Skip navigation.

Jim Gardiner

Jim Gardiner Director of Horticulture RHS Garden Wisley

Jim Gardiner is the recently appointed Director of Horticulture for the Royal Horticultural Society and has previously been Curator and Chief Curator based at Wisley for over twenty years. Before that he was Curator at the Hillier Gardens and Arboretum. His primary interest is in woody plants, in particular Magnolias on which he has written two books, “Magnolias, their Care and Cultivation” and “Magnolias, A Gardener’s Guide”.

  • Date Joined: 12 Jul 2007

Recent Comments

Come see Wisley's wonderful Missouri meadow

Posted by Jim Gardiner on 06 Jul 2009 at 11:52 AM

It's truly summer now here at Wisley. In July the garden looks wonderful.  We have our Armed Forces Day flag prominently positioned on the Conifer Lawn, and the sweet peas and dahlia bed (where the Subtropical Borders usually are) are flowering well.  Day by day the self-sown annuals that form this year's Top Terrace bedding display are gradually coming into flower.  And in the Fruit Field the cornfield annuals are at their best.

Last year I told you about the prairie meadow we prepared on the far (western) side of the Glasshouse. Designed by Prof James Hitchmough from the Dept of Landscape, University of Sheffield in January 2008, the aim was to create a meadow-like planting with a long flowering season that could be maintained relatively easily and cheaply by RHS staff.    

Well, for the last few weeks this area has been looking prettier and prettier day by day.  It is simply beautiful.  Photographs do not do it justice, so I absolutely recommend you see it in person.  Fortunately, with the mix of 25 species of perennials, this prairie meadow should be looking outstanding throughout July and August, and well into September.


Most of the 25 species are from North America, with a few species from Europe and Asia. The majority form a ground layer of foliage, with the occasional medium and tall species, designed to minimise the ground level species from being shaded out.

Ground layer species
Penstemon cobaea and P. barbatus
Dracocephalum rupestre
Asclepias tuberosa
Oenothera tetragona
Dianthus carthusianorum
Phlox pilosa
Medium layer species
Echinacea pallida
Eryngium yuccifolium
Tall species
Silphium laciniatum and S. terebinthinaceum

We would love to know what you think of this low- (to no-) maintenance perennial meadow, and hope you get the opportunity to wander through it and admire it for yourselves this summer. 

And you can come to learn more about creating your own perennial meadow at our Perennial Seeding Day at Wisley on September 10th.  Watch this space for more information on how to book your place...

James Hitchmough


prairie garden said:

I saw the prairie garden on bbc2 8/7/09. I love it & would like a similar garden as I have dry sandy soil. I note you state there are 25 species in the garden, but you name only 9. Where can I buy seeds & can you advise on preps etc.?


on 06 Jul 2009 at 08:18 PM

Jim Gardiner said:

Dear Babs.  I named only 11 species due to space restrictions.  In actual fact we have nearly 40 but some of them are only in tiny numbers. The main ones are:

Asclepias tuberosa, Aster oblongifolius, Baptisia australis var minor, Baptisia leucophaea, Dianthus carthusianorum, Dracocephalum ruprestre, Echinacea pallida, Echinacea paradoxa, Eryngium yuccifolium, Euphorbia corollata, Geum triflorum, Helichrysum aureum, Oenothera missouriensis var. incana, Oenothera tetragona, Penstemon barbatus 'Coccineus', Penstemon cobaea var purpureus, Penstemon strictus, Phlox pilosa, Pulsatilla vulgaris, Rudbeckia maxima, Ruellia humilis, Schizachrium  scoparium, Scutellaria baicalensis,

Silphium laciniatum, Silphium terebinthinaceum, Sporobolus heterolepis.

The seed supplier is Jelitto ( The minimum order value is 25 Euros plus VAT @ 7% and P&P.

Best wishes.

on 20 Jul 2009 at 12:31 PM

zingiber said:

I saw this at Wisley a couple of weeks ago and it really does look fantastic - absolutely beautiful and buzzing with life too. Thanks for providing the planting list too!

I was wondering if it would also be possible to create a similar planting in a semi-shaded area? Could you suggest any suitable plants, perhaps?

on 25 Jul 2009 at 02:19 PM

Jim Gardiner said:

Dear zingiber.  Below is the answer from James Hitchmough, designer of the prairie:-

it is possible to do broadly similar things in shaded areas but only a few of the species e.g. Penstemon digitalis,

Penstemon smallii are really very shade tolerant, basically one needs a completely different set of plants. Heuchera villosa, Aster divaricartus, Polemonium reptans are the really shade tolerant species.

on 27 Jul 2009 at 11:01 AM

zingiber said:

Many thanks for the reply from James Hitchmough - that's given me the inspiration to start looking up more suitable plants myself.

on 28 Jul 2009 at 05:10 PM

Jim Gardiner said:

As promised, the details for our Perennial Seeding Workshop on Thursday 10th September are now available.  See my latest blog (19th August 2009) or the RHS Event Finder for more information.  

on 19 Aug 2009 at 11:37 PM