The History and Legacy of the RHS

picture of RHS logo

The Royal Horticultural Society gets a lot of column space in our editorials and not without just cause as this organisation is the single governing body for all major horticultural activities across England and Wales. But it’s not just about the shows; the RHS doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for all that it has achieved. As such, we’d like to devote this article to celebrating the history of the RHS, the initiatives that they’re affiliated with,  and also the communities and individuals they’ve helped to gain awareness, experience and appreciation for ecology and, of course, horticulture.

picture of Horticultural Society of London

The RHS was begun in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgewood as the Horticultural Society of London and gained its present name in a Royal Charter in 1861. Since then it has become a symbol for plant care and for the continued welfare and education of children in the field of horticulture – in fact the number of children regularly aided in this respect is now in excess of two million!

Over 1,700 communities across England and Wales enjoy the support of the RHS, and all from humble beginnings in a single show garden in Kensington. We’ve already explored exhaustively the benefits that projects such as ‘Britain in Bloom’ have granted the public both in terms of their local aesthetic and, on a larger scale, in terms of global ecology and sustainability.

But that’s not all – the RHS also champions research into new plant varieties and ways to deal with pests and diseases, as well as looking at climate change and biodiversity.

Their mission statement is as follows: ‘Our mission is to be the leading organisation demonstrating excellence in horticulture and promoting gardening’. To achieve this, the RHS, once every three years, establishes a tri-year plan by which they set smaller objective to feed into this original aim:

‘It is our intention to:

1. Be known, loved and trusted as the charity for all gardeners

2. Safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture for the benefit of future generations and the environment

3. Transform communities through gardening

4. Create world leading horticulture that inspires people to garden

5. Nurture and grow our membership throughout the UK

6. Provide a voice for all gardeners

7. Share and build expert knowledge

8. Delight our customers with exceptional service and products

9. Be a great place to work where everyone makes a difference

10. Have efficient business practices that deliver maximum income for our charitable purpose’

picture of RHS membership pack

Having absorbed this information you may now be asking how you can help to support the charity itself – well I’ll tell you – become a member of the RHS. Aside from providing the awareness that organisations such as these require to survive, you’ll also reap the benefits of what membership can offer i.e. free entry to any of the society’s 80 gardens around the country, and a discount on future show ticket prices. As a member you’ll also get a free monthly magazine, and be able to access personalised gardening advice and take advantage of their wealth of knowledge regarding pests and diseases too. Well worth it I think.

picture from Chelsea Flower Show

This is only one man’s opinion, but with a history and reputation like the RHS’s, it is a well-informed one – you can find details of membership costs and an application on the RHS website.

By Josh Ellison

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