Adam Banks

2023/24 RHS Interchange Fellow on placement from the USA to the UK

I arrived at RHS Garden Wisley during the middle of the Wisley Flower Show. After landing just a couple hours before, it was a surreal experience to walk through the glowing garden, weave through crowds of plant admirers, and explore the plant competition tent, I even had a chance to weigh in on one of the dahlia selections with members of the event staff. It all felt vaguely like a dream (and certainly not just because I was heavily jet-lagged).

Wisley itself is a great garden, my time here over the first three months has been incredible. I am learning something new every day, whether that be taxon or gardening techniques. I have deeply enjoyed the amazing breath of plants grown throughout the site. There have been times when I could look at a flowerbed and count five or six continents of origin for plants within that small area.

I have taken some trips to different gardens including Great Dixter, Chelsea Physic Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Sheffield Park. Great Dixter’s autumn plant fair in October was phenomenal, with a great mix of nurseries in attendance. The landscape itself was like nothing I had seen before, with plants bursting out of beds and new horticultural practices beautifully blended with old architecture. Even though it was October, the landscape still brimmed with colour. The garden’s design encouraged me to reassess how I have previously sought to plant, maintain, and interpret a space. 

Wisley has allowed me to see many facets of the horticultural field over a short time. One of my favourite departments so far has been the Woodland Team, which allowed me to pursue my great interest in woody plants. The collection that the department oversees unites plants from a huge number of ecosystems, creating a kind of fantastical forest. 

The time I was able to spend in The Wildlife Garden has helped me redefine what I see as a garden plant, and gave me a chance to learn about scything as a landscape management method. The Austrian Scythe in the picture is a formidable alternative to a gas or electric string trimmer with many advantages, including the scythe’s lightweight, lack of hand vibration (which could otherwise cause a condition deemed ‘trimmer wrist’ by an old colleague of mine), and ability to retain the structural integrity of the cut grass for habitat-building purposes.

I was fortunate enough to be invited along on a student field trip to Wrest Park in mid-November. The estate garden was created in the 1630s, more than a hundred years before the founding of the United States. This was my first visit to a true landscape garden, with sweeping views over the french parterre and across a luxuriously long manmade pond. We spent the day learning about what it takes to conserve sites with rich garden history, like this one, by inspecting it's past to inform future maintenance and improvement efforts.

Two months in, my experience has been amazing and I am beyond excited for what’s to come.

Mid-term report

Adam is halfway through his fellowship. Adam's mid-term report describes the experiences he has gained across the different teams at RHS Garden Wisley. 

Get involved

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.