Monday, 30 April 2012

What a Grey Day!

After worrying weeks of dryness, empty water-butts, threatened hosepipe bans, wilting plants and general anxiety the rains came.
 The rains came as we splashed our way to the Royal Horticultural Society's flagship gardens at 'Wisley', in Surrey, and they continued throughout the day as we travelled over racing rivers, the Thames, the Avon, the Severn, and down motorways made opaque in the spray.
The rains gurgled and gargled and dripped on these beautiful gardens, and the plants drank deeply and gratefully while their admirers sat beside the windows in the several restaurants and cafeterias, drinking coffee and proclaiming excitedly at a possible sense of  lightness in the dark grey swirling sky.

So I went looking for grey to complement the day, and was captivated by the colour and structure of these wonderful plants.

It was magical in the great glass house, where people in their sodden rain-wear steamed gently with the plants.

Outside, more greyness in the crevice garden, created in vertical slices of stone and grit, where alpines can feel so thoroughly at home. The rain drains almost straight through, as on a mountain side, and the plants colonise cracks and crevices.

I love the greyness, the range of colour embedded in something that apparently has so little, but for those who like a bit, or even a lot of brightness there was the wonderful display from the Orchid Society of Great Britain

Wisley, like the other very special gardens of the RHS, the National Trust, and the countless smaller private gardens open to the public are places for families and fanatics alike. Places where there is a tremendous wealth of specialised knowledge, extreme erudition and very good scones.
There are people with large, expensive-looking cameras and large expensive looking pushchairs.There are people with magnifying glasses and classification books full of Latin terminology, and there are small children playing hide and seek between the palms.
Then there are people like me, looking at grey things, and people exclaiming with joy over a small brownish lump which happens to be a very rare orchid.
A wonderful place on a grey day.


Jenny Woolf said...

I love visiting Wisley too. Nearly went the other day but the weather was so nice we took a bike ride instead. We hope to go in the next few weeks. Thank you for this nice "grey" post!

marigold jam said...

I used to visit Wisley often when I lived in Guildford - it's an amazing place whatever the weather isn't it?

Relatively Retiring said...

Jenny and Marigold: thank you for commenting. I enjoy everything about this place, the plants, the people, the wonderful setting, the excellent brownies!

The Elephant's Child said...

Thank you for showing me a place I am not likely to ever see. And I agree, there is magic in the grey plants - magic that often relates to their precise structures.
Though I love the colours as well.
A garden obsessive - sans the latin names.

Relatively Retiring said...

Elephant's Child: it seems a very British thing to do, visiting gardens in the pouring rain! Yes, the magic is in the structure of monochrome plants.

Jane said...

We've twice had periods of living near Wisley and used to enjoy wandering around. During the period immediately before we moved to Malvern, we were driving from Croydon to Woking three times a week to see Mother-in-law and used to pull in thankfully after each visit to the Wisley coffee shop to regain our sanity!

Relatively Retiring said...

Jane: what an excellent place to regain sanity. I wish it was nearer now!

Zhoen said...

When I was small, I most loved the orchids and the bougainvillea. Now, I am more charmed by the damp and greys and quieter colors.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: yes, a time and place for everything, and I enjoyed the fact that those grey plants echoes the dark grey skies!

pohanginapete said...

A grey day here too, but I didn't mind — too much to do.

I loved that line: "people exclaiming with joy over a small brownish lump". I like people who can find delight in generally unappreciated things — which reminds me of a small friend, eight years old, whose current favourite animal is the dugong. Second on the list is the wolverine — the real one, not Hugh Jackman — and she thinks slime moulds are cool. I'm delighted.

Relatively Retiring said...

P.Pete: She's a lucky girl to have such an excellent tutor and fellow-enthusiast. Slime and lichen and fungus are very, very cool. The root system of the honey fungus can weigh as much as a blue whale. Should I continue......?

pohanginapete said...

Continue, please. I'm sure you have a post there.