RHS decides against take over of Norfolk garden worth £150,000 pa

Society fears East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden will not have enough visitors

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has turned down the chance to acquire a well-known garden. The RHS Council decided against taking on East Ruston Old Vicarage Garden, in Norfolk, as a “satellite garden” because of fears it would not attract enough visitors. The decision sheds light on the RHS’s strategy for acquiring new gardens. The garden would have been bequeathed with a seven-figure endowment that would generate income of £150,000 a year. RHS director general Andrew Colquhoun said: “We had some discussions with the two owners. They were looking to secure the long-term future of that garden to make sure what they created lives on. “We look at potential gardens on horticultural merit, and there is no doubt East Ruston has that, on infrastructure and on strategic location, and that was where the RHS Council had some worries about East Ruston. “Being north-east of Norwich, close to the coast, is a long way from major centres of population. The council was worried about generating enough visitors to make the garden financially viable.” Colquhoun also said an increase in numbers might be “detrimental to the garden itself”. East Ruston joint owner Graham Robeson said: “This has been our passion and enjoyment for 15 years. Nothing is going to change but we’re looking at the long-term future. We put it to the RHS two or three years ago. The decision-making process takes that long.” He added that he preferred the “stability” the RHS would offer in running the garden rather than it being run by a stand-alone trust. The RHS has gardens in Essex, Surrey, Devon and North Yorkshire but none in the Midlands or north-west of England. Tatton Park, which is managed by Cheshire County Council on behalf of the National Trust, has been coveted by the RHS for years. But Colquhoun said it is not holding talks with either party although Tatton does lie in an area that fits the criteria for an RHS garden.

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