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Wisley Gardens, Surrey

The first Royal Horticultural Society garden was at Chiswick which had been leased since 1822. The London air pollution was bad and the Society had spent 30 years trying to find a larger garden in a more plant-friendly situation when they were given Wisley in 1903. At that time only a small part of the 60 acre estate was actually cultivated as a garden, the remainder being wooded farmland. The descent from the steep hill which blocks out traffic noise from the nearby A3 road. Each side are superb herbaceous borders.Wisley Gardens

The original garden was the creation of George Fergusson Wilson―businessman, scientist, inventor and keen gardener and a former Treasurer of the Society. His Oakwood garden acquired a reputation for its collections of lilies, gentians, Japanese irises, primulas and water plants and the present Wild Garden at Wisley is its direct descendant. After Wilson’s death in 1902, Oakwood and the adjoining Glebe Farm were bought by Sir Thomas Hanbury, a wealthy Quaker who had founded the celebrated garden of La Mortola, on the Italian Riviera. In 1903, Sir Thomas presented the Wisley estate in trust to the Society for its perpetual use. A wild flower meadow with poppies, cornflowers, white and yellow Chamomile and dog daisies.Flowers at Wisley

While Wisley was taking shape as an ornamental garden, its educational and scientific roles were never forgotten. A small laboratory was opened and the School of Horticulture founded to instruct young people in the principles of horticulture and prepare them for careers as professional gardeners. Following the move to Wisley the trials of flowers, vegetables and fruit―an important part of the Society’s work since 1860―were resumed and expanded. The trials “epitomise… the Society’s endeavour to show to the public the best kinds of plants to grow” and remain one of the principal objects of the garden. That combination of learning with pleasure is the essence of Wisley.

Today, making the best use of a site with a lake and a steep hill, which provides a very effective barrier, to the noise of the busy A3 dual carriage-way there is a huge tropical greenhouse complex, a large modern restaurant and sales nursery, alpine greenhouses, a new rose area being developed all in addition to the many older gardens. Thanks to the horticultural students in training, the level of presentation is superb―not a weed to be seen and every plant is labeled.

Flora Garden Tours visit this garden on the Romantic Gardens of Kent, Sussex and Surrey tour.


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