Wisley is now a household name but how did it all start?
Mr George Wilson, a Victorian businessman and a treasurer/member of the Royal Horticultural Society purchased a 60 acre estate in 1878. It was here that the first shrubs and flowers were planted. On part of the site he established the ‘Oakwood Experimental Garden’ where he tried to make difficult plants grow successfully.
Following his death the estate was bought for £5,000 by Sir Thomas Hanbury who gave it to the RHS, enabling the Society to move from Chiswick in 1904.
Wisley now attracts thousands of visitors during the year, making it difficult to imagine that it wasn’t so very long ago that the area, along with its small village, was all farmland.
With ‘lock down restrictions’ it had been almost 2 years since our last visit when changes were then being made with the main entrance/car parking, shop and the building of RHS Hilltop – home of gardening science. On this visit we didn’t get round to viewing the centre which officially opened on 24th June 2021. Something to keep for our next visit!
The shopping area was very spacious with its sections of gifts, books, cards and stationery, children’s books and toys, food and confectionery, homewares, outdoor living, plants and
gardening tools and equipment.
It was a fine and partially sunny day so nice to just leisurely walk around the gardens. It was very interesting to explore the South African Meadow in a spot which is open to the full sun and was very naturalistic in style. It included Dierama, Agapanthus, Gazania and Watsonia.
The Mediterranean Garden on Battleston Hill surrounded by old grapevines had wonderful scents from roaming lavender, cypress and eucalyptus – very evocative on a warm day!
Wisley also had a Summer holidays Wonderland for the children to enjoy, rediscovering Alice’s adventures. Children had to follow the garden trail to find characters and activities along the way. You could also take a picnic to Mad Hatter’s table in Wilson’s Wood.
We spent about 2 and half hours there and no matter how often you visit things are always changing with different things to see. Wisley is packed with so much horticultural inspiration you can understand why it is one of the world’s greatest and loved gardens to visit and enjoy.