Wisley plant encounters

In a monthly series in the RHS Gardening Podcast, botanist James Armitage explored some of the unusual and unsung stars of Wisley's plant collections

Lathraea clandestina1. The strange case of the purple toothwort

James heads into the woods on the trail of a beautiful vampire, unearthing some surprising historical facts along the way.

Discover more

Arisarum proboscideum2. Of mice and men

More than a century after it was first planted, a diminutive relative of the giant Titan arum lives on in Wisley's Wild Garden.

Discover more

Peony 'Highdown'3. A peony with a rocky past

James re-lives the tale of a spectacular peony whose 60-year journey to Wisley spanned half the globe.

Discover more

Neottia nidis-avis4. Ghosts of a vanished flora

Compiled more than a century ago, the first Wisley Flora painted a vivid picture of a now-vanished world. However, there are still new wild plants to be found in the garden.

Discover more

5. The botanical British Leyland

A fusion of two conifers from the West Coast of America created a very British tree – one that perhaps deserves more respect than it currently receives...

Discover more

6. The land-loving sea buckthorn

Chinese sea buckthorn, despite its name, hails from high mountains and grows well in the landlocked confines of Wisley, where it bears testament to one of the greatest plant-hunting partnerships of all time.

Discover more

7. The riddle of the rowan

Now a common garden tree, its origins are shrouded in mystery. Sorbus 'Joseph Rock' defied classification for decades before becoming one of our most popular small trees.

Discover more

8. Meet the ancestors

James unearths the history of an ancient larch tree – the oldest cultivated plant in the RHS collections – which has presided over the Rock Garden for more than a century.

Discover more

9. A lucky chance

A humble bee did what man tried and failed to do, crossing two mahonia species to give us a much-loved classic garden plant.

Discover more

10. A living fossil

From war-ravaged 1940s China a chance find emerged that was to stun the world. Metasequoia, the dawn redwood, was known only from fossils – and was thought to have been extinct for millions of years.

Discover more

11. The widow-maker

With cones the size of chihuahuas and a lineage that stretches back to the time of the dinosaurs, Coulter's pine makes a big impression.

Discover more

Corylus avellana 'Contorta'12. Welcome to the lunatic asylum

EA Bowles was one of the superstars of early 20th-century horticulture. But with fame and fortune came a strange obsession that still shapes gardens today.

Discover more

James ArmitageAbout the contributor

James joined us as a botanist in 2002, straight from Reading University and he is now editor of The Plant Review. A future ambition is to help provide a complete catalogue of the cultivated plants of the British Isles.

“With garden plants there is always something new to discover,” he says. “It is the constant opportunity to learn that keeps my work so interesting.”

Discover The Plant Review

Gardening with the RHS

Listen to our award-winning gardening podcasts

Listen now

Get involved

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.