The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has announced it will receive £4m from the National Lottery towards a five-year transformational gardening project that includes developing the world’s first National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning.
The centre will be built at its flagship RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey. The RHS said 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”.
The new National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning will open to the public in 2020 and contain state-of-the-art research facilities that will enable the RHS to conserve and showcase over one million nationally important science and heritage items.
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.
The money will also be used for three new gardens covering almost three acres created by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold-medal winning garden designers working alongside RHS scientists that will surround the centre. In addition, RHS Garden Wisley’s Grade II-listed laboratory will be restored and opened to the public in 2021 with interactive learning areas.
Among the items to be revealed will be a Chilean potato plant brought back by Charles Darwin in 1834, from which modern potatoes are derived.
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.
“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.”