Throughout the year the Wisley glasshouse stages a number of bright and bold ephemeral displays that pop and fizz like a flowering firework display.
Stalwart spectacles include arrangements of pelargoniums in spring, fuchsias in summer and a Christmas extravaganza in December that sends poinsettias reaching for the sky in the form of a giant tree. But 2015 brings a new display that will appeal to people’s noses as well as the public’s peepers. Scent of Wisley, which runs from 4 – 26 April, will fill The Glasshouse with a blend of glorious odours to lift the spirits.
Now, although I write this blog to promote this new delight for the senses at Wisley, I also want to promote the work of the man who works tirelessly behind the scenes to make this all happen. He is my fellow team member Paul Atkinson and his phenomenal dedication has perfectly produced 150 lilies, 100 Reseda, 100 Freesia, 100 Matthiola, 60 sweet williams, 60 Linnaria plants and 45 sweet pea pots.
Paul started growing for the display last October with the sowing of the sweet peas, which was followed in late November by the potting of the lily and freesia bulbs and then the sowing of Linnaria, Reseda and sweet william seed.
He says the biggest challenge has been getting the timings right; plants are forced 2-3 months ahead by playing around with temperatures that encourage them on, then holds them back so that they flower as one for their two week spring swansong.
So what will this display look like? Paul assures me - with a wry smile - that this won’t matter as visitors are ‘only going to use their nose’, but he has a talent for arranging plants and keeps his plans locked in his head; but he gives away that the display will be more naturalistic and free flowing than his others. I asked Paul what he enjoys most about creating his displays to which he answered: ‘working with my team’. No really, he did say that; I’m quite a nice chap to work with! The end result, though, is his biggest joy he reveals, as so much hard work goes into its creation.
Paul is keen to pass on one message, which is that people can grow a smaller scented display using the same plants at home. Most of the plants are grown at 14–18ºC (57–64ºF), which is well within the amateur’s means. So come and visit the Scent of Wisley display to gain some inspiration and create your own Scent of 45 Ashwood Avenue, 11 Woodlands Way, 82 Strode Street, etc.