RHS Wisley has gorgeous borders if only those 12ft begonia eyesores would give them a chance to shine

My mum and I are in the car park at Wisley, the RHS's flagship garden just off the A3 in Surrey, trying to work out how to find our way to the ticket counter. The car park comprises vast acres of tarmac in compensatory acres of Lord of the Rings woodland glade, criss-crossed by a slightly confusing network of paths. Since last I visited, the car park has been organised with highly tasteful dividing lines, gauzy ribbons of verbena bonariensis, wheaten grasses and pale yellow daylilies. We begin to feel optimistic that we are in for a good day just wandering its ranks.

And then, through the greenery, we both spot something orange. Not something small, either. More like two traffic cones stolen from a drunken night out on the town by Shrek's gigantic girlfriend. They are actually luminescing at us through the trees. As we get closer, we realise that the traffic cones really are gigantic. Each one is about 12ft high. And each is made up of hundreds of begonia plants in various shades of orange and yellow. And here are our fellow visitors, marvelling at them. "Ooh, I don't know how they've done that," one remarks, walking round it, studying the planting up close. ("Oooh, I don't know why they've done that," my mum and I wonder.) No one is marvelling at the gorgeous borders in the car park. They've been blinded by the begonia homing beacons.

The summer holidays do generally mark the disappearance of anything conventionally tasteful from the garden, it's true. These months rev up a display of red, orange and yellow plants for which sunglasses might sensibly be prescribed. Daylilies, red-hot pokers and dahlias all have their contribution to make on the gaudy front. But it must be possible without resorting to begonias, surely? They aren't even nice begonias, such as "Bonfire", with its little orange flowers and ivy-shaped leaves. They are great big tuberous ones with blooms the colour of cycling bibs.

Luckily, our visit does become more tasteful as it goes on, even for a pair of fusspots as my mum and me. In the long borders leading uphill, the gardeners try to restrain themselves, with cannas and dahlias in bronzed tones. Elsewhere, though, the full firepower of August is on show. On the lawn by the Conservatory Café, daylilies, including "Berlin Red" – a real stonker; dinner-plate-sized Achilleas in rape-seed yellow; and red-hot pokers in tones just slightly more muted than the full orange special we're used to. Though if I didn't know they were plants beyond the realms of good taste, I might be tempted to say "Apricot Sky", and "Maid of Orleans" are both almost verging on pretty.

Wisley is open Monday to Friday 10am-6pm, and weekends 9am-6pm (www.rhs.org.uk)

Grandly garish

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

Famous and ubiquitous for a reason: it's a great, hard- working plant, with gigantic stems six inches taller than most other crocosmias, bearing deep blood-orange flowers that look as though they are dripping juice. £5.99, crocus.co.uk

Achillea filipendulina 'Cloth of Gold'

Tasteful when planted with paler creams and whites, but a real, colourful point of punctuation in a border of hot colours. £6.49 crocus.co.uk

Echinacea 'Tomato Soup'

They didn't mess around when they were naming this. Bright red, whichever way you look at it. If you deadhead it properly, you should have its Heinz- like hues in the garden almost until Bonfire Night. £8.99, crocus.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Reach Volunteering: Volunteer Trustee with Healthcare expertise

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Day In a Page

Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

Hipsters of Arabia

Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

The cult of Roger Federer

What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

Malaysian munchies

With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
10 best festival beauty

Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

A Different League

Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce on Boxing

Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf