Every time we arrive in England and go home near Guildford, we drive past one of those brown signs on the A3 that tell you about tourist attractions and the like. This particular one reads “RHS Garden Wisley”. It dawned on me that we’d never been to Wisley. Time to remedy that.
RHS Garden Wisley belongs to the Royal Horticulture Society since 1903. The property’s owner was a plant enthusiast and collected and grew rare specimens in his experimental garden. He was also treasurer of the RHS. After he died, a wealthy gardening enthusiast bought the property and donated it to the RHS.
Wisley is the RHS flagship garden and the largest purveyor of hardy plants in the UK: perennials, exotic plants, and the like. The plant centre has all kinds of pretty things for the home and the garden.
One of Wisley’s distinguishing features is the lab. Scientists there promote the conservation and cultivation of ornamental plants, they research pests and diseases and develop gardening good practices.
We went to Wisley on a weekday. With the children at school and the parents at work, it was pretty quiet. Some pensioners, mums with babies and we were the only ones to enjoy such a wonderful garden. I imagine that it gets crowded at weekends, especially in good weather. Mind you, the intermittent rain didn’t keep us away.
Hungry? Thirsty? Not to worry, there are cafes and restaurants at Wisley. We sheltered from the rain in one of the cafes too.
Wisley is stunning from the beginning. As soon as you enter, you see the lab, a beautiful Victorian mansion surrounded by terraced gardens. At its feet, the Jellicoe canal displays all kinds of water lilies and lotuses.
Plants that look tropical but can withstand a typical English summer grow in the Exotic Garden.
This used to be pastureland. Now, it’s all about big open spaces, ponds and trees like liquidambar
The Rock Garden
The Rock Garden was created between 1910 and 1912. It showcases Alpine plants and pools and cascades. One of my favourites.
The Glasshouse resembles a glass cathedral. It’s as big as 10 tennis courts. It’s divided into three different climatic zones, from less to more warn and humid. Ferns, orchids, palms and many other tropical species flourish here. I chuckled to myself because I saw many plants that grew with abandon in both my grandmothers’ gardens in Argentina.
RHS Garden Wisley has 97 hectares of pure English landscaping, It would be impossible to describe it in detail here. Go and see it for yourself!
Where: Wisley Lane, Wisley, Woking (Surrey)
How to ge there: take the train to Woking and then a taxi. By bus, take the 715 from Kingston to Guildford via Wisley, or the RA2 Guildford to Wisley plus a 20-minute walk. By car, take the A3 to Portsmouth and follow the signs.
Admission: adults £14,50, children under 16 £7,25. Let them know if you want to pay GiftAid or not.
When to go: open all year round except Christmas Day.