RHS Hilltop opens its wings to the study of horticulture

RHS Hilltop opens its wings to the study of horticulture

The widely respected Royal Horticultural Society is getting a promotion, coming out from the shadows and into the forefront of horticultural science. The U.K.’s first dedicated garden science hub is opening at the RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, which will showcase educational opportunities and scientific work in the field of horticulture.

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Designed by WilkinsonEyre Architecture, RHS Hilltop – The Home of Gardening Science sits in an area of scientific laboratories and classrooms, as well as public exhibition spaces, an events hall and a scientific library. All of this is surrounded by four acres of gardens used as ‘living laboratories.’

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The new garden science hub not only provides 70 RHS scientists and students access to top-of-the-line lab facilities, but it allows visitors and school children to watch live experiments as they happen and speak directly to scientists about their work. 

An overhead view of garden facilities surrounding a building with two straight line volumes that curve out in opposite directions at the bottom.

The Home of Gardening Science houses vast collections of dried plants, insects, books and art that date back more than five centuries and represent the most complete record of the U.K.’s horticultural heritage.

Heather Cooke - team leader, sitting in a field of flowers, making final preparations to the Wildlife Garden at RHS Hilltop.

With the recent lockdowns came a renewed interest in gardening; RHS Hilltop feeds that interest with the hopes of inspiring a new generation of scientists in the field, as well as backyard gardeners.

An overhead view of people tending to the World Food Garden at RHS Hilltop.

Of course, the science taking place here doesn’t only focus on plants, but on how worldwide land and climate issues can benefit from them. For example, RHS is addressing how plants can help with pollution, flooding and urban heating. Studies are also underway to improve human and animal wellbeing and fight climate change. 

The World Food Garden, a sprawling garden area made up of several different plots with walkways between them.

Visitors to the center can tour the outdoor gardens or view them while sipping a drink on the Sky Terrace. These gardens include a health and wellbeing garden outside the main entrance, a west-facing world kitchen garden and an east-facing wildlife garden. Food served at the cafe comes directly from the gardens outside.

The World Food Garden, a sprawling garden area made up of several different plots with walkways between them.

One wing of the building caters to the labs, and the other focuses on educational rooms. The external and internal colors and natural material selections remain simple, keeping the focus on the content inside and out. Sustainably sourced sweet chestnut clads the exterior for a striking nod to nature. Architectural elements and surrounding vegetation contribute to natural cooling within the rooms.  

A bird's-eye view of the World Food Garden, showcasing an intricate design with a roundabout in the middle that branches of in four directions to different sections of the garden.

Geoff Turner, Associate Director at WilkinsonEyre said: “The new centre is designed to integrate with the working gardens and provide a central hub for the scientific community based at RHS Garden Wisley and the million plus visitors that come each year. We hope it provides optimum facilities for the vital work taking place and inspires even greater public engagement with the world of horticultural science and its importance for a greener future.”

+ WilkinsonEyre 

Via RHS Garden Wisley

Photography © Oliver Dixon for RHS

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