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The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the world’s leading gardening charity, has today opened the doors to the £35m RHS Hilltop – The Home of Gardening Science, at RHS Garden Wisley. The UK’s first scientific centre of excellence for horticulture represents the charity’s largest single investment in science in its history, enabling the RHS to deepen its studies into the most critical issues facing gardeners today.
Around 70 scientists and students will be based at RHS Hilltop, with research set to focus on helping gardeners adapt to the challenges posed by climate change and pest and disease threats, and the growing understanding of the role gardens and plants play in supporting health and wellbeing.
The striking new building, designed by acclaimed architects WilkinsonEyre and built by Osborne, is a state-of-the-art home to unparalleled collections including 25,000 entomology specimens, 90,000 dried plants in the Herbarium, and a library of more than 28,000 books, artworks and items of horticultural literature dating back 500 years. The centre also contains an exhibition space, auditorium, teaching studios, laboratories, offices and a café.
For the first time in over a century of science at RHS Wisley, visitors can discover and interact with RHS research in a new exhibition. Hands-on features explore key themes of health, biodiversity and the environment, helping gardeners understand the impact they can make through what and how they grow.
Three inspiring new ‘living laboratory’ garden spaces around the building have been designed by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winners and built by renowned landscape consultancy Landform to complement the work taking place inside the building:
The Wellbeing Garden, designed by Matt Keightley, is formed of small, intimate ‘Garden Rooms’ allowing visitors to be enveloped by the generous planting, to centre themselves and hopefully improve their wellbeing.
The Wildlife Garden, designed by Ann-Marie Powell, contains the largest water planting scheme at RHS Garden Wisley and also features numerous RHS ‘Plants for Pollinators’, demonstrating many ways to attract beneficial garden wildlife.
The World Food Garden, designed by Ann-Marie Powell, features a café area with herbs, edible flowers and leaves; Good to Grow plantings of the best RHS AGM crops; and the World Food Maze of edible plants from around the globe.
Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, says: “We know that together the UK’s 30 million gardeners can play a significant role in mitigating climate change, preventing the spread of dangerous pests and diseases and understanding how gardens make us feel better.
“The opening of RHS Hilltop today ushers in a new ‘golden era’ of gardening science, enabling us to better equip gardeners both now and in the future with the knowledge they need to help their gardens, and themselves, to thrive.
“I am so proud of all the wonderful people who have worked with us on this once-in-a-lifetime project to put RHS science at the very heart of our flagship garden, which I know will inspire and educate millions of visitors for many years to come.”
The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded £4 million to support the transformation of RHS Wisley, with more than half going towards RHS Hilltop. The grant is also helping to fund a programme of educational activities and engagement to reach new audiences until 2024, as well as work on the Arts & Crafts Laboratory at RHS Wisley, the historic home of RHS science, which will open to the public for the first time in 2022.
Stuart McLeod, Director, England - London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, says: “We are thrilled for RHS Hilltop, The Home of Gardening Science at RHS Garden Wisley’s opening and proud to support the UK’s first scientific centre of excellence for horticulture.
“Thanks to National Lottery players, a 5-year programme of inspirational activities has been implemented to bring renewed engagement, knowledge and skills to a wider range of people, with a dedicated focus on traditionally under-represented audiences.
“RHS Wisley’s iconic Grade II-listed Laboratory will also be restored, bringing to life a century-long history of research.”
The landmark project has also been generously supported by the M3 Local Enterprise Partnership and a number of charitable trusts and foundations, individual donors and RHS Members. Over £1m was raised through an appeal to members, including the sponsorship of over 1,000 Herbarium specimen boxes.
This story was published on: 25/06/2021
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