Behind the scenes in the Alpine Display House

The Alpine Display House provides a constant show of wonderful flowers and foliage. However, not many people are aware of how we keep it looking its best throughout the year…

Replacing potsLooking after the Display House forms part of our morning duties on the Alpine Team, which we perform on a rota basis. The plants in display are all grown in terracotta pots which are then plunged into sand in the raised beds on each side of the house. The sand helps to replicate the plants' natural growing environment because it helps to keep the roots cool and away from the hot sun. Also, the sand is inert just like the rocks that many of the plants grow on and attach themselves to in the wild. The Display House is worked on every morning as part of these duties, so the plants on display are constantly changing and there is something new to see every day!

The first thing we will do when tending to the display house is pick over any flowers and leaves that have gone past their best. This helps to keep the plants looking presentable and also helps to stop a build-up of pests and diseases. Next, we will remove any plants from the sand plunge that have finished flowering or are no longer looking so interesting. Once we have finished removing plants, we then search through our collections houses behind the scenes to find new plants to replace the ones we have removed. Generally, we look for plants that are in flower, but sometimes the plants may have interesting foliage instead.

We then plunge the new pots into the sand to replace the plants that were removed. When plunging pots, we make sure that all the pots are clean before going into the sand and that they are at the same height once plunged to give a uniform look. We also make sure that the sand is firmed down around the side of the pot to stop the sand collapsing and creating holes in the plunge. Once all the plants are in place, we make sure that the sand is neat and level by using a soft paintbrush. We find these are great tools for the job and provide the perfect finishing touches to the display house. Finally, we open up all the vents, windows and doors to maximise airflow in the house, ready for the public to view the plants on display.

We have also recently added a new section to our display house, where we show which of our plants are currently available to buy in the Wisley Plant Centre. This means our visitors can have a go at growing the plants for themselves at home. Spring is a great time of year to come and view the Display House, so do come along for a visit!

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.