The RHS - Time To Be Direct

A little while back a number of us had a bit of a rant about the RHS and I also examined whether I was getting value for money from my membership. It seems that the powers that be must have been listening and have arranged an online question and answer session for next Tuesday (January 20th) from 9.30am until 12.30pm.

You don't have to be a member of the RHS to take an active part, but you do need to register on the My Garden section of their website. If you don't, you'll have a read-only access. If you've already registered, it might be an idea to try and login beforehand, because if like me you're an infrequent user, it may take a while or you may need to go through the password reset process like I did.

The lineup for the Q&A session is impressive:
  • Inga Grimsey - Director General
  • Jill Cherry - Director of Gardens & Estates
  • Dr Simon Thornton-Wood - Director of Science & Learning
  • Sarah Buxton - Director of Finance
  • Gordon Seabright - Commercial Director
  • Dan Wolfe - Director of Marketing, Membership & External Communications
You might like to have a look at the RHS' summary of how they fulfil their charitable remit beforehand too, especially if you're not that familiar with their work. This session is promised to be part of an ongoing programme to involve everyone interested in gardening (not just its members) more fully in RHS activities. So seeing we've had quite a bit to say about them in the blogosphere, I'm welcoming the opportunity to have a word with them more directly.

Anyone care to join me? :)


  1. It should be interesting, and lively I suspect! xx

  2. Hi
    This isnt very helpful for people who work - maybe that is a question to ask. Are they catering too much for their older members? I for one wont be able to contribute as I will be at work.

    Could you also ask for me if there are any plans to improve the provision for members in the middle of the country - there is no RHS major garden in the Midlands - as per Frank Ronan's article (he lives in the next county to me)


  3. Flighty - I hope so!

    PG - That's one of my questions on my list - I think they're missing out on a massive part of the population by putting it on a weekday. If anyone else would like me to ask a question on my behalf - do get in touch, either via these comments or vegplotting at gmail dot com

    Your question's very similar to one I have already Helen as I don't feel too well provided for either - I'm at least 2 hours away from the nearest garden. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are even worse off of course! I'm happy to modify my question accordingly to include you.

  4. sorry that should read ask a question on their behalf!

  5. Very good points from patientgardener. One of the frustrations I have with the RHS is that they only seem to cater for two extremes: a retired/non-working/well-heeled clientele at one end and a kind of Grand Day Out market at the other. Between the trust funds and the trippers, there's a whole swathe of normal, keen gardeners.

  6. Hi Victoria - good point. I'd add schools as well as another swathe. Very needy work and hopefully by capturing them young it'll filter through good things for the future. But I don't fit into any of those categories - like you I'm a normal (I hope - James thinks my garden's normal at least) keen gardener. And I wonder if that's the majority.

  7. Actually, this is really a personal whinge, but if you could ask about this on my behalf, it would be great. I've noticed in the past couple of years that the plant centre at Wisley isn't nearly as good as it used to be, in terms of carrying a wide range of varieties.
    For example, you used to be able to rely on Wisley to carry daffodils 'in the green' (so useful for filling gaps) and the choice might include 'Barrett Browning', or 'Thalia'. Now all they seem to offer is 'Tete a Tete' or 'Bridal Crown', which you can buy absolutely anywhere.
    Is this because it's more profitable to sell common varieties? I've often wondered whether it's because they're now so busy at Wisley, they feel they don't have to make the effort to entice discriminating gardeners with choice selections.

  8. Hi Victoria - I'm more than happy to ask. Would you mind if I make it clear I'm asking on someone's behalf? I've never been to Wisley, so if the discussion goes into more depth I won't be able to contribute that well to it. However, you've given a specific example so that's most helpful both to me and the RHS.

  9. after reading rhs comments, i am interested in hearing how the rhs explains themselves. do you know if the q & a session will be available to read online for those of us not in the british timezone?

  10. I haven't joined the debates on the pros and cons on the RHS,
    because as Victoria puts it
    I am a "normal keen gardener", who lives in Wales, with limited income.
    I really don't feel that the RHS has anything to offer me. So I have never joined.
    If I look at it from the point of view that the RHS is a charity - While I admire the work they do in Horticultural science, plant trials and education Again, because of financial limitations, it would not be on my list of charities that I give money too. I would consider giving some time ....
    I dont have a question for you to ask VP - but it will be an interesting.

  11. I'm not sure how similar/dissimilar the AHS and RHS are, but I feel I do get value for money from AHS--I like their magazine and their reciprocal admission policy is great. The cost isn't too much higher than belonging to a local garden--which I don't for other political reasons! Ah, it's hard figuring out where to give money sometimes...

  12. Hi all
    I agree with PG. Not helpful timing but then I suppose there will never be a time that suits everyone - I, among many others often work Saturdays and Sunday is busy..... As it happens I may not be at work on the 20th so will try to check out what's going on. I too am in the Midlands with very few gardens to visit at all let alone RHS ones.
    I like to think that I am a 'normal' gardener too!

  13. I don't think that I will be about next Monday morning VP, but if I think of any questions I will let you know. Like other folk I am a long way from a major RHS garden, although I am near one of the smaller free entry gardens. Helen has raised an excellent point about the timing of this not being appropriate for working folk. Hopefully there will be other sessions. I look forward to hearing more about how this session goes.

  14. Hi,
    I'm a bit late but the RHS question time is on next Tuesday, not Monday. It is on Jan 20th in the morning.
    I hope they get lots of interest.

  15. petoskystone - I think it should be available if you take the My Garden link from my post and follow through from there. I'll ask a question about how long they'll keep the discussion up for afterwards next week.

    Karen - that's still a valid viewpoint and it would be interesting to know just how many gardeners feel like you about the RHS.

    Garden Faerie - the cost of joining the RHS is considerably higher than joining a local garden or most of the other plant or garden societies in the UK. Therefore I think the RHS has a lot to do to show their members that they're getting value for their money.

    Maggi - your garden is lovely and I do hope you get some time to look in on the debate or the results afterwards.

    Anna - I think a lot of people are in the same boat as you and me re RHS proximity. Luckily I'm available to do some questioning!

    Daphne - oh well spotted and silly me! I've updated the post accordingly. Thanks :)


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