The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has announced it will open the UK’s first dedicated horticultural scientific centre of excellence, where visitors can watch scientists conduct research on plants.
Appreciation for gardens and the great outdoors has grown significantly during lockdown, as people spent more time exercising and enjoying nature.
RHS Hilltop, previously known as the Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, will now welcome gardening enthusiasts in an attempt to teach the public about plants and how to tackle environmental challenges.
So, where is the science centre and what can you expect when visiting it? This is what you need to know.
What is RHS Hilltop?
RHS Hilltop is a gardening science centre located at RHS Wisley where scientists, PhD students and advisors will conduct experiments on plants.
Their research hopes to find solutions to climate change and the environmental factors which impact plant life.
RHS Hilltop will also house a vast array of botanical art, horticultural books and records - giving access to the most complete record of the UK’s horticultural heritage.
What research will be carried out?
A team of around 70 staff will work with state of the art technology to progress the research and understanding of plants and the environment. This will be done in laboratories which the public can observe when visiting the centre.
There will also be focus on the genetic makeup of plants, how they are pollinated and the various types and implications of pests and diseases.
The 240 acres of gardens surrounding the centre, which the public will continue to have access to, will also be considered an outdoor laboratory.
As the outdoors have proven to have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing, there will also be research into the human response to plants and how humans respond to plants.
Where is RHS Wisley?
Wisley is in Surrey, South East England. It is located around 20 miles south-east of central London, and is easily accessible by public transport.
The gardens are located directly across from Wisley Common, where there is additional parking.
The science centre is surrounded by 240 acres of gardens with over 25,000 plants.
The new centre was built using innovative climate-friendly techniques and resources - installing renewable energy sources and high levels of insulation; during construction, almost 100 per cent of waste generated was recycled.
The site will also utilise rainwater capture to reduce its dependency on tap water, which will also counteract the risk of flooding during heavy downpours.
What else is there to do at RHS Wisley?
RHS Wisley gardens house the science centre, horticultural library, various different styles of gardens, a garden centre, and food hall.
At the science centre, you can visit the atrium where there are interactive exhibitions and displays, the opportunity to watch scientists at work, two accessible learning studios, and a teaching garden.
Visitors who engage in the learning experience will be educated and given demonstrations by the researchers and scientists who specialise in horticulture.
The library will also contain records and research findings from the 214-year history of RHS Wisley - the most extensive collection in the UK.
The centre will also host events and workshops which you can book online.
When can I visit?
The horticultural scientific centre of excellence opens on 24 June 2021.
Visitors who live nearby can currently access the gardens for exercise, though you should book online before visiting.
The garden centre also remains open to visitors - more information about health, safety and coronavirus restrictions can be found on the RHS website.
Tickets to the gardens can be found on the website also, but science centre tickets are not yet available.