Pottering with Pottage: Wisley, the Flagship Garden of the RHS, by Matthew Pottage

We were delighted to welcome Matthew Pottage to speak to us at Grayshott Gardeners this month.  Matthew was the youngest ever curator of an RHS Garden when he was appointed to lead Wisley at the age of 29.  During the last 8 years he has overseen some of the most ambitious projects that the garden has ever undertaken.

With Wisley just up the road, it is a garden that many of us know and love – so it was fascinating to get a peek behind the scenes.  For example, next time we walk down the beautiful avenue of cherry trees that flank the new Garden entrance we will remember what it is like to have a shopping list of 150 semi-mature cherry trees (white flowering only please), all of which have to be quarantined for a year whilst they are closely monitored for pests and diseases.  This is gardening on a gigantic scale.

We also learned about the newest addition to the garden – Hilltop.  Its laboratories and three new gardens are now one of the go-to destinations in Wisley.  Each garden has a distinct purpose – the wildlife garden proves that catering for wildlife doesn’t have to be “messy”. The World Food garden showcases unusual crops amongst the traditional vegetables, and encourages all to be more adventurous in what we grow.  The Well Being garden is not only beautiful to be in, but also enables scientific research into to the benefits of green spaces to our mental health.

We also learned how change comes with challenges.  A bulging postbag from supporters and detractors accompanies each new development.  Moving the garden forward requires courage and a belief that the destination will be worth the disruption and upheaval.  Thankfully Matt is brave – and Wisley continues to inspire and excite us in equal measure!