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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 Walled Gardens
Once again, the choice is yours; however, we strolled into the tranquil walled gardens beyond the pavilion.
Good to know
There is plenty of seating throughout the gardens where you can enjoy the surroundings or just give your feet a rest.
Pond in the Walled Gardens
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.
Tranquil spot by the Walled Gardens
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.
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.
Looking up over the Rock Garden
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.
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.
Delicate exotic flowers
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.
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.
In front of the waterfall
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.
Bad hair day Agave
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.
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.
Waterfall weaving through the Rock Garden
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.
Flash of colour between the rocks
Climb up beyond the rock garden, and you can enjoy the enchanting view across Wisley gardens outstretched below.
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.
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.
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.
Inside an Alpine House
Haemanthus Albiflos in the Alpine House
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.
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
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.
Canopy of pears
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
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.
The Herb Garden
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.
Dahlias mixed with whispering grasses
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.
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.
Hiding amongst the banana plants
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.
From the exotic garden you stroll seamlessly through into the cottage garden this is very quintessentially English and beautiful.
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.
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.
Good to share
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.
Wisley Garden Shop
Useful things to know
- 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
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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