We were thrilled recently to have the opportunity to visit RHS Wisley in Woking, Surrey, for the opening of a really exciting new horticultural project there.
Late April saw the grand launch day for a new state-of-the-art gardening education and community outreach resource. A beautiful new allotment site hosts a number of projects which use edible growing to build the skills of professional and amateur gardeners as well as providing a showcase for visitors to enjoy, and as RHS licensees, we were delighted to be able to attend the launch event – and to explore the site.
The new vegetable plot, situated within the historic orchards at RHS Garden Wisley, was built by RHS staff under the supervision of Sheila Das, the garden manager there. Sheila, who was heavily involved in the design, also arranged the celebration to thank everyone who helped to get the plot ready against a very tight deadline and in often difficult weather in time for the spring growing season. As for all of our gardening efforts this spring, the weather can’t have made the preparations any easier.
The project has been the result of the extraordinary dedication of the Wisley team and RHS staff and supporters in getting this ’super-allotment’ up and running. Burgon & Ball has supplied tools to help keep the plots up and running on an ongoing basis, while our fellow RHS licensee Gabriel Ash supplied the most marvellous ‘grow and store’ building. Made to an original design, the Wisley hybrid shed/greenhouse is the biggest building ever supplied by the company, which has been designing and constructing greenhouses for over 70 years. Gabriel Ash also supplied the community outreach glasshouse, as well as additional staging, waterbutts, coldframes and shading equipment. The RHS preferred partner for licensed seed and seed gifting products Mr Fothergill's Seeds Ltd has also provided plenty of seeds for all aspects of the project, including for the vegetable plots. It is an amazing project, and has certainly got off to a flying start.
The area will have a number of purposes. There are 24 evenly sized rectangular beds. A number of these are allocated to RHS students on the first year of their Diploma in Horticultural Practice course; this forms an assessed project as part of their programme. Also maintaining plots on this site are participants in the RHS community allotment adult learning course – beginner growers who keep a plot at RHS Garden Wisley for a year and benefit from masterclasses from a team of professional experts.
These plots have been allocated by community ballot, and we were delighted to meet some of the participants. We also really enjoyed the boards by each plot, telling us a little about each plot holder and what they’re up to. It’s always nice to meet a fellow gardener, even virtually – you can’t help but get involved!
The site will also be used by the RHS to welcome visiting groups to engage in growing activities from all sorts of wider communities as part of its outreach work from the garden.
The Gabriel Ash-supplied community outreach glasshouse, meanwhile, is to be used to teach and educate schools, local refugee groups and others about gardening and growing vegetables and to use this knowledge in community projects, schools or their own gardens or balconies.
At the launch event, we were pleased to catch up with Matt Pottage, the curator at Wisley, who has been working hard on the project, along with the rest of the team. He told us how the team has been working at its best in challenging circumstances on this flagship garden, and kindly added how much our tools are used and appreciated at the project.
We’ve worked closely with the RHS on tools for some years, even developing some tools especially to fit the RHS brief. Our Culti-Rake is one such tool, a result of an ‘If only…’ conversation with the RHS gardeners at Wisley. We’ve designed it as a hybrid of a rake and a cultivator, for both clearing the ground and creating a tilled surface layer. The narrow head makes it ideal for working between rows or in planted borders, and the strong outer tines are double strength so they can be used to excavate individual weeds.
We will make a point of visiting these new plots when we’re visiting the RHS in the future; they’re such a wonderful opportunity for growers to have their own little piece of Wisley, and expertise on tap. We’re fascinated to see how they’ll grow and develop in this, their first season. A really inspiring project!