The Institute of Horticulture was formed in 1984 – the conclusion of many years of discussions and often heated debate about the need for an authoritative, broadly based professional body with the objective of improving the status of horticulture and horticulturists. The objective was finally achieved through the involvement of the RHS with enthusiastic support of its president, Lord Aberconway, and its Examination Board under the chairmanship of George Lockie.
The latter chaired a meeting in May 1983 to set up an exploratory committee with delegates from nine organisations with an interest in horticulture. Meetings continued throughout 1983-4 to establish a draft constitution, articles of association and membership criteria, and the proposal was put before an open meeting on March 21, 1984 chaired by Lord Aberconway. Support was immediate and enthusiastic and by August that year 700 founder members had been enrolled.
That year the Horticultural Education Association’s 800 members agreed, in a referendum, to absorption by the embryo Institute of Horticulture.
A unifying role
George Lockie, the first President, emphasised at the outset that one of the aims of the new Institute was to foster a close relationship between all sectors of professional horticulture - advisory and research, amenity, commercial, education and training - each having representation on Council, as did the branches (six covering England and Wales, one in Scotland and one in Ireland).
Four standing committees were set up with specific terms of reference - Horticultural Affairs, Education and Training, Professional Affairs and Recruitment, and Promotion (renamed Public Relations), each represented by their chairman on the Executive Committee.
From the beginning, the Institute has played a major role in the dissemination of information and the encouragement of debate through conferences, symposiums, seminars and workshops. In just four months from launch the West Midlands & South Wales Branch had held a successful seminar on Pesticides and Profitability. From that early start the pace, both nationally and regionally, has never slackened. Many conferences have been run in association with other organisations. The importance of such liaisons has been high on the Institute's agenda resulting in representations on several outside bodies.
The branches were also quick off the mark in drawing up programmes of visits, as successive branch officers had discovered a rich seam of places of horticultural interest within their boundaries.
The Institute's voice
By the end of George Lockie's presidency (October 1985), membership was nearly 2000 of whom 470 attended the first AGM at Kew where David Bellamy was the guest speaker. Taking over as President Professor John Bleasdale announced the launch of the Aberconway Award and the conferring of charitable status.
From the outset the Institute had been very active in ensuring that it had a voice in the corridors of power. In 1985 it was pressing horticulture's case in the light of R & D cut-backs, giving its views on the Food and Environment Bill and responding to a MAFF request for comments on the Review of the Plant Health and Propagation Scheme. These responses to Green Papers and the like continue apace and, in fact, the workload involved has increased in recent years.
Vic Fowler succeeded John Bleasdale at the 1986 AGM. The urgent need to attract more recruits to horticulture and improve the profession's image was high on the agenda. As a past president of the HEA Vic Fowler was well placed to spearhead the April 1987 Cannington-based conference 'Horticulture - its Education and Training Needs'. That conference was a catalyst for the first edition of the careers booklet Come into Horticulture launched in 1989 followed by a number of editions.
On his home ground at Kew, John Simmons was installed as President in 1987 - the year which saw the launch of Professional Horticulture, a quarterly journal which replaced the annual Scientific Horticulture inherited from the HEA. It was also the year when James Bruce financed the Award in his name.
At the next AGM at Castle Howard in 1988 the new President, Charles Notcutt, was able to announce that the Shropshire Horticultural Society had agreed to finance the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition. The first final was held at Writtle College in 1990.
Following a second financial gift from James Bruce it was decided to fund an annual lecture in his name to be given at the AGM. Grenville Lucas, Keeper of the Kew Herbarium, gave the first lecture at the 1989 AGM where Desmond Day succeeded Charles Notcutt as President.
The 1990 AGM was held at the Long Ashton Research Station when the James Bruce Lecture was given by Michael Heseltine MP (now Lord Heseltine) - himself a keen horticulturist of some renown. Bill Simpson was elected President for a two year period (1990-92) and together with Treasurer, Dr David Hand, drafted the Business Plan, promoted the Institute and made changes to publications culminating in the journal The Horticulturist.
A new journal
The Horticulturist was first published in 1992, replacing Professional Horticulture and incorporating IOH News. Desmond Day was its first editor, John Walker its News Editor. In 1997 Barbara Segall took on the overall editorship and in 2000 it was redesigned and published in colour.
