A day out at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey, England

In Counties, Days Out, Our Journeys, Surrey, Trip-Types, UK Travelby JanisLeave a Comment

A pleasure for the senses

A visit to RHS Wisley is a delightful experience all year round, as the beautifully kept gardens have something different on display all through the seasons.

We arrived on a bright autumn morning with a slight chill in the air, but the day ahead was looking promising.

Looking along the Jellicoe canal lily pond, past its fountain, to the Tudor building, now known as The Laboratory.

Jellicoe Canal and the Laboratory

It had been about 20 years since I’d last visited RHS Wisley and it brought back some lovely memories.

I came here with my grandad who was a very keen horticulturist and often exhibited his delphiniums that he had nurtured at home through blood, sweat and tears.

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The RHS Garden Wisley sign mounted on a brick wall at the entrance to the gardens.

Welcome to RHS Garden Wisley

So, arriving at RHS Wisley things had changed a little, there was still the high levels of care, love and dedication throughout the gardens. And smiling teams of green-fingered enthusiasts as you strolled around.

Raised flower beds with cerise coloured flowers leading to  a pretty house at the entrance to RHS Gardens Wisley

At the entrance to RHS Wisley

Nurtured over the years

Armed with our map, we went off to discover the alluring wonders of the garden and the beautiful fragrances that followed.

RHS Wisley has grown and grown over the years and the gardens now currently cover 97 hectares (240 acres). 

You won’t be alone if you don’t manage to cover it all in a day.

 You can enjoy one of RHS Wisley’s 3 self-guided ‘plants trails’ or like us just wander amongst foliage and enjoy where your senses lead you to.

A signpost pointing to different parts of the various gardens.

All points lead to splendour

Where the magic happens

One of the unique things about RHS Wisley is the eye-catching Arts and Crafts style laboratory. Its half-timbered façade creates such a beautiful backdrop to the Jellicoe Canal laid out in front of it.

Standing at the edge of the grass verge next to Jellicoe Canal with a large historic house at the end, known as the Laboratory.

Jellicoe Canal and Laboratory

The laboratory has been nurturing and training budding students and apprentices for decades.  A restoration project is underway, and in 2021 the public will then be able to enter the ground floor of the laboratory.

Henry Moore's statue 'Draped Reclining Figure' in front of the Jellicoe canal and the water lily pavilion.

Henry Moore statue and Water Lily Pavilion

Dotted all around RHS Wisley are attractive sculptures, some large and some small. From the end of Jellicoe Canal with the water lilies stretched out beyond is one of Henry Moore’s works of art (the ‘Draped Reclining Figure’).  

Go with the flow

Heading along the Jellicoe Canal you must wander to the water lily pavilion, it’s from here you’ll get a delightful view of the pond and the historical laboratory in the background.

The beds within the walled garden laid out in symmetrical patterns edged with Buxus hedges which are predominately green, yellow & white.

The Walled Gardens

Once again, the choice is yours; however, we strolled into the tranquil walled gardens beyond the pavilion.

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There is plenty of seating throughout the gardens where you can enjoy the surroundings or just give your feet a rest.

A rectangular sunken pond within the walled gardens lined on each side with evergreen vegetation and an exit in the wall at the far end.

Pond in the Walled Gardens

A close-up of purple trumpeted flowers within the walled garden.

Delicate, vibrant shades in the Walled Gardens

The planting here is so lovingly thought out, just take a seat and enjoy your surroundings.

I loved the delicate water features within the walled garden and the serene pond bordered by evergreen planting of conifers, ferns and grasses.

A small pond, fed by a waterfall, below a table and chairs at the exit to the walled garden.

Tranquil spot by the Walled Gardens

Oakwood

We then stroll further through the gardens into Oakwood. This one of the older parts of Wisley Gardens and was established within an existing wood in 1878.

These woodlands were so peaceful, and you would not believe that the M25 (London’s orbital) was only one a mile away.

A border dominated by a large Acer next to the path in the  Oakwood section of the gardens.

Around the tranquil paths of Oakwood

Following the path back towards the rear of RHS Wisley, we pass by the base of the rock garden and by the side of the charming pond. Thoughtfully planted out for with low borders so the full extent of the water lilies could be seen. I should think some little pondlife critters have made their home here too.

