness of the previous day and he was right. Wisley is such a beautiful place with so much to see, you can’t help but feel better by a visit.

  9. Alberto says:

    Pauline you find the way to visit some garden even during a trip to a funeral… You are outrageous! 🙂 Wisley is on my wishlist, didn’t you visit the part designed by Piet Oudolf? I guess it looks good in winter too…
    You took some amazing pics even in a not showy moment of the garden, the backlit lunaria is very pretty!

    • Pauline says:

      No Alberto, not really outrageous, it was the next day after all. We didn’t visit the bit designed by Piet Oudolf because I felt there would be nothing to see, I’m sure it was fantastic in summer and autumn, but surely by now it would have all died down?

  10. Anna says:

    Having spent the first eighteen years of my life in East Anglia I am familiar with those winds blowing in from Russia 🙂 I am sorry to read about the about the circumstances that took you down in that direction Pauline. Wisley looks an ideal place to be uplifted after a sad event. Those herons are amazing – the sculptor has really captured a sense of movement.

    • Pauline says:

      Anna,my parents both came from the NE coast and holidays with grandparents were always so cold! Wisley was amazing and they have wonderful sculptures all over the garden which add an extra ‘something’ while you are wandering round admiring all the plants.

  11. Hi Pauline, sorry for your loss, you found a wonderful way to balance the death with life though. A great reminder that gardens can still look good in winter. I love that grass-edged path, though I am beginning to think that I won’t be seeing many days of frost-edged plants of any kind living here.

    • Pauline says:

      Janet, I don’t think you will get much frost in Angelsey, one of the joys of living by the sea! Although, one year when we lived on the coast between Liverpool and Preston, not only did we have frost and snow, but the sea froze and there was ice for about 50ft, very arctic!!

  12. debsgarden says:

    So, so beautiful! Thanks for sharing this garden that looks wonderful even in winter. The photo of the honesty is stunning! Your photos demonstrate that a garden in winter can be truly special.

    • Pauline says:

      I think Deb that the garden at Wisley has something for us to admire no matter what time of year it is, I think something has inspired me each time I have visited. There was lots of honesty in that one area, all with the sun shining through, so beautiful, must try that at home!

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