William Robinson: The Wild Gardener

A new exhibition at RHS Garden Wisley (16 May – 25 Aug 2024) explores the legacy of William Robinson – one of the British Isles’ most influential horticulturalists. Immerse yourself in his vision of a ‘wild garden’ through beautiful artwork and photography

Exhibition highlights:

  • Robinson’s personal copy of The Wild Garden which he inscribed and gave as a gift to his Head Gardener, Ernest Markham
  • The cloak Robinson wore in his later life while managing his garden and showing visitors around
  • A letter Charles Darwin wrote to Robinson, discussing self-fertilising plants
  • Original botanical artworks created by Henry George Moon, for Robinson’s magazine The Garden

About the exhibition...

Oil on canvas portrait of the gardener and journalist William Robinson (1838-1935), painted 1910. (RHS Lindley Collections)

A ‘wilder’ way to garden?

Robinson is remembered as a champion of gardening to mimic nature. His ethos marked a departure from the formal gardens of tender bedding plants popular in the Victorian era. But how nature-friendly were his suggestions really? 

Robinson and RHS Wisley

Robinson’s philosophies have influenced planting designs at RHS Wisley since its inception – and continue to do so today. Find out where in the garden you can view Robinsonian principles applied first hand. 

Autochrome of pond at RHS Wisley, by William Van Sommer (RHS Lindley Collections)

Hand-coloured glass lantern slide of Erica carnea at Gravetye

Creating Gravetye

Purchasing a country estate in Sussex in 1885 gave Robinson a change to realise his vision. See how he transformed the site into one of horticulture’s most beloved gardens through photographs and books. 

Robinson and friends

Robinson’s social and professional circles extended well beyond the horticultural world – his social sphere included artists, scientists, thinkers and other prominent figures of his day. Learn how Robinson influenced and was shaped by these connections. 

Letter from Charles Darwin to Robinson

Impact and legacy

Robinson’s ideas have resonated through the decades – originally as an antidote to an urbanising world, and more recently in an era of climate change. Hear about his enduring popularity, and efforts to promote his ethos today. 

  • You can see William Robinson: The Wild Gardener 16 May – 25 Aug 2024 at RHS Wisley Gallery, RHS Wisley Old Laboratory. The event is free with normal garden admission charges. No booking is required. Find out more >
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Some of William Robinson’s favourite plants

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.