Sunday, 28 October 2012

Gardens for all Seasons - RHS Wisley

Wisley in October - view across the rock garden to the glasshouse
It doesn't matter where you go at Wisley, or what time of year you visit, because there'll always be something to see at the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) 240-acre flagship garden. The RHS originally had its headquarters in London, but moved here when Sir Thomas Hanbury of La Mortola fame, gifted the site to them in 1903.  Students come here from all over the world to study horticulture both as professionals and amateurs and visitors number around 750,000 per year. 
The glasshouse borders at RHS Wisley in late October
Wisley has something for everyone.  At the entrance there are formal canal gardens in front of the main house laid out by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe and Lanning Roper in the 1960s, which include two walled gardens. Beyond this there's a Wild Garden and an area known as Seven Acres, where the planting focuses on the four seasons - it's here that you will see thousands of daffodils in spring and glorious colours in autumn.
Late-autumn colour at RHS Wisley on a chilly October day
Borders are a major feature at Wisley and you'll see every kind of perennial as you climb the hill between the splendid double borders (originally designed by Piet Oudolf) that lead to the trial test bed area featuring both ornamental and edible plants; but equally impressive are the Glasshouse Borders (above), and the Monocot Borders (below), which you can view on the way to the model gardens, which will give aspiring gardeners much to think about as they wander through the selection of "rooms" that are roughly the same size as English townhouse gardens.
The Monocot Borders at Wisley
The Rock and Alpine Meadow Garden was the first area to be developed after the RHS  received Wisley as a gift and there is always something to see here, whatever the season. It was originally designed by Edward White in 1911, but as the Millennium approached, rock gardens were decidedly unfashionable and renovation work carried out in 2004 included the addition of a new Japanese-style landscape, complete with waterfall. Today this part of the garden sits in perfect harmony with the rest of Wisley notwithstanding changes in horticultural fashion. 
The annual Butterfly Exhibition runs from 12 January - 24 February 2013
The latest addition to the garden is the giant Glasshouse, designed and built to coincide with the bicentenary of the RHS and opened by the the Queen in June 2007. It covers an area the size of ten tennis courts, and houses three climatic zones - from tropical jungle to arid desert - and provides a dramatic backdrop to year-round plant displays that include more than 5,000 cultivated plants including orchids, cacti and glossy tree ferns. But it's the annual Butterfly Exhibition that really brings this cathedral-like structure to life - delighting all ages! It runs from 12 January - 24 February in 2013.
Spring flowers at RHS Wisley
RHS Wisley is open every day of the year except Christmas Day, from 10.00-18.00 in summer and 10.00-16.30 in winter (9.00 opening at weekends). Entrance is £10.50 for adults and £4.50 for children (give ages), but free to RHS members. Well worth considering an annual membership if you live near any of the RHS gardens in the UK - in Devon, Essex, Surrey or Yorkshire, because membership, costing just £38.25 covers all four gardens and you'll also receive the RHS magazine - "The Garden" - every month, as well as free entry to other RHS designated gardens around the country.


  1. Gosh Charlotte no sooner said than done, I haven't even downloaded my photos as yet.

    Thank you for the mention and I would like to say how much it meant to me to gallop, or perhaps a more sedate trot, around Wisley with a companion such as yourself who is so appreciative of lovely gardens.

    It has been a very memorable trip for me thank you.

  2. Oh my - every time I see pictures of Wisley it gets better and better. Looks like you had an amazing day.

  3. Oh Charlotte, how lucky you both were to be able to share this fabulous garden together. I know Joanne's spot of heaven well from studying her blog posts, equal to the larger English gardens in every way! Wisely is on my list, along with Kew if and when we return to the British Isles. I love those woven works of art! :-)

  4. IN all the years I lived in England, even though we lived close by and would drive by it all the time, I never visited Wisley. However, on a trip back home a few years ago, I finally got to see it when my dad took me for a visit. It was amazing!

  5. Wonderful photos! I'd love to visit Wisley. Harlow Carr is my local RHS garden and I love being a member there. It's so inspirational and, like you say, always amazing at all times of the year. Really enjoying your blog :)

  6. I was slightly disappointed in the glass-house borders when I went in early September but looking at your photo they seem to be back in full splendour again.
    I must have caught them in a lull between the fading summer beauty and their autumn glory. They look fabulous in deepest winter too - one of my favourite parts of Wisley.

  7. Thanks!
    I love Wisley garden! As a Garden Design student I am used to visit it at least every 6 weeks to increase my plant knowledge...and I thought to know it very well until I saw your pictures.
    I clearly missed some interesting bits!
    Thank you, I will have a better look next time! :)