DID YOU KNOW?
Wisley is a centre of education for gardeners of all ages, but how did it come about?
The Royal Horticultural Society was given to Wisley in 1903. At that time only a small section of the 24 hectare private estate was gardened, the rest was wooded farmland. The original garden was created by George Fergusson Wilson, a former Treasurer of the Society, scientist, inventor, business and gardener, who had purchased the property in 1878
Wilson established the Oakwood experimental garden with the aim of making “difficult plants grow successfully”, developing over time impressive collections of gentians, lilies, Japanese irises, primulas and water plants. The Wild Garden is the direct descendant of Oakwood and stays true to Wilson’s original concept.
When Wilson died in 1902, the garden and adjoining farm were bought by Sir Thomas Hanbury, a wealthy Quaker who created the celebrated La Mortola on the Italian Riviera.
Sir Thomas gave the Wisley estate in trust to the RHS in 1903. The RHS had been looking for a larger garden beyond London to replace the garden in Chiswick they had leased since 1822 and the timing was perfect; they moved to Wisley in time for their centenary in 1904. As well as developing the garden and having trials of flowers, vegetables and fruit the RHS opened a small laboratory and the School of Horticulture was founded.
Today the gardens extend to around 81 hectares and are renowned across the world for one of the largest plant collections.