Usually visitors travel to Wisley to see our beautiful garden, but sometimes we take the garden - or at least part of it - to our visitors. This was the case recently, when we displayed Wisley-grown pumpkins and squashes at the RHS Harvest Festival show in London’s Vincent Square.
Squashes are great for three reasons. They are very tasty. They happen to be highly decorative. And, as an added bonus, they are easy to grow. This summer, Wisley’s trial field provided an ideal space, between trials, to grow squashes for display and eating. Their triffid-like growth rate and large leaves helped to suppress weeds and visitors could see the squashes developing over the summer months.
We grew a wide variety, to demonstrate the many types available to gardeners but sadly not often seen on supermarket shelves. We chose several of the RHS Award of Garden Merit winners from our previous winter squash trial, including the tasty smaller varieties ‘Sweet Dumpling’, ‘Honey Bear’ and ‘Sweet Lightning’.
We also grew several unusual Italian varieties, ‘Marina di Choiggia’ (originally grown near Venice), with its warty green skin and bright orange flesh, and ‘Zucca da Marmellata’, grown in large quantities in Italy solely for making jam. But my favourite squash grown this year, and also popular with visitors, was the new American variety ‘Porcelain Doll’, with smooth pink-skin that shone out of the display like a beacon.
The squashes, recently brought back from London, will now feature in Wisley’s Taste of Autumn show (15 - 19 October). The beauty with this display is that after the show, the exhibits can be eaten - visitors will soon be able to sample them in delicious dishes in our restaurant.