The John MacLeod Field Research Facility, Wisley. Photograph courtesy of Rachael Tanner, RHS.
I know what you’re thinking, but remember what your mum always said- don’t judge a book by its cover. Or in this case -don’t judge the shiny new Field Research Facility (FRF) by its slightly unattractive exterior. Granted, it isn’t the prettiest building I’ve ever seen (although the splashes of colour provided by the bearded irises do help) but it wasn’t built to be admired from the outside.
Behind its exterior – which has been coloured to almost the exact shade of avocado from my parent’s old bathroom suite, the facility is quite beautiful, and has been kitted out with all the latest in controlled environment technology. Built by market leaders in controlled environmental chambers and glasshouses, Unigro, our new FRF is operational 365 days a year providing us with new research space and new gadgets (environmentally-controlled chambers and pressurised areas to limit movement of airborne pests and pathogens) to help RHS scientists do more research and provide more advice on the pests and diseases of garden plants. The facility is also environmentally-friendly, featuring solar panels to generate electricity and a ‘coolth’ (no, it’s not a typo) tank which recycles energy – capturing heat emitted by the chambers during the day to warm them at night, whilst also providing a back-up source of energy in the event of a mechanical failure.
The new research glasshouse has been named after the late Professor John MacLeod- a leading advocate for horticultural science and previously Vice Chairman of the RHS Council, Chair of the RHS Science Committee and Garden Advisor for RHS Hyde Hall. It was formally opened by Professor David Bellamy who was given a tour of the facility and shown some of our research projects that would shortly be making use of the new space. I was on hand to sneak a peak at Professor Bellamy and to talk to any of the invited guests about some of our on-going scientific research projects at Wisley.
Professor Bellamy opening our new research glasshouse (left), and (right) alongside our RHS/ Roehampton PhD student, Stephanie Bird. Photographs courtesy of Andy Paradise, RHS.