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Autumn visit to Wisley

I was giving a talk last week at Wisley Gardens to a group of National Trust volunteers on the spectacular autumn colour on Battleston Hill, The air was scented with the burnt-sugary smell from the Champion Tree Cercidiphyllum japonicum on Battleston Hill and the avenue was lined with the huge flower heads of Hydrangea paniculata, while the higher canopy looked stunning with foliage of Quercus rubra and Q.coccinea showing their true colours!

I also had the opportunity to visit my old place of work….the model fruit and veg gardens…where my horticultural career first started 15 years ago.Despite being so late in the year, the model vegetable garden is still lush with an abundance of gourmet horticultural treats. I love the sweet potatoes ‘Beuregardd’ that they’re successfully growing here…without the use of cloches. Who would have thought that these delicious tubers are closely related to bindweed!

I love the size of the Celeriac ‘Prinz’ although they do look a bit like those Harry Potter ‘Mandrakes’ that scream when lifted out of the ground....these don't scream, although I have been known to shout expletives when cutting my fingers when grating these knobly veg in the kitchen. These must be the largest fennel ‘Rondo’ swollen stems I’ve ever seen. Sow seeds early in the year to get your fennel this large. The chopped up stems add a wonderful aniseed-like flavour to dishes.  

This mini-leaved Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) growing in a trough in the RHS Wisley herb garden is perfect for a small veg garden . If you have a larger space, they make a beautiful fragrant lawn, but require slightly damp conditions.

The corsican mint leaves make a delicious tea, but if you want to grow the real thing, then grow Camellia sinensis (below) It has an attractive white flower with a yellow centre and can be grown in containers or in the ground, but require slightly acidic soil. Harvest the growing tips and dry them out before brewing them in a teapot for the perfect cuppa.

Finally these Jerusalem artichokes in the model vegetable garden (below), make a beautiful yellow splash of colour to the autumnal veggie garden with their attractive yellow flowers. They can reach up to 3m high, so be very careful where you chose to plant them, as they will cast lots of shade on the veg plot. Closely related to sunflowers, I recommend these tasty tubers to anyone who loves their subtle, nutty flavour .  Just be aware, they can have slightly windy repercussions the following day!

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+1 #1 Tracey 2013-11-17 16:25
A great talk and a great day out at Wisley - very informative thanks! The gardens are so beautiful and full of colour! The veg garden was amazing - it will be great to see this at Polesden Lacey's Kitchen Garden. :-)
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