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Watching Wisley – The RHS Guide to Autumn Delights

Published on: 18 Oct, 2019
Updated on: 21 Oct, 2019

Autumn is a wonderful time of year at RHS Garden Wisley, with an abundance of vibrant seasonal colour on display at every turn. The Guildford Dragon asked for seasonal updates so readers can be kept aware of the world-famous garden’s highlights.

Here, RHS horticulturalist John Ricketts, explains his top picks of autumn interest in the Garden and also provides some advice for gardeners at home.

What to look for at Wisley this autumn

One of the key areas for autumn colour here at Wisley is Oakwood, which contains Wisley’s most diverse plant collection. As visitors explore the winding paths, there are vibrant splashes of colour to catch the eye.

The Wild Garden with Acer palmatum ‘Elegans’ in autumn at RHS Garden Wisley.

Franklinia alatamaha

One of my favourites is Acer palmatum ‘Elegans’ which will soon have fiery tones of yellow, orange and red gracing its leaves. Another distinctive autumn treat is the long-stiped disanthus shrub – Disanthus cercidifolius – which features heart-shaped leaves that turn claret red and purple from early autumn, with the oranges appearing later on.

A striking sight in Oakwood is the mountain witch alder – Fothergilla major Monticola Group – a relative of witch hazel. Its rounded leaves combine a striking mixture of fiery yellow, orange and red, which contrasts nicely with its darker stems.

A rare autumn treat is the Franklin tree – Franklinia alatamaha (right) – which is a relative of camellia. It displays vibrant red autumn colour at the same time as large camellia-like flowers.

A plant portrait of Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Wisley King’

Seven Acres also provides seasonal delights for visitors. Head here to see Wisley’s iconic black gum trees, Nyssa sylvatica; “Wisley Bonfire”, in the middle of the round pond and also the impressive sweet gum – Liquidambar styraciflua “Wisley King”. On Seven Acres you will also find the colourful Equinox Borders that are full of asters, autumn-flowering kniphofia and deciduous euonymus.

The Equinox Borders at RHS Garden Wisley.

What’s new at Wisley?

RHS Garden Wisley experienced some exciting changes this summer with the opening of the new Welcome building and surrounding landscape.

New building and shop, RHS Wisley

For the first time, visitors have been greeted on arrival by world-class horticulture, thanks to the welcome landscape designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole. Here, an avenue of cherry trees lines the route into the heart of the Garden.

Once inside the Welcome building, a bright and airy new arrivals hall greets visitors, with information about the Garden and upcoming events. The Welcome building also houses the new and improved plant centre.

The new plant centre

Now covering 5000sqm, it stocks a wide variety of plants, including many sourced from specialist UK growers. The large shop displays an array of gardening and artisan products, books, and RHS Exclusives. Visitors can also take a break and refuel in the spacious new café or relaxing table service restaurant, featuring a full à la carte menu with delicious locally sourced produce.

Back to Nature

The Duchess of Cambridge meets children from the RHS Campaign for School Gardening during the launch of her Back to Nature Garden and the Back to Nature Festival at RHS Garden Wisley, in September. The garden was inspired by and has elements taken from her garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Photo – RHS / Luke MacGregor

Another exciting launch was the official opening of the Back to Nature Garden for children by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge in September. The garden is inspired by show gardens co-designed by The Duchess at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival and is a place for families and friends to have fun in nature.

Fun play elements include a ‘bouncing forest’, where young visitors can jump on trampolines surrounded by trees, two treehouses linked via a walkway with slides, and a living willow pod.

Find out what’s on this autumn at RHS Garden Wisley by visiting

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