The Corporate Plan 1992-96 was launched in 1992 when the late David Welch became President. At the 1993 AGM the newly instituted President's Medal was presented to the first recipient John Bleasdale.
The Institute's presence at horticultural shows and exhibitions has been a priority from the beginning with branches playing a major role. At Chelsea in 1993 a Silver Medal was awarded to the IoH stand, designed and constructed by Ann Rawlings and her team from the South East Branch. Another Silver was won in 1999 and there have been Bronze Medals along the way.
Chatsworth House was the venue for the 1994 AGM where the Duchess of Devonshire gave the James Bruce lecture and the new President, Peter Thoday, kicked off the Institute's second decade by stating that "the professional and skills of horticulturists are not recognised in this country as they should be". He regarded rectifying this situation as a top priority.
A new award
In 1994 the Institute left its offices at Vincent Square for its present location in Belgrave Square and a new post of Honorary Secretary was created. 1995 saw a new award, the IoH Award, for 'Outstanding Service to Horticulture', limited to 50 holders at any one time.
An IoH website was launched in 1996 and, after a succession of male Presidents, Jennifer Adams was presented with the chain of office at the AGM held at HRI Wellesbourne where the first IoH Award holders received their certificates.
In 2000 the Institute took over the administration of the Norah Stucken Trust and established an award for projects of particular significance to horticulture. The first recipient was the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI).
Policy and Government
In the first two years of the new century the Institute became more involved than ever before in responding to Green Papers, Reviews and Consultation Papers. It also produced its own Position Papers setting out its views on various subjects. One such Paper covered the Genetic Modification of Plants and another Education Provision for Horticulture.
Professor Geoff Dixon, succeeded Jeff Moorby in October 2002 at a well-attended AGM in Cornwall which included a visit to the Eden Project. Professor Dixon highlighted several problem areas which continue to preoccupy the Institute, such as the dilution of standards in education, the reduction of our research capability and the need to increase membership so that the Institute's work in representing horticulture and enhancing its reputation as opinion formers can continue apace.
New way forward
The need for the Institute to improve recruitment, stabilize its finances, and improve its effectiveness in delivering services dominated the years under the presidencies of David Miller and Tony Girard which led to Service Level Agreements with the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) and the Institute of Biology (IoB). A proposal for full amalgamation of the Institute with SCI was rejected at an SGM in December 2007 and there was overwhelming support for a new way forward to be drawn up for the Institute. This was consolidated into a Business Plan by a group led by the incoming president Dr Heather Barrett-Mold and adopted overwhelmingly by the AGM in September 2008.
As part of the implementation of this business plan the Institute moved to new administration offices at Capel Manor College, Enfield in December 2008, restored the annual conference programme, restructured the Standing Committees, clarified membership criteria, redefined membership benefits, strengthened representation on, and collaboration with, allied bodies and committed significant financial resources to improve administration and communication through technology.
2009-2011 saw a number of initiatives and projects come to fruition including a pilot mentoring scheme, a pilot e-Affiliate membership status, aimed at horticultural lecturers, collaborative working over Continuing Professional Development, and a strengthened Young Horticulturist of the Year competition.
A Royal Charter
The Institute's aspiration for Chartered status was first discussed in 1985, again in 2000, and revived under Heather Barrett-Mold's presidency with substantial progress being made towards submitting a preliminary application to the Privy Council in 2011 and 2012.
In July 2013 Her Majesty the Queen granted a Royal Charter to the Institute of Horticulture. On 21 July 2014 the Charter came in to legal effect and the Institute of Horticulture became Chartered and is now the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, (CIH), with many new plans and initiatives to enhance its standing and that of its members.
To gain a Royal Charter for the Institute has been an aspiration of the Institute since its inception in 1984. Not only is the granting of the Royal Charter excellent news for the Institute it is excellent for horticulture and horticulturists too. This level of seniority and recognition will enhance the status of horticulture as a profession which demands high level skills and continuing professional development. Chartership will also strengthen the influence and therefore the voice of the Institute and add gravitas to the Institute's claim for greater recognition from government and policy makers regarding the Institute's role in the development of professionalism in horticulture.
As a Chartered body the Institute’s ability to raise standards is strengthened and the Institute is better placed to represent and support horticulture as a profession and assist members in the practice of the profession. More information
The Institute's Royal Charter and Bye-Laws