You’d love being led up this garden path

A visit to Wisley is a delightful experience with a surprise at every corner. Daksha Hathi takes a tour of the friendliest garden in England

Wisely, a school for gardening, attracts thousands of visitors every year
Wisely, a school for gardening, attracts thousands of visitors every year

A nap alongside a mound of yellow-golden roses under sunshine that played hot and cold, looked like cosy therapy that morning in July, at Wisley, which is one of the friendliest gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society of England.

As elderly couples snoozed in a rose arbour, others gazed at the orange rose named after Agatha Christie, and all were enchanted by a new blue rose called Rosa Rhapsody in Blue Frantasia, while many sought out the few remaining scented old roses still around.

Wisley is England’s working garden and a school for gardening with its model vegetable, fruit, suburban and herbal gardens. Trials on new kinds of vegetables, fruits and flowers are also conducted at Wisely. It greets its visitors with a massive pond shimmering with pink and mauve water lilies and beyond it there is another stream where you can watch birds having a romp around the water lilies. For rose lovers, there is another rambling stretch of wreathed, circled, pouring and plaited roses – red, orange, burgundy, lemony, white – with names like Rosa Agatha Christie, Nostalgia, etc.

Alongside, there are large shrubs pouring roses. Tall trees sheltering friendly benches let you enjoy a quiet lunch. The herbal garden is filled with interesting herbs and you can learn all about growing and cooking them.

Wisley’s special places are the Alpine Meadow, (where in April yellow daffodil carpets will stun you), the Rock Garden with its streams and unusual alpines, and Seven Acres for trees and shrubs of every variety.

The Heather Garden shimmers all the year round with ferns, begonias and grasses. The greenhouses have lovely water lilies, tropical flowers, exotic succulents etc for sale and experts to advice you about planting.

Permanent trials of many kinds of plants are conducted at Wisely. Its iris trials showed visitors some of the latest magic of the hybridiser’s art. It attracts thousands of visitors every year.

This garden also has the best selection of modern gardening books and plants for sale where you get the best advice about growing your plants. It is quite definitely the best bookstore for browsing for gardening books and some of them are even affordable.

The most tempting treat is to enjoy the rhododendrons, daffodils, camellias and magnolias. If you go during the rhododendron period, you will be transfixed by rhododendron walls, arches, terraces, borders and balconies. In April, you can see golden yellow carpets of daffodils. In July, there is an abundance of hydrangeas-blue, pink and lavender, and roses of every shape, size and colour.

Visitors will be enchanted by Seven Acres, with its large pond and lush plants to rest under. Wisley’s greenhouse is filled with tropical flowers, gorgeous succulents and water lilies of every colour and shade. Wisley splashes its colours and scents over almost 200 acres.

Its owner’s wish G.F. Wilson had developed his garden largely to suit his plants. Today Wisley with its up and down steps and odd layers, sudden and unexpected corners treats you to a rainbow coloured haven of plants along with lots of equally interested and delighted birds).

Like all RHS gardens around London, this totally organic, people-friendly and bird-friendly garden comforts you with the knowledge that there are still some things to crow about in this world.

Gift of George Wilson

THE Wisley tale began in 1878 when George Ferguson Wilson, a businessman, scientist, inventor and passionate gardener bought a small plot of dilapidated land near Ripley in Surrey. He turned it into a Woodland Garden to try and make difficult plants grow successfully. Its beds were formed among streams and ponds and the plants were treated with the free leaf mould. Naturally, the lilies along with rhododendrons and irises flourished. He loved to explore the magic of new and unusual plants. With his scientific but unorthodox methods he became the most exciting cultivator of lilies in England. He called this haven "a place where plants from all over the world grow wild."

In 1902, when he died, a dedicated horticulturist named Sir Thomas Hanbury bought the garden and gifted it to the RHS. It became the now world famous Wisley gardens.

You can go to Wisley by car, or the bus or train. If you show your bus or train ticket at the ticket counter you will have to pay only pounds 5-50 instead of the regular 7 pounds for an adult and pound 1-60 for a child instead of 2 pounds. Don’t go on a Sunday as it is open only to RHS members.