Responding to climate change, the RHS has created a new role to research the best ways for gardeners to deal with weather extremes
The RHS has recruited the UK's first Garden Water Scientist, Janet Manning, to work on a three-year project investigating innovative and cost-effective ways to cope with the changing water levels in gardens.
The role, in partnership with Cranfield University, comes as the RHS invests millions into the new National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning opening at RHS Garden Wisley in 2020.
Director of Science and Collections at the RHS, Alistair Griffiths, explained the need for the new role: “Water, the lifeblood of plants, is a precious natural resource critical for gardeners and the horticultural industry. Having the right amount of water available is essential for delivering multiple environmental and health benefits of horticulture for the UK.”
Diving headfirst into the Water Scientist role
Created as a collaborative Knowledge Transfer Partnership*, with the RHS and Cranfield University the role follows a detailed work plan, with field trials planned for three summer growing seasons.
Janet will research new technologies, develop management strategies and encourage gardeners to adopt mindful gardening practices through trials and tests carried out at our research facilities in Wisley.
She will also be looking for ways to get visitors, RHS Members and gardeners across the UK involved in her research. Kicking off her role with a three-month literature review, she's full of optimism and enthusiasm about how many people her research could benefit – from home gardeners to water suppliers.
A lifelong passion for gardening
After 17 years working as a Scientist at Wessex Water, Janet took a career break to look after her three children. With a lifelong passion for gardening, she returned to work in a production nursery, gaining practical experience growing ornamental plants for her local garden centre.
“I’ve suffered gardeners' problems first hand, frequently asking myself all the common questions, like how much water does this plant need? Through my work as a water scientist, I want to fill this gap in knowledge.”
With an interest in science since primary school and a passion for gardening since she was big enough to pick up a spade, Janet began her scientific career with three A-Levels working in laboratories at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Building on her practical horticultural experience, she studied an RHS Level 3 qualification while working at the production nursery.
“The RHS course was the biggest step forward in my gardening knowledge. It made me realise that we need people to know more about the basic functions of how plants work so that we can all grow better plants more easily.”
* This KTP is funded by the RHS and Innovate UK, through the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).