A view up to the Rock Gardens across a wooden bridge over a lily filled canal.

Looking up over the Rock Garden

The Glasshouse

The next stop is the glasshouse and the adjacent scenic lake. The glasshouse stands 12 metres (40 foot) high and even houses a waterfall inside. 

A view of the Glasshouse across the lake from the borders around it.

The Glasshouse by the lake

The glasshouse was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 2007 and has plants flourishing from exotic places all around the world.

A hanging, fern-like, flower that is red on the outside and yellow inside.

Delicate exotic flowers

A delicate orchid in the Glasshouse with a mottled purple and cream flow with a dark purple centre.

Hidden in the foliage, RHS Wisley gardens

You can meander between three climate-controlled areas of moist, dry and tropical temperate. It’s amazing the plant life in here and if you’re lucky you may even catch a butterfly fluttering past. 

Depending on the time of year will obviously determine the plants that you see; however, I love the cactus and succulent displays, and you can see these all year round.

A selection of cactus inside the Glasshouse.

Prickly Cactus

Each section is a real pleasure to experience, and the moistness created in the air of the cloud forest with its gushing waterfall feels so natural.

A bright orange flower against the backdrop of a man-made waterfall inside the Glasshouse.

In front of the waterfall

Looking through the waterfall inside the Glasshouse.

Behind the waterfall

By the way, the tropical region is pretty warm, you may come out looking like you’ve had a bad hair day.

A potted Agave plant with wild leaves that head off in all directions, named 'Bad Hair Day'

Bad hair day Agave

Coming from afar?

Why not incorporate your visit to RHS Garden Wisley with an overnight stay at The Talbot Inn, in Ripley village, just two miles away?

 The Talbot offers a mini-break package which includes your RHS Wisley ticket.

To the Rock Garden

The Rock Garden is a part of RHS Wisley that I recalled from my visit 20 years ago. Still as beautiful as I remember, well actually now it’s even better.

A pond within the Rock Garden.

Pond in RHS Wisley’s Rock Garden

I love all the little rock pools and the waterfall flowing through the garden, over the gnarly rocks and between the Acers and Dwarf Conifers.

A stream leading to a waterfall within the Rock Garden.

Waterfall weaving through the Rock Garden

Looking up across the layers of the Rock Garden towards a large tree.

Elegant Acer in the Rock Garden

I really didn’t expect to see crocus, cyclamen and colchicum flowering in autumn. 

The rock garden has been created with tranquil Japanese ambience and is such a pleasure to stroll around.

Beautiful white flowers and purple crocuses in a bed in the Rock Garden

Flash of colour between the rocks

Climb up beyond the rock garden, and you can enjoy the enchanting view across Wisley gardens outstretched below.

Alpine Houses

Another species of plants I love are Alpines. They bring such a delicate flash of colour to a terrain that is so harsh at times.

Deep red flowers stand out in the Rock Garden.

Vibrant colours through the ochre stones

The little heads of the plants push their way up through the unforgiving rock and somehow, just start to creep over the top of the stones and makes the tough surroundings their home.

A close-up of white flowers on red stems growing on a rock.

Alpines soften the terrain

One of the Alpine houses has a display of plants within a craggy natural environment, and the other Alpine house has individual species planted in sunken pots. This way you really get to appreciate the delicacy of the plants.

One bed of inside the Alpine House with individual specimens planted out in pots in a raised gravel bed.

Inside an Alpine House

White hairy flowers tipped with yellow heads grows from green leaves.

Haemanthus Albiflos in the Alpine House

Short of time?

If you’re staying in central London and would love to visit RHS Garden Wisley, then jump on this private 4-hour English country garden trip. Your pickup and drop off is all included. 

Vegetable Patch

Just nearby here is the Bonsai Walk and also the Vegetable Garden. 

The Bonsai walk has a wonderful display of this delicate species that can be seen throughout the changing of the seasons. Some of these little Oriental trees are up to 80 years old.

A mixture of Bonsai's & statues alongside the Bonsai Path.

