We may have had unseasonably good weather in the past few weeks – I would even go as far to say, it’s just been that little bit too hot for my liking, especially with no cooling sea breeze or air conditioning to offer respite. But before the sun decided to show itself we opted, on a grey, overcast day, to visit nearby Wisley Gardens Surrey. And would you believe, it was our first time, even though it’s only 20 minutes away?
We didn’t have the blistering heat, but we definitely got a taste of the tropics at RHS Gardens Wisley, from its magnificent glasshouse and exotic tree ferns, tall palms and lush creepers, to its ornate rock gardens and carpets of wildflowers and meadows. There was a hint of summer throughout, with bursts of colour leaping out at every turn.
If, like me, you have a penchant for gardens, but can’t be bothered to replicate it in your own backyard, then Wisley is the perfect place to get your horticultural fix, as well as just being able to appreciate the calm oasis in which flora can provide. The only problem with going somewhere so vast, and with so much to explore is it’s impossible to see everything when you are short on time. Monkey wasn’t with us on this occasion, so rather than heading to the children’s adventure playground, which would have been our first stop, we were able to wander at leisure, perusing the different plants, trees and borders.
Wisley Gardens Surrey
Wisley is made up of over 200 acres, and has over 25,000 different species of plants. Walking through the main entrance and past the historic house, you’re transported to the stereotypical ideal of an English country garden. We strolled down the canal, looking back at the house, and enjoyed sitting on the benches to admire the view.
Wisley Garden’s Glasshouse
From here, there are several different routes which can be taken. Wisely is split into several mini-gardens, each with different themes, plants and purposes. It’s impossible to lose your way, as the garden’s shining beacon is the Glasshouse, which stands like a huge glass cathedral, both ethereal and domineering in the landscape, and is the size of 10 tennis courts…
Stepping inside, you’ll experience three climates, recreating tropical, moist temperate and dry temperate habitats. And you can really notice the changes in temperature as you walk through. We admired so many exotic plants and trees, but the highlight for me was the orchid displays. So many beautiful colours, I’d never seen so many in one setting. After peeling off our layers of clothing, it was soon time to wrap up again, as we went back outside.
Surrounding the Glasshouse on one side are the likes of Oakwood and the Orchard, however, we turned away from the lake and headed to Seven Acres – consisting of large grassy areas, two ponds and a fabulous Chinese pagoda. It is here in the winter, that you can walk a trail that leads you around the path, searching for 10 marker posts which explain in detail about the different plants, colours and contrasts.
Eating at Wisley Gardens
We soon found the restaurant and food hall, and tucked into a relaxing lunch – all the produce is British and much of it is grown at Wisley itself. While I had fresh vegetable soup, the hubby opted for a feta and spinach filo roll. It was all delicious.
With our appetites satisfied, we set off to continue our walk, and looped back around Seven Acres towards the Rock Garden, which has been planted on a steep slope. After finding a pathway to push the buggy up, we were rewarded with a stunning view. The trickle of the stream running down through the rocks was therapeutic, and we spent some time contemplating our surroundings – much like a lot of other visitors, who were dotted about reading books, having picnics and chatting in hushed tones.
From here, we wandered downhill, but not before discovering Herons Bonsai Walk – which is a lovely new addition to Wisley – showing the intricate detail of these magnificent trees.
We then found ourselves walking through Alpine Houses towards Battleston Hill which is Wisley’s landmark attraction – a woodland retreat which changes with the seasons. From the bottom, the grassy hill looks steep, especially when we had to push a pram up it, too. But we both took a breath and dug in, because we were greeted by hundreds of blooming Rhododendrons competing with one another in terms of size and dazzling colour. It certainly made the climb much more enjoyable.
At the top, we took a quick look at the Trials Fields – where the RHS gives the opportunity for multiple varieties of the same plant to be grown together, side-by-side, so they can be compared. And then headed back down through a grassy path of magnolia trees. But while we stopped outside Wisley’s garden centre, and discussed if we should go in, we realised that we had to leave.
I couldn’t believe how quickly time had flown by, and we’d yet to see the Jubilee Arboretum, made up of 1000 trees or the Pinetum walk to name but a few. If Monkey had been with us, we would also have to have checked out the children’s walking trails and play areas. I know he would love running through the orchard and trying to find as many apples as possible.
This summer, Wisley is also introducing two new features – an Exotic Garden which will see stone paths leading around generous beds towards a central fountain with the ambience of a lush, soothing, tropical paradise; and a Riverside Garden, located just off the Pinetum riverside path. It will be a naturalistic garden with areas of wildflowers and native water-loving trees and sounds like the perfect place for a picnic.
It was easy to be inspired by the beauty of such a world-renowned horticultural attraction because even though I’m not green-fingered, I can appreciate the time, effort and patience it must take to maintain and cultivate such natural wonders, so that visitors, like us, can keep returning and discovering something new and beguiling each time.
So, until next time, Wisley, we’ll look forward to coming back and being enchanted all over again…
RHS Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB; Tickets: Adults £12.60; Kids £6.30; Under 5’s Free; Family Ticket £32.40