Plan for RHS Garden Wisley centre of excellence receives £1 million boost from Enterprise M3 LEP

Tuesday 22 January 2019

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has secured a grant of £1 million from the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership to invest in the future of horticulture at its flagship RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey.

The award will go towards the development of the new National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, a centre of excellence promoting innovation and world-leading research to support the science, art and practice of horticulture. This major investment will fund infrastructure and enabling works beginning in early 2019, and upon opening in 2020 the public will be able to visit the Centre, view exhibitions and see RHS scientists at work for the first time in the Society’s 214 year history.

The new Centre will be home to around 70 scientists, advisors and PhD students, and will enable the RHS to continue and augment its ground-breaking scientific research into issues affecting gardeners everywhere, such as climate change and the pests and diseases that threaten our environment. It will also provide state-of-the-art facilities for the preservation and storage of internationally important RHS collections recording more than 500 years of gardening heritage and science.

Alongside the Centre, three new gardens by gold medal-winning RHS Chelsea Flower Show designers will be created as ‘living laboratories’ focusing on three key 21st century concerns: health and wellbeing, food production and wildlife. These gardens will also be used to teach both adults and schoolchildren about the vital role horticulture plays in our everyday lives, and promote a better understanding of the benefits of plants, gardens and gardening to people and the environment.

The new Centre is part of a wider programme of investment at RHS Garden Wisley1 that significantly builds upon the existing world-class visitor experience and creates a global knowledge hub for horticultural innovation, science and learning. Its impact will be felt locally, regionally and nationally2 through the creation of jobs, increased opportunities for learning, training and skills development, and a substantial boost to the visitor economy in the local area.

The grant will enable the RHS to continue RHS Garden Wisley’s legacy of innovation, protect its heritage collections and provide access to world-leading horticultural education for people across the UK and beyond for many years to come. This strategic investment in the future of horticulture will help safeguard an industry that supports more than 560,000 jobs and is worth more than £24 billion to the UK economy.3

RHS Director General, Sue Biggs, says: “Ever since Wisley was first given to the RHS in 1903, the garden has fulfilled twin purposes in pioneering horticultural science and education and offering an inspiring and beautiful visitor destination.

“Research undertaken by RHS scientists makes a tangible difference to everyone’s lives, whether that’s through discovering how best to support vital pollinators or identifying the best plants to fight pollution. By applying these findings in the garden at Wisley and sharing them with our wider audience, this knowledge benefits millions of people in the UK and beyond.

“We are enormously grateful to Enterprise M3 LEP for their generous grant in support of this project, and look forward to welcoming visitors to experience the new Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning in 2020.”

Dave Axam, Chairman of Enterprise M3 LEP says: “We are delighted to be able to invest in this national research centre, as part of our ambition to support the region’s knowledge- and innovation-based economy, securing and protecting local jobs and delivering on our promise to address the skills gap in the area.

“Plans for the centre to carry out vital research into areas such as climate change and the pests and diseases that threaten our environment also reflect Enterprise M3’s strong commitment to clean growth and protecting the area’s precious natural environment.”

Sue Biggs adds: “In order to complete this landmark project, the RHS must raise a further £2 million. So far we have received £500,000 from the public in donations ranging from £1 to £20,000. If you would like to find out more about how you can support us, please visit the RHS website.”


Notes to editors

1 Major projects forming part of the programme include the opening of a new Welcome Centre in spring 2019 to improve the arrival experience into the garden, increase capacity to allow for the growing popularity of the garden as a visitor attraction and provide a larger plant centre to help support British specialist nurseries. In addition, Wisley’s iconic Grade II-listed Laboratory will be restored in 2021, allowing visitors inside for the first time since it was built in 1916.

2 The recent Economic Impact Study shows that Wisley will create £1bn of economic impact nationally, with £608k of that impact felt locally. The investment programme will create 59 FTE jobs directly and 81 indirectly in the wider region, as well as supporting around 200 construction jobs.

3 £24.2 billion is the total GDP footprint of the UK’s horticulture industries in 2017, including its ‘multiplier impacts’. This footprint supported 568,700 jobs amounting to 1.6 percent of total UK employment. To read The economic impact of ornamental horticulture and landscaping in the UK: An independent report by Oxford Economics for the Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group (published October 2018) in full, please see this link:

For further information or images, contact Caroline Jones on or 020 7821 3177.

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society, the world’s leading gardening charity, was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood. Our vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place. This aspiration underpins all that we do, from inspirational gardens and shows, through our scientific research, to our education and community programmes such as Campaign for School Gardening and Britain in Bloom. We produce key publications, hold a world-class collection of horticultural books and botanical art, and sell the very best plants and gardening gifts.

The RHS is fundraising £40m to transform our gardens, outreach and education facilities, which includes redeveloping our flagship RHS Garden Wisley and opening a new garden, RHS Garden Bridgewater, in 2020. We are solely funded by our members, visitors and supporters. For more information visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

About Enterprise M3 LEP
Enterprise M3 LEP drives the economic growth of the area by working with businesses, key delivery partners and central government.

It is one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships across England, which are business-led partnerships between local authorities and local private sector businesses. Its purpose is to improve the economic prospects of the area. For more information, visit

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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