On Wednesday 11 May, a coachload of CABAHS members went on a much anticipated trip to RHS Wisley. This was my first experience of a CABAHS coach trip and it was brilliantly organised by Anna (thank you Anna!).
After experiencing dry weather for weeks, the forecast was for rain mid-afternoon, so it felt important to pack as much in as possible before the rain started. Several members had signed up for a tour with a Wisley volunteer, but as the tours started, so did the rain – several hours earlier than forecast! We were, however, undeterred.
Our tour guide talked about the history of the Wisley site, pointing out that the Jellicoe Canal was once a long row of greenhouses (as seen in this recent RHS Facebook post). Then we took a walk through the Conifer Lawn and Wisteria Walk, looked at the Mixed Borders and took detours off to the Cottage Garden and Exotic Garden (with a quick look at the Trials Garden in its new location) before heading up through the Wellbeing Garden and Wildlife Garden surrounding the new Hilltop building. By this point the rain had really set in, but we had managed to view a lot and it was so interesting for me to see how much has changed since I last visited in 2019. In my opinion all the changes are all for the better – the whole place felt rejuvenated and exciting, while still retaining many favourite areas too. Considering how very new several areas are, they look brilliant already and I look forward to seeing them develop.
After a quick lunch at the World Food Cafe (inside Hilltop) and a rather soggy trip up to the Sky Terrace, the rain had settled to drizzle and members split off into small groups or for solitary walks. I headed to the Glasshouse Borders, which are not yet at their prime, and round to the South African Meadow (ditto – but on the way there I saw the astonishing giant fennel in full throttle). I don’t recall seeing nearly so much horsetail (Equisetum arvense) in previous visits and wonder how the RHS plans to deal with / accommodate it – some areas were absolutely smothered in it, especially the South African and Alpine Meadows.
Finally I walked through Oakwood – the earliest Wisley garden – which was a revelation. I think I’ve only skirted the edges before, or perhaps because I’ve only visited in high summer or autumn in the past it looked very different, but it was glorious. Acers, Rhododendrons, Euphorbia, Tellima, Libertia, Camassia, Lunaria, seas of candelabra Primula and beautiful ferns. It was a lovely almost-end to my day at Wisley.
I just had time to nip through the Walled Gardens (more on the ‘Thinking Outside the Box’ garden later) and back to the Plant Centre (do I need any more plants? No. Did I buy any plants? Yes!) before it was back to the coach for the journey home. We all managed to squeeze in with our plants, rather damp but happy.