A new, state-of-the art gardening education and community outreach resource has been opened by the Royal Horticultural Society at RHS Garden Wisley in Woking in Surrey – and RHS licensees have played a major part in making it happen.
The new allotment site hosts a number of projects that use edible growing to build the skills of professional and amateur gardeners as well as providing a showcase for visitors to enjoy. The late-April opening of the area was celebrated with a major event to thank the licensees and all those involved in creating, building and establishing the new plot at RHS Garden Wisley.
The new vegetable plot, situated within the historic orchards at RHS Garden Wisley, was built by RHS staff under the supervision of Sheila Das, Garden Manager, Wisley. Sheila, who was heavily involved in the design, also arranged the celebration to thank everyone who helped to get the plot ready against a very tight deadline and in often difficult weather in time for the spring growing season.
As well as highlighting the extraordinary dedication of the Wisley team and RHS staff and supporters in getting this ’super-allotment’ up and running, the celebration also highlighted the close relationship between the RHS and many of its licensees – and how these continuing partnerships support the work of the charity.
Three RHS licensees played a major part in making the vegetable plot a reality: greenhouse designer and manufacturer Gabriel Ash, preferred partner for licensed seed and seed gifting products Mr Fothergill's Seeds Ltd, and multi-award winning manufacturer of garden and agricultural tools Burgon & Ball. Wine for the event was supplied by home-delivery wine merchant, and official RHS wine partner, Laithwaites.
Gabriel Ash, an RHS-endorsed timber greenhouse supplier, produced and supplied a ‘grow and store’ building to RHS specifications. Made to an original design, this hybrid shed/greenhouse is the biggest building ever supplied by the company, which has been designing and constructing greenhouses for over 70 years. Gabriel Ash also supplied the community outreach glasshouse. On top of these generous gifts, the company also donated approximately £30,000 worth of additional staging, waterbutts, coldframes and shading equipment.
For a project of this size to work it needs a lot of seeds, for which the RHS was able to rely on the continued support of Mr Fothergill’s, which donated all the seeds for these projects, and for the more than 20 vegetable plots. Long-term licensee Burgon and Ball donated tools to enable the continuing success of these community and educational projects.
The area will have a number of purposes. There are 24 evenly sized rectangular beds. A number of these are allocated to RHS students on the first year of their Diploma in Horticultural Practice course; this forms an assessed project as part of their programme. Also maintaining plots on this site are participants in the RHS community allotment adult learning course – beginner growers who keep a plot at RHS Garden Wisley for a year and benefit from master classes from a team of professional experts. The site will also be used by the RHS to welcome visiting groups to engage in growing activities from all sorts of wider communities as part of its outreach work from the garden.
The Gabriel Ash-supplied community outreach glasshouse, meanwhile, is to be used to teach and educate schools, local refugee groups and others about gardening and growing vegetables and to use this knowledge in community projects, schools or their own gardens/balconies.
The event was attended by RHS Garden Wisley and RHS licensing staff, representatives of all the licensing partners, RHS students and local winners of the community ballot to maintain a plot for one year.
The various partners were all delighted with the celebration – and the successful launch of the vegetable plot. Di Limam, Managing Director of Gabriel Ash said: “When Sheila suggested this project – and especially our part in it – we saw it as both a wonderful opportunity to highlight our partnership with the RHS and an inspired way to promote gardening in general. The result has been a triumph. We believe this project will benefit students and would-be gardeners for many years to come.”
David Carey, Joint Managing Director, Mr Fothergill’s, which has generously donated seed for a number of RHS programmes, said: “We are thrilled to once again have the opportunity to underline our role not only as a supplier of quality merchandise under the RHS brand but also as a supporter of the RHS mission to inspire everyone to grow.”
Ruth Posey, Head of Sales – UK and International, Burgon & Ball, said: “We are proud that our gardening tools and gifts have received the endorsement of the RHS — and really pleased, as always to help with special projects and initiatives within RHS gardens. RHS gardeners regularly test our tools and we’ve developed several specialist products in conjunction with the gardening teams too.”
Finally Adam Clarke, Partner Account Manager of Laithwaites added: “We were delighted to be asked to help the RHS with its celebrations. Raising a glass of wine is often appropriate on special occasions – and this one certainly was special.”
Cathy Snow, RHS Licensing Manager, said: “Between them, our licensing partners have made this not only a state-of-the-art allotment and learning space, but also a truly spectacular showcase of RHS-endorsed products. We’d like to offer a big thank you from the licensing team to our RHS licensing partners for their enormous generosity.”
Sheila Das said: “For all of these grower groups, this site represents their chance to have their own little piece of Wisley. It will also be a great destination for our visitors, who can watch the plots evolve throughout the year. The RHS has been delighted to work with our licensees on this project which will help us to support our talented pool of new professional horticulturists and, in a very tangible way, inspire everyone to enjoy the benefits of growing.“