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Exteriors, Lifestyle

Taste the World at RHS Wisley


RHS Hilltop, the UK’s first dedicated horticultural scientific centre, opened in June 2021 and is a unique space sited at RHS Wisley in Surrey. This exciting development houses three purpose-built laboratories supporting research, an Herbarium and a Digitisation Suite, alongside three new gardens designed by RHS Chelsea gold medal winners.

The Wellbeing Garden has been designed by Matt Keightley whilst Ann-Marie Powell was responsible for the design of both the Wildlife Garden and the World Food Garden, where you can taste your way around the world and learn more about how and what to grow in your own outdoor space.

“The process of putting forward our tender and presenting ideas for the site was quite challenging,” Ann-Marie explains. “Over a four to five-year period, we presented to various RHS Committees who were responsible in selecting the design team to work with them on this very exciting project. When we were finally appointed, there was great joy as it was a project we all wanted to be involved with.”

The World Food Garden is just under an acre in size, and Ann-Marie worked closely with the RHS Edibles Team to create a contemporary food garden based on traditional kitchen gardens. “By working with the Edibles Team and the RHS Garden Manager Sheila Das, it meant that the team who have considerable knowledge about growing food crops, their expertise could be incorporate and as a consequence, it gave the team the opportunity to shine and take pride in developing the garden still further.”

RHS Wisley has a significant history of growing fruit and vegetables over the decades and have grown model gardens since the 1950s, along with large scale fruit orchards. With a brief to design a garden which celebrates the diversity of food which can be grown in the UK and the people who grow it, the gardens have to inspire visitors to get growing in their own gardens whilst honouring the RHS’s history of edible growing. 

Like many UK gardens, the RHS also has to protects its crops from local wildlife who would eat any new shoots before they had grown. As a consequence, the World Food Garden has been fully surrounded by a fully wildlife-proof boundary with alternating fencing demonstrating different growing and training conditions. A selection of 75 varieties of trained fruit, including apples, pears, gages, nectarines and peaches illustrates what can grow, according to prevailing conditions

The garden within is divided into three sections. The central ‘Good to Grow’ area, inspired by the design of a plant cell structure, has a contemporary twist on the traditional vegetable plot with a central ring of espaliered fruit trees located around a circular pond, linking with the tradition of dipping ponds frequently found in traditional walled kitchen gardens. The beds within this area are planted with easy-to-grow crops to inspire beginners. 

“We wanted to throw out some of the rules of traditional kitchen gardens, where vegetables are planted in straight rows. Instead, we wanted to be able to show people how they can use small spaces within their own garden, mixing flowers, herbs and vegetables and increasing the bio-diversity within our garden area. If people visit often, they will learn more about how to manage their own vegetable growing areas and come away with different ideas as different crops are selected from RHS AGM varieties each year.”

The Edible Flowers and Herb Garden links directly to the café in the National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning and takes you on a journey of how to mix edible flowers and herbs with vegetables. Planted with a rich tapestry of croppable blooms, visitors to the café can enjoy the complete plot-to-plate experience. Children particularly like running around this area, safe in the knowledge that everything around them is edible.

The World Food Maze is the final part of the garden and features raised beds filled with exotic crops which are a staples of multicultural Britain. All the plants grown in this area can withstand the UK climate and the planting style sees plants spilling from beds and clambering over arches.

Paul Debois from the RHS Photo Library

“I think for me, the World Food Maze has given me most satisfaction,” says Ann-Marie. “Visiting RHS Wisley and seeing diverse groups of people from community gardens, allotments and different ethnic groups sharing their knowledge about exotic crops that would have been grown abroad and which have been brought into the UK over the years, is really exciting. I feel collectively we have set the spark of something really good for the future and, as I am a vegan, it is great for me personally to experience a wider range of edible plant-based foods. This part of the garden will continually evolve as more people share their knowledge and experience. After all gardening is all about learning and experimenting.”

The three sections of the RHS Hilltop garden are linked together with a wide central axis of arched pergolas festooned with edible climbers including brightly coloured squashes and exotic passion flowers, demonstrating how effective vertical planting can be to increase the amount of planting space. 

A visit to RHS Hilltop to visit the three gardens will provide visitors with the opportunity to see how the RHS research is conducted, watch interactive displays and marvel at world-class plant collections, all providing inspiration for you to take home and incorporate in your own planting space.

To find out more visit and for further information of Ann-Marie’s work visit


New build houses
Thu 18 Jul 2024

Congratulations! Buying a new home is such an exciting moment. Whether it is your very first home or you are upgrading your current property for something a bit nicer, there is no feeling like it. New build homes are such a great investment. Not only are they brand new for your family but you can feel confident that they have been designed with the future in mind. Many properties come with eco-friendly features which are great for safeguarding your family. Financing a new home can be a bit of a minefield. Let’s take a look at how you could buy your new home as well as some things to look out for along the way. Mortgage Mortgages are the most common financing option when buying a home. Buyers of new builds can benefit from mortgages designed for the intricacies of the new build process. Lenders may be a lot more critical when looking at your application as there is less security for them with a new build. As construction timelines can be subject to delays and issues, be sure to keep in touch with your lender and see if you can extend your mortgage in principal agreement. You may be able to get some help with buying a new build home. If you are a first-time buyer, look into whether you are eligible for a discount under the First Homes Scheme. Incentives from builders It is in the best interest of building developers to sell their new homes, so some may offer you incentives. You may be offered cash towards your deposit which will be transferred to your solicitor on completion. If you do take advantage of this, remember to inform your mortgage lender. For people who have already purchased a home, developers may be able to help you sell your old house. A developer-assisted sale is one where they will aid you with independent valuations, appropriate deals or the actual sale. This is often free, and they may pay for your estate agency fees. Hidden costs Buying a house can come with hidden costs such as stamp duty and moving costs. Delays in the construction of your new build can often be costly too. When thinking about your moving budget, it is wise to incorporate a buffer zone for additional expenses. Advice The home-buying process is not a straightforward one, so seeking help from professionals is prudent. A lot of the process includes legal intricacies which will be beyond your capabilities. Mortgage brokers, for example, will be invaluable when it comes to getting you a mortgage in principle that works for your situation. Not only will you be able to get the best deal and save money, but a broker will save you so much time. Instructing a firm of solicitors will also be worth the expense. They can do land searches, deed transfers and keep everything above board for you going forward.

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This summer the Laura Lopes Gallery presents works by botanical artist Endellion Lycett Green in the Tithe Barn at Thyme. Through her art, Lycett Green pays testament to the inspiration she finds in the natural world.

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Urban winner   Danny Kidby Hunter
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