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RHS birthday

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It was a good time to be born, on the verge of spring, March 7th 1804, in a bookshop. Hatchards Bookshop in Piccadilly to be exact. Only fathers were present at the birth, but that would change.

The original progenitors of the Royal Horticultural Society were John Wedgwood, son of the great pottery manufacturer and abolitionist; William Townsend Aiton, Superintendent of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; the explorer and plantsman Sir Joseph Banks, who had travelled with Captain Cook and was then President of the Royal Society; James Dickson, a nurseryman; William Forsyth, Superintendent of the gardens of St. James's Palace and Kensington Palace; Charles Francis Greville, a mineralogist and horticulturist; and Richard Anthony Salisbury. They thought they would hold a few meetings and present some scholarly papers, but they were soon planting their first garden.

Today the Royal Horticultural Society (the Society received its Royal Charter in 1861) has four flagship gardens open to the public: Wisley Garden, near the village of Wisley in Surrey; Rosemoor in Devon; Hyde Hall in Essex and Harlow Carr in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Every May, RHS Chelsea bursts on the scene.

The Society held Great Spring Shows for years before opening the first Chelsea Flower Show in 1913 in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Since then Chelsea has been an annual event (with breaks during the First and Second World Wars), blossoming every late May with plants, gardens, garden tools, statues, gardeners, and friends. . .

RHS sponsors research, maintains the Lindley Library, gives advice, teaches, awards the Victoria Medal of Honour to outstanding horticulturalists and publishes The Garden. Happy Birthday!

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