Jackie Gear, Cherry Hills, Lawrence Hills and Alan Gear at Ryton Gardens

The history of Ryton Gardens

Ever since the charity created Ryton Gardens in the 1980s, the name has been synonymous with excellence in organic growing.

Garden Organic, or the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA) as we were called at the time, moved to Ryton Gardens 1985.

Prior to that we were based in Bocking, Essex, where our founder, Lawrence Hills, and his team conducted trials and welcomed members to look round.

As interest grew, it was decided that the charity needed more space to create a demonstration garden to educate and inspire more gardeners. After an extensive search, a large plot of land near Coventry was selected as our new home and work started straight away.

HDRA and Ryton Gardens were propelled into the public eye in 1987 when Channel 4 commissioned a prime-time TV show called ‘All Muck and Magic’.

The show featured experts Alan Gear, Jackie Gear, Bob Sherman, Pauline Pears and Sue Stickland, giving practical organic growing advice from the gardens.

The show was so popular that following the initial eight programmes planned, a further two series were run, in 1988 and 1989.

In the years that followed, the garden and facilities were developed and Ryton Gardens became synonymous with organic gardening excellence.

Today, Ryton Gardens is owned by Coventry University, and Garden Organic occupies space for a smaller demonstration garden and the grow-out facilities for the Heritage Seed Library.

At just under 1 acre, the garden demonstrates the full range of organic gardening practices, on a scale more achievable to the everyday grower.

Ryton Gardens is managed by Head Gardener, Emma O’Neill, supported by two professional gardeners, Jules Duncan and Richard Jones, and a team of fantastic volunteers.

A working garden, it evolves throughout the seasons with changes year on year. The garden changes on a daily basis with new things to see on every visit.

Ryton Gardens also allows us to experiment with new techniques and products. Being able to get our hands in the soil is key to ensuring our advice remains relevant.

From regular flooding to an active pigeon population, we are putting our advice into practice at Ryton Gardens. We deal first-hand with the trials and triumphs of all growers.

Visit Ryton Gardens on one of our tours or courses.

  • Ryton Gardens was created at Ryton Fields, just outside Coventry
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  • Alan and Jackie Gear at Ryton Gardens in 1986
  • Alan Gear in the Mail Order Despatch Dept at Ryton Gardens
  • Alan and Jackie Gear with Vice-President Thelma Barlow at Ryton Gardens
  • The team behind All Muck and Magic at Ryton Gardens
  • Our Patron the former Prince of Wales tours Ryton Gardens with CEO Myles Bremner
  • Our Patron, the former Prince of Wales visits Ryton Gardens
  • Gardeners Pauline, Sue and Steve at Ryton 1986