The Legacy of Chelsea: Science
So that's another Chelsea done and dusted for this year. The plants have gone, the show gardens are being torn apart and all that bling and razzledazzle is no more. It's easy to focus on these aspects of the show and say they have no relevance to the ordinary gardener like you and me. I'm going to spend a couple of posts this week looking for a different point of view.
For me one of the most important Chelsea moments was a sparsely attended press call last Monday at the new RHS Experience stand. This was the launch of the latest RHS report entitled Gardening matters: Urban gardens.
We all have an idea of how good our gardens are for the environment, but for the first time RHS Scientist Dr Tijana Blanusa (pictured left) has pulled together all the available research evidence on just why this is so. Her report summarises the areas where our gardens have a key role:
- Moderating temperature (cooling the urban environment and gardens as insulation)
- Preventing urban flooding
- Providing urban biodiversity
- Supporting human health (psychological wellbeing and promoting physical health)
- Getting the balance right re carbon emissions and water use
I was surprised to hear over 85% of us live in towns and cities nowadays and our gardens account for about 25% of land in most cities and contain around a quarter of non-forest trees. Therefore, decisions we make about the way we use our little patch of land can have a significant impact on the urban environment.
I spoke to Dr Roger Williams (head of RHS Science and pictured right) afterwards about what happens next. He told me producing the report has highlighted a number of gaps in the research which the RHS aims to fill, either through their own research programme or in collaboration with others such as Reading and Sheffield Universities. For example, they'll be looking to provide information on the best ways to use peat-free products in gardening and looking at which plant combinations (native and/or non-native) are best for wildlife.
I'm also concerned about the increasing pressure on our land in the UK and asked whether this report will be shared with non-gardeners such as town planners and policy makers. Roger told me they're looking to publish this paper in a research journal later this year and are planning a seminar aimed at decision makers around the time of publication.
In the meantime, the RHS are wanting to find out more about how we garden and have an online survey for you to complete. There's also lots more information about the report and sustainable gardening in general on their urban greening web pages.