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 by Prince Albert.
It is a
charity and exists to
promote gardening and horticulture in Britain 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
has four flagship gardens in England: Wisley
Garden, near the village of Wisley in Surrey; Rosemoor in Devon; Hyde
Hall in Essex and Harlow
Carr in Harrogate, North
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 fetes
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
Museum, Imperial College and the Royal College of Music now occupy the site), but it was vacated in
The Chiswick garden was maintained until 1903 – 1904,
by which time Sir Thomas Hanbury
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
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
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
famous RHS flower show is the annual Chelsea Flower Show, 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 Square, Westminster, the annual Hampton Court Palace Flower
Show (which the RHS took over in 1993) and Tatton Park Flower Show in Cheshire (since 1999). It has held a Spring
Flower Show in Cardiff since
2005. 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
London flower show in Lawrence
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
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
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
and the Honorary Fellowship.
The RHS is custodian of the Lindley
, 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
The society has published a journal since 1866. Since 1975 it has
been entitled The
and is currently a monthly publication. The RHS
also publishes both The
and The Orchid
four times a year, and Hanburyana
, an annual publication dedicated
to horticultural taxonomy
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
The creation of a British horticultural society was suggested by
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.
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
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 was to become the Secretary of the new
proposed his close friend Thomas Andrew Knight 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.