If you're looking for English garden inspiration, the Royal Horticultural Society's Wisley Garden, near London, is the place to go. It's where serious English gardeners go for new ideas, techniques and the latest plant trends. The world famous collection of plants has been developing for more than 100 years. Open year round, RHS Wisley bursts with ideas and color in every season.
The garden spreads over 240 acres in Woking, Surrey, about an hour's drive from Central London. Even if your idea of gardening is watering a plant on your window sill, it is a lovely, peaceful place for a stroll. But, if you are a more ambitious gardener, this garden - really a series of different gardens - will fill your head with new projects to try.
It's a demonstration garden full of practical garden design ideas and cultivation techniques. Model gardens are laid out for different kinds of homes from small city gardens to wide manicured landscapes and forest walks. Wide mixed borders change with the seasons. There are wild and woodland gardens, beautiful rose gardens and trials fields where new flowers and vegetables are tested.
Opened in 2007, Wisley's huge glasshouse is 40 feet high and covers an area equal to ten tennis courts. Inside, you can explore the RHS collections of rare and exotic plants, as well as seasonal displays in three different climatic zones - tropical, moist temperate and dry temperate habitats. A winding path, past rocky outcrops, waterfalls, pools, and slopes, leads through the glasshouse to the most important collections including tender plants, endangered species and hundreds of varieties of orchids.
The Glasshouse Borders
The Glasshouse is set beside a new lake. Borders designed by Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf feature North American prairie plants allowed to blend naturally. Oudolf used the same approach designing the plantings of New York's High Line.
The Mixed Borders
Wisley's 420 foot long mixed borders are world famous as an outstanding example of the way English gardeners blend annuals and perennials, foliage and flowers. If you've ever wondered how gardeners "paint" with flowers and plants, this is the place to see it.
Other Features at Wisley
Be sure to also check out:
- An Alpine meadow and rock garden
- Rhododendron, azalea and heather collections
- Wild garden, pinetum, and arboretum
- A fruit orchard with more than 670 different apple cultivars
- A family garden
- A street of small gardens
- Three restaurants - ranging from a casual food hall through a family cafe with a play area to a more formal restaurant for brunch, lunch and afternoon tea.
Don't forget to visit the Wisley Plant Center that has more than 12,000 varieties of plants. International visitors who may not be able to take plants home can still put their questions to the center's hand gardening experts, seven days a week. There is also a gift shop with loads of goodies that you can bring home.
- Address: RHS Wisley Garden, Woking, Surrey, GU23 6QB, England
- Phone: +44 (0)845 260 9000
- Opening times: The gardens are open all year, except Christmas Day. Last admission is one hour before closing time.
- Monday to Friday, 10 am to 6 pm.
- Saturday and Sunday and Bank Holidays, 9 am to 6 pm.
- Admission: RHS Members and one family member are free. Different entry fees are available for adults, children, and groups. No senior discount is offered. Visit their website for current prices.
- Gift Aid tickets: Tickets are routinely sold as "gift aid tickets" which are slightly higher in price than tickets without gift aid. Through gift aid, a portion of the ticket price is considered a charitable donation and matched by the UK government. This program is only available for UK tax payers so if you are visiting from abroad, ask for the ticket without gift aid.
- Services for the disabled: Wheelchairs are available and there is a free electric mobility vehicle.
- By car: Wisley is 20 miles southwest of London on the A3, near junction 10 of the M25. Look for brown tourist attraction signs with flower symbols. Parking is free.
- By train: Trains from London Waterloo Station leave regularly for nearby Woking (7miles away), where taxis are available. West Byfleet station is closer (4 miles) but no standby taxis are available there. Check National Rail Enquiries for times and prices.
- By bus: There are hourly buses, every day, from Surbiton train station and Guildford bus stations.
- Green ticket discounts - A reduced price ticket is available for visitors who arrive by train, bus or bicycle. Keep you travel ticket to show at the ticket office.