Royal Horticultural Society

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Royal Horticultural Society
Royal Horticultural Society logo.png
RHS logo
Abbreviation RHS
Formation 7 March 1804; 210 years ago (1804-03-07)
Type Registered charity
Purpose Promote gardening and horticulture
Region served United Kingdom
President Elizabeth Banks

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) was founded in 1804 in London, England as the Horticultural Society of London, and gained its present name in a Royal Charter granted in 1861. The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK's leading gardening charity.

The charitable work of the RHS helps to protect plants, gardens and green spaces. The RHS helps over two million school children to start gardening,[clarification needed] supports gardening in more than 1,700 communities, and encourages people to grow their own food.

The charity promotes horticulture through flower shows such as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, RHS Tatton Park Flower Show and RHS Cardiff Flower Show. The shows exhibit the best in horticulture through avant-garde show gardens, stunning floral marques and expert advice.



The creation of a British horticultural society was suggested by John Wedgwood (son of Josiah Wedgwood) in 1800. His aims were fairly modest: he wanted to hold regular meetings, allowing the society's members the opportunity to present papers on their horticultural activities and discoveries, to encourage discussion of them, and to publish the results. The society would also award prizes for gardening achievements.

Wedgwood discussed the idea with his friends, but it was four years before the first meeting, of seven men, took place, on 7 March 1804 at Hatchards bookshop in Piccadilly, London. Wedgwood was chairman; also present were William Townsend Aiton (successor to his father, William Aiton, as Superintendent of Kew Gardens), Sir Joseph Banks (President of the Royal Society), James Dickson (a nurseryman), William Forsyth (Superintendent of the gardens of St. James's Palace and Kensington Palace), Charles Francis Greville (a Lord of the Admiralty) and Richard Anthony Salisbury, who became the Secretary of the new society.[1]

Banks proposed his friend Thomas Andrew Knight for membership. The proposal was accepted, despite Knight's ongoing feud with Forsyth over a plaster for healing tree wounds which Forsyth was developing. Knight was President of the society from 1811–1838, and developed the society's aims and objectives to include a programme of practical research into fruit-breeding.

Royal Horticultural Society gardens[edit]

Design greenhouse for Royal Horticultural Society by John Claudius Loudon, 1818

The Royal Horticultural Society's four major gardens in England are: Wisley Garden, near Wisley in Surrey; Rosemoor Garden in Devon; Hyde Hall in Essex and Harlow Carr in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

The Society's first garden was in Kensington, from 1818–1822. In 1821 the society leased part of the Duke of Devonshire's estate at Chiswick to set up an experimental garden; in 1823 it employed Joseph Paxton there. From 1827 the society held fêtes at the Chiswick garden, and from 1833, shows with competitive classes for flowers and vegetables. In 1861 the RHS (as it had now become) developed a new garden at South Kensington on land leased from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (the Science Museum, Imperial College and the Royal College of Music now occupy the site), but it was closed in 1882.[2] The Chiswick garden was maintained until 1903–1904, by which time Sir Thomas Hanbury had bought the garden at Wisley and presented it to the RHS.

RHS Garden Wisley is thus the society's oldest garden. Rosemoor came next, presented by Lady Anne Berry in 1988. Hyde Hall was given to the RHS in 1993 by its owners Dick and Helen Robinson. Dick Robinson was also the owner of the Harry Smith Collection which was based at Hyde Hall. The most recent addition is Harlow Carr, acquired by the merger of the Northern Horticultural Society with the RHS in 2001. It had been the Northern Horticultural Society's trial ground and display garden since they bought it in 1949.

Royal Horticultural Society shows[edit]

London flower show in Lawrence Hall

The RHS is well known for its annual flower shows which take place across the UK. The most famous of these shows being the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, visited by people from across world. This is followed by the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (which the RHS took over in 1993) and RHS Tatton Park Flower Show in Cheshire (Since 1999).[3] The most recent addition to the RHS shows line up is the RHS Show Cardiff, held at Cardiff Castle since 2005.[4] The society is also closely involved with the spring and autumn shows at Malvern, Worcestershire, and with BBC Gardeners' World Live held annually at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre.

Britain in Bloom[edit]

In 2002, the RHS took over the administration of the Britain in Bloom competition from the Tidy Britain Group (formerly and subsequently Keep Britain Tidy).[5] In 2010, The Society launched 'It's your neighbourhood', a campaign to encourage people to get involved in horticulture for the benefit of their community. In 2014, the 'Britian in Bloom' celebrates its 50th anniversary.[5]

Medals and awards[edit]

The society honours certain persons with the Victoria Medal of Honour who are deemed by its Council to be deserving of special recognition in the field of horticulture. Other medals issued by the society include the Banksian, Knightian and Lindley medals, named after early officers of the society. It awards Gold, Silver-gilt, Silver and Bronze medals to exhibitors at its Flower Shows.

The Veitch Memorial Medal, named after James Veitch, is awarded annually to persons of any nationality who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement and improvement of the science and practice of horticulture.

The Award of Garden Merit, or AGM, is an award made to garden plants by the Society after a period of assessment by the appropriate committees of the Society. Awards are made annually after plant trials.

Other awards bestowed by the society include the Associate of Honour and the Honorary Fellowship.[6]

Royal Horticultural Society libraries[edit]

The RHS is custodian of the Lindley Library, housed within its headquarters at 80 Vincent Square, London, and in branches at each of its four gardens. The library is based upon the book collection of John Lindley.[1]

The RHS Herbarium has its own image library (collection) consisting of more than 3,300 original watercolours, approximately 30,000 colour slides and a rapidly increasing number of digital images. Although most of the images have been supplied by photographers commissioned by the RHS, the archive includes a substantial number of slides from the Harry Smith Collection and Plant Heritage National Plant Collection holders.[7]



The society has published a journal since 1866. Since 1975 it has been entitled The Garden and is currently a monthly publication. The RHS also publishes both The Plantsman and The Orchid Review four times a year, and Hanburyana, an annual publication dedicated to horticultural taxonomy.

See also : Robert Allen Rolfe, the founder of the magazine The Orchid Review

Plant registers[edit]

Since the establishment of International Registration Authorities for plants in 1955 the RHS has acted as Registrar for certain groups of cultivated plants. It is now Registrar for nine categories – conifers, clematis, daffodils, dahlias, delphiniums, dianthus, lilies, orchids and rhododendrons. It publishes The International Orchid Register, the central listing of orchid hybrids.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Campbell, Sophie (3 August 2012). "RHS Lindley Library collection: all hail our plant hunters". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "RHS Gardens: Decline of the gardens in South Kensington". Royal Institute of British Architects. Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  3. ^ "RHS Flower Show Tatton Park blooming in the sunshine". BBC. 24 July 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "Cardiff spring flower show blooms". BBC. 22 April, 2005. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Stone, Deborah (28 January 2014). "How to sign up for RHS Britain in Bloom 2014". The Express. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  6. ^ The Garden, August 2009, page 512 (Royal Horticultural Society)
  7. ^
  • Brent Elliott (2004). The Royal Horticultural Society, A History 1804-2004. Phillimore. ISBN 1-86077-272-2

External links[edit]