National Lottery Awards £4m for Transformational Gardening Project

Monday 9 July 2018


Today, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is delighted to announce it will receive £4 million from the National Lottery towards a five-year project that includes developing the world’s first National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, at its flagship RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey.

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.

In 2020, the new Centre will open to the public and contain state-of-the-art research facilities and will enable us to conserve and showcase over one million nationally important science and heritage items.

Among the items to be revealed will be a Chilean potato plant brought back by Charles Darwin in 1834, from which our modern potatoes are derived, and lavender collected in France in 1731.

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.

Three new gardens covering almost three acres created by RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold-medal winning garden designers working alongside RHS scientists will surround it, acting as ‘living laboratories’: the Wildlife Garden, World Food Garden and Wellbeing Garden.

In addition, RHS Garden Wisley’s iconic Grade II-listed Laboratory will be restored and opened to the public in 2021 with interpretative learning areas that will bring to life a century-long history of research.

RHS Director General, Sue Biggs, says: “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.

“A massive and heartfelt thank you to the Heritage Lottery Fund for this huge donation and to all those individuals and organisations* for your letters of support. We are incredibly grateful.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “By supporting a state-of-the-art research facility, world-class designers and hundreds of years of gardening history, this National Lottery funding will help ensure RHS Garden Wisley is not only a beautiful place to visit, but also an internationally important centre for research into the role of horticulture in addressing some of the biggest challenges facing humanity.”

The funding will enable RHS Garden Wisley’s special heritage – its buildings, gardens, collections and its stories of horticultural science and experimentation– to be protected for the future and shared with everyone.

A key outcome of the programme of works is to inspire action in communities across the country. As well as the new developments, HLF funding will be used for a variety of volunteering, apprenticeship, education and community outreach schemes to develop knowledge and skills.

“To complete the project, we still need to raise a further £2million and if you can support, please visit the RHS website”, adds Sue.


Notes to editors

For more information and images please contact Ed Horne, RHS Head of Communications, on 07515 065925 / or Hannah Dolby, RHS PR Manager, on 07590 929968 /

*The following organisations sent letters in support of the HLF bid:

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; College of Medicine; University of Exeter; Public Health England; Thrive; National Trust; Royal Botanic Garden Kew; Land Based Colleges Aspiring To Excellence; National Farmers Union; Arboricultural Association; Rebecca Pow MP; The Baroness Fookes of Plymouth; British Association of Landscape Industries; Chartered Institute of Horticulture; International Society for Horticultural Science; Hills; Plant Network; Plant Heritage; National Institute of Agricultural Botany; Cambridge University Botanic Garden; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; EarthWatch Institute; University of Sheffield Department of Landscape; Royal Holloway University; University of Warwick; Exbury Gardens; Caerhays Estate; Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership; Council for Learning Outside the Classroom; Sparsholt College Hampshire; Arboriculture, Forestry Horticulture / Landscape Trailblazer Apprenticeship group; Historic and Botanic Garden; Surrey County Council; Oriel High School; Surrey Wildlife Trust; Woking Borough Council; Woking People of Faith; Home Start Guildford; Sythwood Primary School; The Surrey Choices Secret Garden; Molly’s Garden Maintenance

About the RHS: The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood to inspire passion and excellence in the science, art and practice of horticulture. Our vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place. We believe everyone in every village, town and city should benefit from growing plants to enhance lives, build stronger, healthier, happier communities and create better places to live.

We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, our flagship garden, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity. At our gardens and shows and through our scientific research, publications, libraries and our education and community programmes we inspire a passion for gardening and growing plants, promote the value of gardens, demonstrate how gardening is good for us and explain the vital roles that plants undertake.

The RHS is committed to bring the joy of gardening to millions more people, inspire the next generation of gardeners and invest in the future to safeguard a £15 billion industry employing more than 300,000 people. We are entirely funded by our members, visitors and supporters. RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and help us secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 020 3176 5820, or visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported.

Latest press releases

About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262