Grand Opening - RHS Hilltop - The Home of Gardening Science
The build up to the grand opening of Hilltop - the Home of Gardening Science at RHS Wisley was highly anticipated and something which brought great excitement to the Horticultural world.
The day began with speeches from Keith Weed CBE (RHS President) and Sue Biggs CBE (RHS Director General) which really set the tone of the day to come. You could sense the excitement from the buzz around the crowd that the long-awaited project was finally open for the world to see. The glorious weather helped to bathe the Wellbeing Garden in all its glory and the stage was set perfectly for the ribbon to be cut by Sir Nicholas Bacon, Baronet OBE (Deputy Lieutenant).
Once the ribbon (which was encased with a beautiful flower arrangement) had been cut, the crowd were welcome into the spacious atrium, and onto its roof which boasted stunning views. The atrium hosts a permanent exhibition that demonstrates the benefits of gardens for wellbeing and gives tips for utilising your garden to improve the natural environment in a changing and unpredictable climate.
We were able to experience some of the interactive elements of the new building and took part in an experiment which asked you to inhale different smells to see how these made you feel. This was a really interesting aspect of the space of experimentation and allowed us to consider the impact plants and flowers have on us in a way we hadn’t before. Our favourite smells made us feel calm, content and happy and this was usually the sweeter smelling ones.
As ‘The Home of Gardening Science’, RHS Hilltop looks to protect the future of plants, people and the planet as well as being a place to inspire a generation of future scientists and gardeners.
World Food Garden
After exploring the atrium, we were able to venture into the World Food Garden (designed by Chelsea Medal Winner Anne-Marie Powell) which hosts a number of different Harrod Horticultural products. The café (located in the atrium) feeds out into the garden which is growing different edible delights, meaning you can enjoy some refreshments whilst being immersed in different foods as they grow around you.
Our Round Obelisks are something which are being used to grow different climbing vegetables. They sit in a bed of other crops and the layout of the garden means they are come across like they are in their own little pods.
As you reach the rear of the garden, you will come across the World Food Maze. Our Roman arches tower above the maze so plants are growing in the beds as well as at all levels around you. The shape of our arches are perfect for this as the roundness at the top makes it feel like you are really surrounded by a variety of different edible plants. The aim of this garden is to encourage and inspire visitors to grow their own crops at home. Having such an inclusive growing space where the public can identify what is being grown is very encouraging for all types of gardeners alike, but is likely to inspire beginners too!
Within the World Food Maze, we have also provided uniquely designed Brassica Cages which are a specific size for the World Food Garden and what they were looking to grow. We can’t wait to see how the cabbages flourish, an incredibly easy vegetable to grow yourself! We really do feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to see RHS Hilltop at different stages of the project and the progress which has already been made since we visited in April.
As you round the side of the atrium, you come across the Wildlife Garden. This is the perfect place to enjoy the sunshine as it is a-buzz with butterflies and dragonflies hovering over the pool of water. The stunning bird cage is a real highlight of the garden as it has bird food covering it with the aim of attracting them to land and feed on it. This really epitomises what the garden sets out to achieve as it is full of different wild species who are able to feed on the different flowers which cover the garden. We were fortunate enough to enjoy this whilst the sun was shining, but we are sure it is just as stunning all year round!
We were also fortunate to be part of the opening of the Trials Garden, where our Southwold Collection furniture is used as seating for visitors of the garden. Perfecting our Southwold Collection has been a big project for us this year to help people achieve their ideal garden, so seeing so many people using it and enjoying it is a really special achievement. Specifically, our Round Dining Table Set, Garden Bench (with back) and Garden Bench (backless) are all featuring in the Garden and are dotted around the different flower beds so you can sit and admire the variety of plants being grown.
The Trial Gardens at RHS Wisley are being used to test plants which are rarely grown in the UK as well as growing them in different conditions, and growing different variations of the same plant. It’s a really exciting time for the experimentation of plants and will be a really important space for avid gardeners who are looking to try new things, as well as beginners who aren’t too sure where to start.
When talking to Matthew pottage (Curator at RHS Wisley), he outlined the vision of the Trial Garden and the reasoning behind moving the location of where it sits at RHS Wisley. The idea is to grow some of the same plants at different RHS locations across the country to determine how well they grow in different conditions. Trials are one of the oldest things the RHS have done and are typically designed to inform gardeners about plants to grow at their garden at home. Some of the new plant trials which are being grown at RHS Wisley include Hebe’s and Dahlia’s. These will be grown side-by-side and compared based on how well they grow.
Our interview with Ann-Marie Powell really outlined the vision she had when designing both the World Food and the Wildlife Garden and the love she has for horticultural and gardening, something which we could see in every aspect of her work. We are already feeling inspired to grow more of our own produce at home, and we hope you do too!