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RHS Garden Wisley opens Oakwood Summerhouse to pay homage to Ellen Willmott

by | 15 Apr 24 | Commercial Landscaping, News

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is to reinstate the forgotten history of Ellen Willmott, who spearheaded the charity’s acquisition of its flagship garden.

Willmott was a significant figure in horticulture at the turn of the 20th century, having co-sponsored many plant-collecting expeditions that introduced new species to cultivation, several of which were named for her.

She created three extensive gardens across Europe, including Warley Place in Essex.

Willmott’s 40 year involvement with the RHS also includes facilitating the society’s ownership of what would later become RHS Garden Wisley.

Her role in developing the garden only emerged through research by Sandra Lawrence, author of Miss Willmott’s Ghosts: The Extraordinary Life and Gardens of a Forgotten Genius (Blink, 2022).

Matthew Pottage, Curator of RHS Garden Wisley, was recording an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time at Warley Place soon after the book’s release and the story emerged, leading to this tribute.

The Oakwood Summer House has been constructed by Surrey Oak Barns and features interpretation boards describing Willmott’s role and the history of how the area came to become RHS Garden Wisley.

The boards also highlight the other recipient of the VMH in 1897—Gertrude Jekyll, another notable figure in the history of horticulture.

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