RHS Garden Wisley

Woking, Surrey

The Royal Horticultural Society's flagship property.

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When they say that Surrey is like a jungle sometimes, they’re usually talking about the M25 motorway in rush hour. Step into the Glasshouse at Wisley Gardens, however, and it really is like walking into a rainforest. There are tall palms, enormous ferns and exotic creepers extending their tentacle-like shoots all over the shop – each quietly battling to assert itself.

Surrounded by 240 acres of woods and landscaped gardens, this is the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) flagship property – established way back in 1878 as an 'experimental garden' to enable 'difficult plants grow successfully'. Since then, the RHS has continued the site’s tradition of trialling unusual new flowers, fruits and vegetables, and also involves testing different cultivation techniques – albeit with slightly more technology these days. Like the state-of-the-art glasshouse, for example. Perched beside a lake, it’s the size of ten tennis courts and has three climatic zones that recreate tropical, moist- and dry temperate habitats. There’s a Learning Space and Growing Lab, too, where youngsters can get hands-on with the weird and wonderful plants, see how professional glasshouse gardeners work and even have a go at planting. All this, just a short train ride from London.

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