Sparsholt College launches RHS Chelsea 2024 entry

Sparsholt College has teamed up with The Colegrave Seabrook Foundation to create Sparsholt’s 2024 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Discovery entry ‘Plants, Routes & Branches’.

They celebrated the launch of the garden with a morning unveiling the design joined by Sparsholt College Alumni and Industry Professionals. Visitors gathered at the college’s Hampshire Rural Business Centre to meet the enthusiastic student team, sharing their experiences and to wish them the best of luck for the project ahead.

The garden has been designed by Sparsholt’s multiple-medal-winning team including Chris Bird and Lucy Lewis in celebration of Sparsholt College’s 125th Anniversary of Horticultural training in Hampshire which begins next academic year in September 2024. The exhibit will explore the history of plant introductions from Hampshire whilst celebrating the impact of influential horticulturists and the role the college has played in their professional growth.

Chris Bird

Sparsholt College Group which includes Sparsholt College, Andover College and University Centre Sparsholt started in Old Basing, Basingstoke in 1899 as the Hampshire Farm Institute. Moving to Sparsholt village near Winchester in 1912, the college and its students have been influential within Horticulture over the years and will continue to do so.

The design consists of four areas all essential in supporting students of horticulture to become dedicated industry professionals. The Plant Breeding / Laboratory Area including a Choisya timeline. A Nursery/ Growing Area, home to nursery beds, informational boards and five RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year 2024 entries including:

  • Chaenomeles ‘Lemon Sorbet’
  • Mahonia ‘Meteor’
  • Philadelphus Petite Perfume ‘White Pearls’

The second half of the garden includes a Classroom Area, set up with desks and bookcases and finally a Workshop/Breakroom Area complete with seating, lockers filled with overalls and muddy boots. All four areas surround a central ‘Demo Shed’ with a corrugated panel roof made of recycled plastic, one of many sustainable features.

Most importantly, the garden will look to the future generations of horticulturists, exploring the numerous and exciting career routes they may follow. This includes continual developments of new plants, showcased through the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year. The garden aims to signpost potential career routes and opportunities provided by the Horticultural industry for both new learners and those looking to branch out their careers.

Quin Walling, Horticulture student said: “The launch has been an interesting networking event; we’ve got to meet lots of local plant breeders and past students and it’s been really enjoyable to meet possible future employers. I can’t wait to see how the garden all comes together and the finished project at the end of it. We’ve got a lot of landscape construction skills now, which has been fun to learn.”

Lucy Lewis, Horticulture Lecturer at Sparsholt College, said: “Plants, routes and branches is about celebrating 125 years of education at Sparsholt, influential horticulturalists and all the plants that they’ve bred and what exciting careers paths our students may take in the future.

Our aim for the garden is to inspire young people or career changers to look at a career in Horticulture and all the potential interesting places they could go – it’s more than just lawnmowing, the amount you can do with a foundation in Horticulture is phenomenal. This will be my seventh RHS Chelsea Flower Show and it is fantastic experience to share with our students. I am excited to be taking more of a leading role this year and could not be prouder of our team as we start to prepare to for the show.”

The horticulture team are encouraging those with a link to horticulture at Sparsholt College to share their stories, experience and images with us for the project. Please send them to