The Vegetable Kingdom
A seed conservation & visitor centre at Ryton Gardens
The project is made up of two different elements. One is a fun and fanstastic visitor centre in which we tell the history of vegetables in the UK - how theyve evolved from wild plants and the part theyve played in our social history - for example the desperately sad story of the Irish Potato famine, or the splendid success of the Dig for Victory campaign during the Second World War.
We celebrate the fantastic range of vegetables that are available to grow and to eat and enjoy, but we also tell the tale of the thousands of vegetable varieties that this country has lost since the 1970s. Also how were trying to get old cultivars back into circulation through the efforts of our Heritage Seed Library. As you perhaps already know, this unique collection of 800 old and unusual vegetable varieties has been collected by us over the years. Were it not for our efforts, with fantastic support from our Seed Guardians, members of the Heritage Seed Library and those who have Adopted A Veg, they might have disappeared for all time.
This terrible loss of genetic diversity is a topic that we expand on in an extremely important display - what genetic diversity is and why it is so important, not only to organic gardeners but to the world in general. Nature abhors monoculture; we want the visitors to understand why.
We also describe how vegetables are necessary for our health, packed as they are with vitamins, minerals and other elements that help to protect us from life threatening diseases and we give visitors plenty of opportunity to experience them!
A wonderful experience
Meet the veggies
Please dont think that the new centre is just a boring set of exhibition boards. There are brilliant colourful 3D displays - guessing vegetables by touch and smell, computer-based interactive displays, and lots of things for kids to do. Goodness knows, we have to try to get them interested in growing and eating vegetables. Unfortunately, many children these days avoid vegetables entirely, or only eat frozen peas and baked beans. This unique centre is visually stunning so that people, young and old, go away feeling excited about vegetables. A tall order perhaps? We dont think so. We want to open eyes and make mouths water. Vegetables are it as far as were concerned!
Part of the unique visitor experience is the opportunity to peep behind the closed doors of the Heritage Seed Library - to catch a glimpse of what goes on day-to-day - harvesting, seed saving, even sending out packets of seeds to members.
The improved Heritage Seed Library
The Heritage Seed Library
- as it was
HSL members get a regular magazine and six packets of heirloom seeds each year. Visitors to Garden Organic Ryton at the moment get only a flavour of the work of the Heritage Seed Library from the small display garden in the grounds. What nobody saw were the portacabins that accommodated the staff, the ageing polytunnels or the tiny annexe, with its laboratory fridges and seed store, where the collection was housed.
This lack of resources proved to be a major set back in the improvement of facilities and the expansion of the seed library and the work behind it. But, now we have created a larger purpose-built laboratory, seed store dispatch room and offices. Here we are able to expand the vegetable seed collection and are better able to deal with the administration and the research we want to do.