NERC-sponsored garden wins Gold at Chelsea
22 May 2012
The University of Leeds has scooped Gold at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show today (22 May) with its first exhibit at the prestigious event.
The garden, designed by gardener Martin Walker, brings to life research carried out by leading academics and shows how simple changes to urban gardens can make a positive contribution to the planet.
The university's garden, which received the award for its exhibit in the Environment category, was designed to echo a 'typical' northern garden and is based on research into ecosystem services carried out by the Faculty of Environment and the Faculty of Biological Sciences.
A section of the winning garden
Called Gardening for Champions!, the exhibit encourages individuals to make small changes to the way they garden, as Dr Rebecca Slack explains, "As a university we decided to take part in Chelsea because we wanted to show how easy it was for people to become ecosystem champions; that is make a real, positive difference to their local environment.
"Of course we are absolutely delighted to have come away from our first experience of Chelsea with a medal. It's a real accolade for the whole team, but more importantly it's a great way to draw attention to the science behind the garden.
"It is estimated that gardens take up between 20-35% of space in urban areas so if we can help gardeners to make a few simple changes to their gardens, it will improve the environment for literally millions of people in the UK."
The garden shows practical steps which anyone can take to look after water resources, encourage pollinators or create carbon sinks to help guard against global warming:
- Slow water is good water
Rainfall that runs off fast doesn't absorb into the ground to bolster the water table and keep plants going in dry periods. In extreme cases it can cause flash flooding. Gardeners can control water flow by introducing permeable paths, which will allow water to soak in slowly; they can also store water by using water butts. Measures such as green roofs also help slow water flow.
- Bees love the natural look
This goes for everything from grass that is a little longer, to flowers which have been left to resemble their wild cousins. Bedding plants sold in garden centres and double flowers (where extra doubles replace the stamen) have been bred to such an extent that they tend to have very little pollen. Longer grass is bee-friendly because clover has the chance to flower, while rotting logs and sandy soil provide ideal nesting sites for solitary bees and other insects.
- Compost not carbon
Composting food waste and vegetable peelings is a great way to help turn your garden into a carbon sink. Reducing use of artificial fertilisers, growing vegetables and fruit, and planting green roofs and walls to insulate buildings also helps this process.
Working alongside Dr Slack are Professor Les Firbank, Professor Bill Kunin and Dr Gordon Mitchell, with support also given by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which has funded much of the research into ecosystem services.
NERC Press Office
Natural Environment Research Council
Polaris House, North Star Avenue
Swindon, SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411561
Mob: 07917 557215
University of Leeds Press Office
Tel: 0113 343 4196
1. Further information about the university's garden can be found on the Gardening for Champions website.
Press release: 08/12
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