Wisley Gardens, England

Wisley Gardens is the best garden in the world. A must for a gardener, great for ideas on planting a wonderful day tour from London


I grew up in a family of avid gardeners. We attended lots of flower shows, and of course, the Chelsea Flower Show was a must, and everyone belongs to the Royal Horticultural Society

I must have a 100 gardening books, and each time I go home I add another one to my collection. The latest was Healing Gardens, by Romy Rawlings, and, earlier in the year, I bought Scented Containers, by Sue Fisher. Two fantastic books.

The Royal Horticultural Society has four gardens in Great Britain and the flagship is one of the greatest gardens in the world. The other three are at Rosemoor in Devon, Hyde Hall in Essex, and Harlow Carr in Harrogate, Yorkshire. 

If you are a gardener, and interested in plants, Wisley in Surrey is a special kind of Heaven.

It has one of the largest plant collections in the world with close to 30,000 varieties. In fact, for a gardener looking for inspiration, Wisley has pretty much everything.

You should spend the whole day there—great place to eat, good book store, and their tours and lectures are outstanding. This extraordinary garden has been a center of horticultural excellence for more than 100 years since Sir Thomas Hanbury gave 60 acres to the RHS in l903.  

It is 25 miles from central London and there are frequent direct trains to Woking, and then take a taxi from the platform 5 side of the station. You get a reduction in entry price if you travel by public transportation.

The bold planting statements and sweeping vistas you see as soon as you walk in, combined with the subtle fragrances from the masses of flowers, give an immediate impression of the huge horticultural variety on display.

Herbaceous plants in the big mixed borders provide a spectacular array of color in high summer and demonstrate gardening on a large scale.

Move on to the Glasshouse Borders and you’ll discover an entirely different style, of lower maintenance, Prairie-inspired planting. Once inside the giant Glasshouse, you can experience desert, rainforest, and tropical conditions in a series of computer-controlled environments. There are more than 5,000 tender plant varieties including some rare, vulnerable or endangered species.

Apart from showcasing planting ideas, the garden is also the centre of the Society’s scientific and research work. The half-timbered building known as the Laboratory is the focal point of the garden, and it was purpose built in 1914 to accommodate the scientific staff—and they still use it today.

Don’t miss—if you like to grow your own—the fruit field and the model fruit and vegetable gardens. Fascinating to view the allotment-sized plot cropped to serve a family’s needs throughout the year.  You can also learn about organic gardening.

The Rose Garden, now in its second year of replanting,  is really beginning to flourish and it’s a great place to take in new varieties. 

Must-sees are the Rhododendrons, azaleas, the rock garden and alpine meadow. The herb garden and wild flowers are wonderful if you are there at the right time. 

Special Events worth going to if you are in London:

The Wisley Flower Show – 6-9th September

Taste of Autumn Festival – 17-21 October

Improve your camera skills at Wisley’s photography mornings, last Saturday of each month until October.


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