The Royal Horticultural Society announces it will receive £4m from the National Lottery towards a five-year project that includes developing the world’s first National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, at its flagship RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey.
The significant funding reflects the importance and positive impact of plants and gardening, proven to mitigate some of the biggest challenges facing us today, on people’s lives and the environment.
Conserving and showcasing half a millennium of gardening history
In 2020, the new Centre will open to the public and contain state-of-the-art research facilities and will enable us to conserve and showcase over one million nationally important science and heritage items.
Among the items to be revealed will be a Chilean potato plant brought back by Charles Darwin in 1834, from which our modern potatoes are derived, and lavender collected in France in 1731.
More than 86,000 herbarium specimens, 24,000 insect specimens, 30,000 pieces of botanical art, 250,000 photographs and 100,000 books charting more than half a millennium of gardening history, will be moved to the new Centre and many shared online with millions of people.
Three new gardens
Three new gardens covering almost three acres created by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold-medal winning garden designers working alongside RHS scientists will surround it, acting as ‘living laboratories’: the Wildlife Garden, World Food Garden and Wellbeing Garden.
In addition, RHS Garden Wisley’s iconic Grade II-listed Laboratory will be restored and opened to the public in 2021 with interactive learning areas that will bring to life a century-long history of research.
“These new facilities will enable us to enter a new era of discovery”
RHS director general, Sue Biggs, says: “For more than a century RHS scientists have been working away behind closed doors in our modest laboratory conducting ground-breaking research that impacts us all.
“During this time, we have researched the best plants to soak up air pollution, to cool buildings and to help pollinators, and these new facilities will enable us to enter a new era of discovery.
“Over the next five years, thanks to National Lottery players, we will reveal incredible horticultural treasures to the public so people can experience the wonders of gardening and see why we need everyone everywhere to garden and grow plants for the good of people, plants and the planet.
“A massive and heartfelt thank you to the Heritage Lottery Fund for this huge donation and to all those individuals and organisations for your letters of support. We are incredibly grateful.”
Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “By supporting a state-of-the-art research facility, world-class designers and hundreds of years of gardening history, this National Lottery funding will help ensure RHS Wisley is not only a beautiful place to visit, but also an internationally important centre for research into the role of horticulture in addressing some of the biggest challenges facing humanity.”
The funding will enable RHS Garden Wisley’s special heritage – its buildings, gardens, collections and its stories of horticultural science and experimentation– to be protected for the future and shared with everyone.
A key outcome of the programme of works is to inspire action in communities across the country. As well as the new developments, HLF funding will be used for a variety of volunteering, apprenticeship, education and community outreach schemes to develop knowledge and skills.
The RHS still need to raise a further a £2m, to find out more visit their website.