This week the Royal Horticultural Society celebrated reaching a record half a million members, suggesting the UK’s leading gardening charity is now more accessible and relevant to people than it has ever been in its 215-year history.
RHS Director General Sue Biggs says: “We’re delighted to reach a milestone 500,000 members because it marks progress towards achieving our goal to enrich everyone’s life through plants and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.
“We’re fiercely committed to getting as many people gardening as possible because of the immense positive difference plants and gardens have on our health and the environment. It’s now more important than ever that more people recognise the role plants play in reducing the impact of some of the biggest challenges facing us today.”
In 1804, when the then ‘Horticultural Society of London’ was formed to promote and inspire people to garden, its seven founders aspired to build a membership of 28. In 1861, the annual joining fee cost five guineas, which is the equivalent of £4,100 today.
An annual RHS membership now costs from £47 and as more young people are becoming aware of the value and life-enhancing qualities of gardening and being around plants, RHS Student Membership, which costs £10, has grown 136% since 2015.
Every year, more than 2 million people visit RHS Shows and Gardens, 6 million children interact with nature through RHS Campaign for School Gardening, 300,000 volunteers take part in RHS community campaigns and 20 million people visit the RHS website every year.
“We’ve made considerable progress since we started but there is still much to do and we have many challenges but are very keen to boost diversity in gardening, so we’re now doing more than ever to engage young people with growing plants, and to promote horticultural careers,” adds Sue.
The RHS relies on the support of its members to deliver its charitable work which includes carrying out leading scientific research to protect and improve our natural environment and to fight the challenges of climate change.
In a recent survey, RHS members say getting young people gardening and protecting the UK from the threat of pests and diseases are among the most important roles of the UK’s leading gardening charity.
In a letter sent to all RHS members today, Sue said: “With heartfelt thanks for your support, we really couldn’t do all this without you.”