Update from the science team

Winter is a time of frantic production and preparation at RHS Science

RHS Plant Finder: getting it right

As the publication date for the RHS Plant Finder approaches (watch out for the new edition in April) the teams in Horticultural Taxonomy and Horticultural Information & Advice are working to make sure the 7,000 plant names, submitted by nurseries, are checked and double checked ready for the book and its online edition.

Advise and organise

The Horticultural Advisors take advantage of low enquiry numbers in winter to update and improve the information shared with gardeners, on our online advice pages.

While researchers from the Plant Health, Horticultural and Environmental Science teams use the winter months to get organised for their experiments starting in the coming growing season.

Since November 2017 we have: 

Processed 73 soil samples through the Soil Service

Supported three PhD students through to being awarded their doctorates
Congratulations Sarah Duddigan for your work into "Soil carbon and soil management", Lauren Edwards for your research into "Mycorrhizae and peat-free growing media" and Sara Kemp for your efforts into"Green roofs and water management."

Supported one MSc student through to being awarded her degree
Well done Lana Brace for your research into "Garden pest and disease incidence"

Hosted 36 young people in the laboratory as part of Youth Takeover Day

Published seven papers, four in peer-reviewed publications

  1. Greywater impact on green roofs' provision of ecosystem services (Kemp S, Blanusa T, Hadley P)

  2. A novel biomechanical analysis of horticultural digging (Shippen, J., Alexander, P. and May, B)

  3. A lure to take the biscuit: A Stegobium paniceum pheromone trial at the Royal Horticultural Society herbarium (Harvey, Yvette, Swindells, Chris & Simmons, John).

  4. The case for recording cultivated plants in floras of urban areas and some recommendations regarding their treatment. (Armitage, J. & Zhang, L).

Collecting in the Clouds

This exciting collaboration between the RHS Herbarium and RHS Lindley Library, celebrates the exploits of four 20th century plant collectors: George Forrest, Reginald Farrer, William Purdom and Frank Kingdon-Ward.

Collecting In The Clouds - at the Lindley Library, London (soon to travel to Wisley) - showcases photographs and publications from their trips to the Himalayas, alongside the herbarium specimens and records they brought back - which now live in the RHS herbarium collection.

Even the BBC got in on this fascinating tale, running a brilliant ‘Long Read’ on its website telling the story and helping us reach a much wider gardening audience, as well as raising the profile of our unique scientific and heritage collections.

Focus on plant health: our six principles launched

In reaction to the long-term trend of increasing global trade in plants, we have launched our six principles of plant health alongside a commitment to changes that will support better UK plant health - both within and beyond the RHS.

The changes, at RHS flower shows, gift shops and gardens, will be implemented over coming months and are supported by additional staff within the plant health team .

Read the six principles in full along with details of the coming changes.

Biomechanics makes the front page

Does your digging technique make a difference to the likelihood of injuring yourself while digging? Can you tell if your technique is good just by looking?

In their paper, "A novel biomechanical analysis of horticultural digging" RHS Head of Horticultural & Environmental Science, Dr Paul Alexander, James Shippen and Barbara May of Coventry University, show that through the use of motion capture technology a biomechanical analysis of the quality of your digging technique is possible. They observed ‘good’ digging technique can be correlated with reduced stress on the body compared to poor technique.

As well as being visually exciting, making the cover of HortTechnology, this work suggests that motion capture techniques could be used to develop training that could reduce injuries and stresses on horticulturists – something every gardener could ultimately benefit from.

Read the full paper published in the December 2017 edition of HortTechnology

Watch Paul talking about the research on BBC breakfast.

Horizon 2020 bid successes

We are delighted to announce the success of two RHS bids for funding under the Horizon 2020 scheme.

Horticultural & Environmental Science, in conjunction with Coventry University, will receive €30,000 over four years for their work on "contentious inputs in organic agriculture." 

While Plant Health will receive €34,000 over four years to develop science-based, innovative practical methods and tools to assess and control emerging or invasive pests and pathogens threatening EU forests, in collaboration with 22 other organisations in 15 countries.

RHS scientists out and about

RHS President; Sir Nicholas Bacon, Director of Science & Collections; Prof. Alistair Griffiths and Head of Plant Health; Dr Gerard Clover contributed to the Plant Health & Biosecurity Conference hosted by HRH Prince Charles at Highgrove. 100 people attended the event including HRH; Prince Charles, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity; Lord Gardiner, Chief Plant Health Officer to the UK Government; Nicola Spence and the Secretary of State for DEFRA; Michael Gove. The conference focussed on the biosecurity of trees from new pests and diseases.

Keeper of the Herbarium, Yvette Harvey co-organised the Systematics Association Young Systematists’ Forum meeting at the Natural History Museum where RHS Monographer, Roz Marshall also presented a poster about our work on Wisteria in preparation for the monograph.

Principal Scientist, Dr Tijana Blanusa presented key messages from the RHS ecosystem services work and discussed possible collaborations at the 'Housing and Cities' Academic Forum organised by the School of Architecture, University of Reading.

Principal Entomologist, Dr Andrew Salisbury attended the Garden Wildlife Health Forum at Zoological Society London.

Head for Horticultural Taxonomy, Dr John David hosted a meeting between the Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group, Yoko Otsuki and the RHS to discuss a proposal from Prof. Kobayashi (Shimane University, Japan) to collaborate on a project to characterise Japanese azaleas in cultivation in the UK.

Senior Horticultural Advisor, Helen Bostock represented the RHS at this year’s Naturgartentage (German Nature Gardeners conference) in Heidelberg, Germany. The event brings together professionals from across the continent to share best practice and new research in wildlife gardening. Helen took with her, new posters and interpretation materials combining the first two published papers of the Plants for Bugs research.”

RHS Science in the news

Head of Horticultural & Environmental Science; Dr Paul Alexander’s collaboration with Coventry University featured in several national newspapers including the Daily Mail.

Head of Plant Health, Dr Gerard Clover discussed Xylella with Radio 4’s You and Yours (16:07mins) following the launch of our new plant health policies.

RHS Libraries and the RHS Herbarium teamed up with The Daily Telegraph to prepare picture gallery features in support of Pantone’s colour of the year and Chinese New Year.

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.