Halting a horticultural crisis

children and horticulture

Created in partnership with others in the horticultural sector the Horticulture Matters report outlines steps the industry and Government should take to address the growing skills crisis in the sector.

Key priorities include;

  • Improving the perception of careers in the sector,
  • Supporting schools in the delivery of horticultural qualifications,
  • Working with Government to secure funding for plant-science research.

Speaking at the YoungHort conference in London, which was attended by 300 young horticulturists, RHS Director General Sue Biggs said: “As a sector, we want to share our passion for what I consider to be one of the most rewarding, important and life-affirming professions in the world, horticulture. And it is this love of horticulture and an understanding of the economic, scientific, cultural and social benefits it brings that brought the sector together to launch the Horticulture Matters campaign in order to highlight and address the growing crisis we face.

Horticulture contributes £9 billion to the UK economy every year and employs around 300,000 people across a variety of disciplines. However, 70% of businesses say that they struggle to find the skilled workers they require and 83% put this down to the poor perception of horticulture in schools and colleges."

“The horticulture sector has worked hard with Government, employers and educators to reverse a potentially terminal trend. We’ve made some significant advances, which are highlighted in our report, but we can’t rest on our laurels; there is much vital work that needs to be done.”

Pledges and promises

The report highlights the horticultural industry aims including:

  • Recruiting industry ambassadors
  • Delivering horticultural 'test drives' to schools and colleges
  • Promoting the GrowCareers website
  • Delivering GrowCareers days
  • Supporting horticulture and guidance for schools
  • Facilitating businesses to work with schools
  • Promoting apprenticeship opportunities
  • Encouraging more take-up of horticultural courses
  • Delivering a public information campaign regarding plant health
  • Notifying Government of emerging threats

RHS Campaign for School Gardening

Campaign for School Gardening

The RHS is committed to sharing our love of horticulture with young people - through our Campaign for School Gardening, we have reached thousands of children in UK primary schools. Read more about the campaign and join in to receive support to develop a sustainable garden for young people’s learning, health and wellbeing.

Investment in Post-graduate Research

The RHS recognises the need to develop research skills in horticultural science and supports a number of post-graduate research projects in collaboration with universities across the UK and abroad.

The following table details the projects we currently support:

Title Collaborating organisations RHS Contact Start & Finish date
Removing the barriers to retrofitting of green walls in an urban domestic setting University of Reading / RHS Tijana Blanuša 2012–2018
Resilience in garden / landscape plants within a changing climate University of Sheffield / RHS Paul Alexander 2013–2018
Understanding the fate of carbon addition from sustainable sources to horticultural systems University of Reading / RHS Paul Alexander 2013–2018
Can we use soil microbes to help produce novel, sustainable growing media? Royal Holloway, University of London / Bulrush Horticulture Ltd / Plantworks Ltd / Vitacress / RHS Paul Alexander 2013–2018
Gardening tools for an aging population Coventry University / RHS Paul Alexander 2014–2018
Towards a monograph of Narcissus: Problems and challenges in section Pseudonarcissus University of Reading / RHS John David 2015–2018
Do front garden landscapes influence health and well-being? University of Reading / University of Virginia / RHS Alistair Griffiths 2016–2019
Investigating the impact of plants on indoor air quality: a multi-scale cross-disciplinary approach University of Reading / RHS Tijana Blanuša 2016–2019
The accumulation of regional diversity in the Anthropocene: insects on plants University of York / Centre for Ecology & Hydrology / RHS Andrew Salisbury 2016–2020
Pathogen-induced changes in plant-insect interactions for crop and ornamental species in the genus Solanum University of Cambridge / RHS Gerard Clover 2016–2020
Urban Buzz: quantifying and enhancing the resources available to pollinators in urban landscapes University of Bristol / RHS Stephanie Bird 2017–2020
Benign enhancement of natural defences: BEYOND University of Sheffield / James Hutton Institute / RHS Matthew Cromey 2017–2020
Xylella in the UK: an investigation of risk management and communication Imperial College London / RHS Rebekah Robinson 2017–2020
Understanding the current status and protecting the future of the UK rose sector University of Newcastle / Fera Science Ltd / RHS Gerard Clover 2017–2020
Investigating the use of endophytes to induce resistance to honey fungus (Armillaria) University of Bristol / RHS Jassy Drakulic 2017–2020
Developing non-peat growing media with microbial amendments Royal Holloway, University of London / RHS Paul Alexander 2017–2020
The impact of climate change on UK garden plants – can we avoid a new Japanese knotweed? University of Reading / RHS John David 2017–2021
Slug and snail diversity in uk gardens University of Newcastle / CEH / RHS Hayley Jones 2018-2021

RHS Plant Health Studentship 2018

Plant Health summer studentship

Applications are now closed for Plant Health summer studentship 2018

  • Are you an undergraduate student in your second year of study?
  • Would you like to join an active programme of plant science research at one of the world’s great gardens?

Read more about the Plant Health summer studentship at RHS Garden Wisley (pdf 686kB)

  • We will work with you to apply for funding from a number of external sources
  • Placement opportunities will be subject to funding availability

Previous projects have included:

  • Investigating endophytic Trichoderma for bio-control of honey fungus
  • Developing molecular methods for honey fungus species identification
  • Identifying gastropod feeding preferences
  • Analysis of soil fauna diversity following slug control

More information


Contact the RHS Plant Health team for more information:

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