Our new 1.5 acre Wildlife Garden at RHS Garden Wisley sits perfectly alongside the new National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre. Although Wisley boasts a wide range of wildlife from bat roosts to badger sets, and is home to many species of birds, moths, and other animals, the new Wildlife Garden is the first garden at RHS Wisley that is specifically designed with wildlife in mind.
The RHS wanted a design to inspire visitors to reconnect with nature, share the delights of scientific discovery and reveal the wonders of a concealed yet critically important world that resides on our doorsteps – in our gardens. We knew from our years of experience working with private clients on residential projects that everyone gardens for wildlife, whether intentionally or not. Humans are merely part of a thriving garden ecosystem, but there are certainly ways to encourage more wildlife with intentional design.
We relished the opportunity to use this garden to demonstrate ‘best practices’ that the public can easily try at home to attract and support more wildlife into their own gardens, demonstrating the balance of aesthetic beauty of a garden with gardening enjoyment and nature.
Inspired by the RHS’s research into ‘Plants for Pollinators’, our design is based on a bee’s wing and the intricate shapes within. The garden has been designed to provide a range of habitats, with large pools for aquatic creatures and pollinator-friendly planting. Areas showcasing different growing conditions (from dry shade to bog garden) are planted with brightly coloured flowers, mixing native with non-native species to offer the longest possible season of pollen, nectar and fruit. Log piles, a green roof and a bespoke sculptural sweet chestnut habitat tower by Tom Hare all demonstrate ways of encouraging wildlife to take up residence in your garden. Gravel beaches lead down to the edge of the wildlife pools allow children to pond dip, while long fingers of marginal and aquatic planting provide food and shelter to visiting wildlife. We were thrilled to find that the first ducks arrived to take up residence long before the diggers had departed.
An avenue of crab apple trees (Malus species) along the raised bund at the back of the garden line a shady path, leading to a raised vantage point offering views down over the garden. From here visitors can escape the hubbub of the main garden and take time out to watch the everchanging landscape buzzing with wildlife. The crab apples will provide a stunning display of blossom early in the year, providing much needed food for pollinators and nectar feeders, followed by fruits in the autumn, providing plenty of food for the birds, and small mammals.
RHS Director General, Sue Biggs, says:
“We are absolutely thrilled to have Ann-Marie on board to help shape the future of RHS Garden Wisley and excited to see her innovative ideas come to life. Since its very first days under the care of RHS, Wisley has been at the forefront of education in horticulture. Ann-Marie’s designs will provide an easily accessible source of inspiration and learning for all who visit”.