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The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) was founded in 1804 in Londonmarker, Englandmarker as the Horticultural Society of London, and gained its present name in a Royal Charter granted in 1861 by Prince Albert. It is a charity and exists to promote gardening and horticulture in Britainmarker and Europe. This is done through a series of flower shows and through many model gardens that are open to the public. The society celebrated its bicentenary in 2004.

RHS Gardens

The RHS has four flagship gardens in Englandmarker: Wisley Gardenmarker, near the village of Wisleymarker in Surreymarker; Rosemoormarker in Devonmarker; Hyde Hallmarker in Essex and Harlow Carrmarker in Harrogatemarker, North Yorkshire.

The society's first garden was in Kensingtonmarker, from 1818 – 1822. In 1821 the society leased part of the Duke of Devonshire's estate at Chiswickmarker to set up an experimental garden; in 1823 it employed Joseph Paxton there. From 1827 the society held fetes 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 Kensington (the Science Museummarker, Imperial Collegemarker and the Royal College of Musicmarker now occupy the site), but it was vacated in 1888. 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. 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.

RHS Flower Shows

London flower show in Lawrence Hall
The most famous RHS flower show is the annual Chelsea Flower Showmarker, but it also organizes several others: the London Flower Shows (currently eight a year), held at the Royal Horticultural Halls, close to the RHS headquarters in Vincent Squaremarker, Westminster, the annual Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (which the RHS took over in 1993) and Tatton Park Flower Show in Cheshiremarker (since 1999). It has held a Spring Flower Show in Cardiffmarker since 2005. The society is also closely involved with the spring and autumn shows at Malvern, Worcestershiremarker, and with BBC Gardeners' World Live held annually at the Birmingham NECmarker.

Britain in Bloom

The RHS took over the administration of the Britain in Bloom competition in 2002.

Medals and awards

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 notable early officers of the society. It awards Gold, Silver-gilt, Silver and Bronze medals to exhibitors at its Flower Shows.

The Veitch Memorial Medal (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.

RHS libraries

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.

Publications

Journals

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.

Plant registers

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.

History of the RHS

Founders

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.

He 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 Piccadillymarker, London. Wedgwood was chairman; also present were William Townsend Aiton (successor to his father, William Aiton, as Superintendent of Kew Gardensmarker), Sir Joseph Banks (President of the Royal Society), James Dickson (a nurseryman), William Forsyth (Superintendent of the gardens of St. James's Palacemarker and Kensington Palacemarker), Charles Francis Greville (a Lord of the Admiralty) and Richard Anthony Salisbury, who was to become the Secretary of the new society.

Banks proposed his close friend Thomas Andrew Knightmarker for membership. The proposal was accepted, despite Knight's ongoing feud with William 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.

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