Bonsai Walk

Now, RHS Wisley’s main vegetable patch is not quite like what you and I would have at home. Although, saying that they do have ornamental kitchen gardens and also allotment sized patches. Take a stroll through and see if you can count the 50 types of different vegetables, let alone the different varieties of these vegetables.   

The vegetable garden planted out in neat rows.

The Vegetable Garden

Harvest Time

Heading up from here and passing by the whispering grasses by the Bowes-Lyon Pavilion is the Fruit and Herb Gardens. Autumn is an excellent time of year for the fruit garden as there are so many apples, pears and vines overflowing with produce.

A number of arches covered by trained pair trees.

Canopy of pears

Looking up at bunches of grapes growing on a vine.

Grape vines ripe for the picking

You can even have a taster of Wisley’s homegrown produce, just leave a donation, and the choice is yours.

Fruit & veg available for a small donation at a makeshift stall constructed out of hay bales.

Fruit & Veg

RHS Wisley’s herb garden is a lovely place to sit and relax in, even though it was early autumn, there was still the delightful scent of lavender floating through the terracotta paths.

An orbital feature stainless steel is the centrepiece of the Herb Garden.

The Herb Garden

Charming and relaxed atmosphere

I think one of the resounding memories I had while strolling around RHS Wisley, was the smiling gardeners young and old, imparting their horticultural advice with the visitors. 

Hilltop Border

From the herb garden, we wander down to the Hilltop Border and what an incredible display of colour. The dahlias here were beautiful, swathes of delicate heads mixed with soft grasses were such pleasure to experience. 

Pale pink dahlias in a flowerbed

Dahlias mixed with whispering grasses

Pink tipped star dahlias with a yellow centre.

Vibrant pink dahlias in the Hilltop Border

Touch of Exotic

There really is an incredible amount to see at RHS Garden Wisley, it’s not surprising that it attracts around 1 million visitors a year.

Looking through the Exotic Garden to the fountain in the centre.

The water feature in the Exotic Garden

The best time to see the Exotic Garden is during the summer months; however, even in early autumn, it was still a blast for the senses. 

A corner bench under the broad leaves of the banana plants.

Hiding amongst the banana plants

Teardrop red-veined flowers dropping down.

Vibrant, bold colours in the Exotic Garden

Bold colours are flowing around the borders, banana plants stretching high above and delicate flowers bouncing in the breeze.

Cottage Garden

From the exotic garden you stroll seamlessly through into the cottage garden this is very quintessentially English and beautiful.

The fountain at the centre of the Cottage Gardens with a statue of a swan diver entering the pond.

The water feature in the Cottage Garden

Still, some of the delicate flowers are clinging on to the last of the sunshine. This is everything you would want your cottage garden to be, relaxed planting and swathes of bustling borders.

A stone, semi-circular, bench at the far end of the Cottage Garden in amongst the pink flowers of the border.

Delicate planting in tranquil spots

I really feel I need to return in other months of the year, to enjoy the garden through all its seasons. 

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As mentioned, there really is plenty to see and enjoy for a full day at RHS Garden Wisley. There are eateries dotted all around the gardens and also picnic areas nestled amongst the grounds.

Then when you have finished for the day stroll through the Wisley garden shop, where you can purchase that longed for plant and pick the brains of the experts on hand to give advice.

The glass front of the Wisley shop

Wisley Garden Shop

Useful things to know

  • There is a sizeable onsite carpark, which is free of charge. However, car-free visitors are able to obtain a discount on your ticket price.
  • Guildford to RHS Wisley is around 30 minutes by bus
  • Wear comfy shoes

2019 Pricing

  • Adults - £15.95 incl Gift Aid
  • Children 5-16 years - £8 incl Gift Aid
  • Family 2+2 (2 adults + 2 children) - £40.70 incl Gift Aid
  • Additional child £7.25

To book your RHS Wisley tickets at a discount, follow this link to their official website.

Disclaimer

We were given two complimentary tickets to RHS Garden Wisley by The Talbot Inn, Ripley.  The Talbot coaching inn is located just 2 miles from RHS Wisley and makes an ideal place for a mini-break.

Inspired to visit RHS Wisley?

Take a look at the mini-break offers available at The Talbot Inn, Ripley and book direct online?

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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