Ruhleben Horticultural Society

An amazing story of a ‘forgotten’ group of British men who set up a horticultural society in a German internment camp

The Ruhleben Horticultural Society at the Ruhleben internment camp in Germany not only grew flowers, but also used their horticultural skills to feed their fellow prisoners, earned money to fuel its fledgling economy, and organised RHS standard flower shows to boost morale. This was made possible by the support of the RHS in London, which sent huge amounts of seeds, bulbs and advice to its affiliate, deep behind enemy lines.

Ruhleben committeeMore than 5,000 British citizens were interned at Ruhleben, an old racecourse outside Berlin, which was described when it opened as “scandalously inadequate” and “not fit to keep pigs in.”

Fiona Davison, Head of Libraries and Exhibitions at the RHS, said:

The story of the Ruhleben Horticultural Society is completely unique, in that unlike many WW1 histories that tell of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, it is all but unknown."


The original Library exhibition, for the WW1 centenary in 2014, appealed for information and the current exhibition has been updated to reflect the response from the public.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.