For more than 200 years, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been the force behind the nation’s love of gardening, backed up by its core vision to ‘enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place’. A shining example of this is the charity’s flagship garden, RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, which is one of the UK’s most visited and best-loved gardens.
As both a hub of horticultural excellence and a top visitor attraction, the popularity of the garden has grown substantially over the past decade, with visits increasing from 750,000 to over one million per year.
Growing Wisley for Everyone
Recognising the increasing popularity and horticultural significance of Wisley, the RHS made a commitment to enhance its future and secure its position as a centre for excellence through its Strategic Investment Programme.
As part of this commitment, some extraordinary plans are now in place at RHS Garden Wisley. These include the development of a new welcome building and bustling ‘village square’, revitalising the historic science laboratory, and creating a new dedicated Centre for Horticultural Science & Learning.
Head of RHS Garden Wisley, Stephanie Fudge said: “We are thrilled to be able to share the vision for RHS Garden Wisley with our visitors as it sets a clear way forward for us to enhance our reputation as one of the most horticulturally-significant and welcoming gardens in the world. The developments at Wisley will enhance the facilities available, and enable visitors to experience world-class horticultural delights, advice and research findings.”
New Welcome Building
In the stylish new entrance and courtyard, visitors can meet up with friends and family before enjoying the garden. A range of enhanced facilities will be included, such as a new shop, café, plant centre, and membership area. Once visitors have entered the garden, there will be a new restaurant and an enticing village square.
The square will also include dedicated space for specialist nurseries to promote plants and share expert advice through the garden’s regular flower shows, demonstrations and temporary displays.
The Laboratory Reborn
By following the entry path, visitors will be greeted by a new vista of the iconic Arts and Crafts-style science Laboratory building and the gently-steeped lawns that will be in keeping with the building’s elegance and academic heritage.
Additionally, following the enhancements to the interior of the laboratory, it will be open to the public for the first time in over 100 years. Visitors will be able to step back in time and explore where and how scientists pioneered horticultural research, and where generations of students have learned their profession.
The remarkable building will become a hub for visitors to learn about the history of the RHS and discover many of the gardening and botanical heritage treasures from the historical library and collections held at Wisley.
New Centre for Horticultural Science & Learning
RHS Garden Wisley has been home to RHS science and the School of Horticulture since 1904 but the current facilities require improvement to ensure modern scientific research and learning can flourish.
The new Centre for Horticultural Science & Learning will be a state-of-the-art building that will inspire excellence in horticultural science and learning, enabling scientists and researchers to address some of the key horticultural challenges of the 21st century, and to share this expertise across the globe. The building will contain laboratories, exhibition space, teaching studios, and facilities for the charity’s nationally important Herbarium, science and library collections. This move will also open the extensive collections and research to the public, providing improved access to expertise and knowledge to allow for ‘better gardening’ for everyone.
Additionally, the new centre of excellence will be surrounded by three beautiful educational gardens where visitors will be able to see how horticultural science has had an impact on our daily lives.
The Garden of Health and Wellbeing is a strikingly modern interpretation of Europe’s earliest physic gardens – will focus on the benefits of gardening and ‘green space’ for mental health and wellbeing.
The World Kitchen Garden will showcase edible plants and how best to cultivate and use them. It will be filled with fruit, vegetables, and culinary herbs from British staples to exotic crops, as well as heritage cultivars and novel ideas.
Finally, the Nature Garden will explore the natural processes and cycles that occur in gardens, and how cultivated gardening can work with and complement the wild. The garden will be an intriguing educational hub in natural history and in environmental sensitivity, to show just how beautiful a wild garden can be.
Timeline of Activity
The exciting programme of developments is now underway at RHS Garden Wisley and the staggered schedule of work has commenced.
The first of the changes sees the Wisley Garden Library reopening in Gardiner’s House from 10th April 2017, and improvements to some paths around the garden are now being made. The new Welcome Building and surrounding area is set to open in summer 2018, and the Centre for Horticultural Science & Learning is due to be completed by summer 2020.
Watch this Space
This spring, visitors will be able to see the planned improvements for RHS Garden Wisley in a new behind-the-scenes exhibition on Seven Acres. Visitors can also access up-to-date information about the project at any time, by visiting the website at www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley.