RHS Wisley could comfortably vie for the enviable position of Garden of the Month on our Dig Blog any month of the year. From walled gardens, to wild gardens, from alpine houses to glasshouses, Wisley does, seemingly, have it all. This month, however and in particular, gives it special precedence because this month, RHS Wisley has announced that its iconic beamed laboratory (known affectionately as the ‘Old Laboratory’) has been transformed into a new space to capture and tell the tale of its long history as the home of gardening science in the United Kingdom.

Opening its doors to the public for the first time on 20 March 2023, the restored Grade II listed building has been equipped with a new exhibition space to invite visitors to take a stroll back through gardening history. Like the vast majority of meticulously maintained and nurtured gardens, there is no bad time of year to visit them but, with the ability to step from gardens bursting with spring life to visit the historic moments that helped to craft the modern art of gardening, you could do a lot worse than this coming March.

RHS Wisley – Old Science Labs, restyled into visitor centre, ©RHS credit Paul Dubois

A number of highlights in the permanent exhibition collection include:

  • The Townsend Lecture Theatre – a mock-up of a 1921 student classroom with microscopes, benches and a brass and mahogany magic lantern projector designed to show visitors what the study of horticulture might have felt like one hundred years ago
  • Exploration of experiments conducted by students over the years, including pioneering female scientist, Dr Janaki Ammal who developed several hybrid crop species still grown today
  • Plant Collections that focus on a 1962 expedition to Iran, celebrating the role of indigenous communities and highlighting the global nature of many UK garden plants

Wisley has always been one of our favourite gardens to visit. Within easy reach of our base in London and a source of constant inspiration for both planting and landscaping, Wisley offers much – this new addition only cements its reputation and we thoroughly recommend visiting. 

Visit rhs.org.uk/wisleylaboratory for more information and remember that advance booking is necessary. 

Header image credit: RHS Joanna Kossak