RHS Annual General Meeting reveals achievements, investments and challenges
7 July 2011
Elizabeth Banks, has described her first 12 months as RHS President as a ‘most extraordinary year’.
Speaking at last week’s RHS Annual General Meeting at RHS Garden Wisley, she added that she was still discovering new things about the Society and beginning to appreciate the full scale and scope of all its activities from horticultural education through to science, shows and community involvement.
Elizabeth was declared elected unopposed as RHS President and Nicholas Bacon elected unopposed as RHS Treasurer.
In his first financial statement to RHS members, Nicholas described 2010 as ‘challenging’ due to a difficult economic climate and poor spring weather. However a net surplus of £5.5million was achieved due to a better trading position and good cost control and total net charitable funds of £24.2 million.
Investment milestones included the opening of the Peter Buckley Learning Centre at RHS Garden Rosemoor and the Bramall Learning Centre at RHS Garden Harlow Carr.
Membership he said, continued to be the Society’s major source of funds which at £13.8 million represented 57% of its total. In May this year the highest number of members in the Society’s history was recorded at just over 375,000.
Building a stronger future
In her speech to members, Sue Biggs, RHS Director General looked to the future declaring that the Society would work to inspire gardeners, involve and inform the public and improve everything that it does. ‘We want to be accessible and be more open to all gardeners and relevant to everybody’, she said adding that both young and old should have a horticultural career to be proud of. She recognised that the Society had much work to do and faced great challenges but that it was committed to spreading out regionally and investing in its website.
Election to Council and Vice Presidents
- At this year’s AGM, George Anderson and David Haselgrove were re-elected as ordinary members of Council until 2016 and 2013 respectively. Sarah Joiner was re-elected until 2012 and Michael Balston co-opted for a further 12 months
- New additions to Council were James Alexander-Sinclair and Denis Espley who will serve on Council for five years until 2016.
- The Society now has 18 Vice Presidents, and Elizabeth Banks paid tribute to Ambrose Congreve, a former Vice President, who passed away in May aged 104. In recognition of his plantsmanship and support for the Society a magnolia is to be planted at RHS Garden Wisley in November.
Questions from the floor
RHS members are entitled to ask questions of Council and staff either in person or by letter.
Questions included whether the gardens could stay open later during the summer and the RHS Chelsea Flower Show have a late night opening. Jame Rudoni, RHS Director of Gardens, said the subject has been discussed and all four gardens would be open until 8pm on Thursdays in July. However Stephen Bennett, RHS Director of Shows said he felt it was unlikely that Kensington Council would permit longer days for Chelsea.
A discussion on the fairness of the voting system for members to RHS Council was triggered by a question from the floor. David Morrison, Council member, explained voting was in line with other charities, urged more members to vote and concluded that the Society would review its process.
Concerns were raised on the quality of soil, irrigation and general suitability of Wisley’s Portsmouth Field after more than 50 years of plant trials. Jim Gardiner, RHS Director of Horticulture, said the Society was looking into the possibilities of a UV filter for irrigation water and methods to reduce noise levels from the neighbouring A3 road. He added that trials were also carried out at Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall and Rosemoor.