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The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) announced recently that they have secured a £4 million grant from the National Lottery. The grant money will allow the RHS to construct the world’s first National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, as well as develop three new gardens covering 1.2 hectares and restore their current laboratory.
Set to open in 2020, the proposed centre will be constructed at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey and will feature state-of-the-art research facilities, as well as showcase over one million nationally important science and heritage items for public viewing.
Items such as the Chilean potato plant brought back by Charles Darwin in 1834 (from which our modern potatoes are derived) and lavender collected in France in 1731 are just some of the items that will eventually be showcased.
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 also be moved to the new centre when it opens.
The development of 1.2 hectares surrounding the centre will also see the creation of three new gardens - the Wildlife Garden, the World Food Garden and the Wellbeing Garden. Designed by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winning garden designers and RHS scientists the gardens themselves will act as living laboratories for the centre.
The third and final stage of the development will see the iconic RHS Garden Wisley’s Grade II-listed laboratory restored and opened to the public in 2021.
RHS Director General, Sue Biggs, said: “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”.
The National Lottery grant is undoubtedly a great boost for the development of such an ambitious project and the funding will obviously enable RHS Garden Wisley’s to get the project off the ground. However a further £2 million does still need to be raised in order to see the project through to completion, ensuring RHS Garden Wisley’s buildings, gardens and collections are protected for future generations.
If you would like to support this project or other RHS initiatives then please visit the RHS website for further information.