RHS Science: what we’ve been up to

There’s been so much going on that I can’t tell you about it all without making this the longest blog ever, so I’ve picked some highlights

We're deep into the RHS Flower Show season with Cardiff, Malvern, Chelsea and Chatsworth all under our belts. Our scientists have been out in force busy promoting gardening advice and science exhibits to everyone who's attended and they're not done yet, so while we wait for shows season to finish here’s a round-up of what we did in the run-up to shows.

Since February we have…

  • Published the 2018 RHS Plant Finder with 471 nurseries and 3,700 new plants - taking the total number of plant names in the book to over 76,000
  • Held two ‘free for all’ days offering free gardening advice at RHS Garden Wisley to support National Gardening Week
  • Answered over 16,000 gardening advice questions
  • Registered 1,069 new cultivars in our role as International Cultivar Registration Authority
  • Published the 5th edition of the RHS Pests and Diseases book - extensively edited and updated by the principal authors (Pippa Greenwood and Andrew Halstead) and the RHS Plant Health Team
  • Released two new science-inspired gift ranges, including Hydrangea featuring herbarium specimens and an entomology inspired jewellery collection.  

RHS Scientists out and about

Director of Science and Collections, Professor Alistair Griffiths was in Westminster recently to lead on an evidence session titled 'Nurturing Innovation' as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Gardening and Horticulture Group Inquiry into the future of the gardening and horticulture industry. Dr Gerard Clover, Head of Plant Health, joined him to present on plant health and biosecurity research and development. The All-Party Parliamentary Gardening group is exploring the opportunities afforded to UK horticulture by Brexit and seeks to identify economic benefit as well as delivering on health and wellbeing, climate change, biodiversity and the environment.

Keeper of the Herbarium, Yvette Harvey and Herbarium Technician, Saskia Harris headed to Leeds in April for the Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA) conference, presenting on 'Growing a different kind of standard.' Their presentation demonstrated how the RHS works with a range of people involved in raising new cultivated plants to obtain authoritative specimens (known as standard specimens) which fix the names of these new cultivars. 

Senior Horticultural Advisor, Helen Bostock, Principal Entomologist, Dr Andrew Salisbury and the RHS Communities team took our Plants for Bugs research and Wild About Gardens campaign on the road to London Wetlands Centre for Wildlife Gardener’s Day with the Wildlife Gardening Forum.   
Principal Scientist, Dr Tijana Blanusa has been busy spreading the word about the benefits of plants. Having given a presentation about plants and air quality at the Ecobuild built environment conference Tijana following it up with an invited talk on urban hedges for the Trees and Design Action Group. She has also secured funding for a PhD studentship on mapping domestic gardens and ecosystem services in Reading town centre, thereby furthering our understanding of the role of plants in the urban environment.

Dr John David gave a presentation on the Nagoya Protocol and horticulture to the Plant Network Training Day at Chester Zoo in March. The Nagoya Protocol creates obligations to ensure a fair deal for native countries where their genetic resources, including plant material, are used by others. John has been actively involved in the discussions around the implementation of the protocol in ornamental horticulture. 

Science gardens unveiled!

Garden designs by Anne-Marie Powell and Matt Keightley, for our new National Centre for Horticultural Science & Learning, have been unveiled as part of the fundraising launch for the project.  

The three gardens designed to benefit wildlife, the kitchen and wellbeing will surround the new purpose built facilities that will house our herbarium, laboratory and learning space.

The fundraising campaign also unveiled our new sponsorable herbarium boxes.

Learn more about the investment and how you can be part of it by sponsoring a herbarium box or making a donation.

RHS Science in the news

  • Want to know what the most 'popular' problems in UK gardens are? Our 2018 top ten pests and diseases list went live in March and was widely published online, in print and on the radio in BBC Radio 4's Gardeners’ Question Time 
  • In March we launched a survey on deer in gardens to help us better understand which plants may be resistant to damage. The survey has been widely publicised including by the BBC, Express and regional media and has so far received over 600 responses
  • An RHS Plant Health paper titled 'The UK’s biosecurity and Brexit' received coverage in the Sunday Times and was also discussed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme

Team News

  • Rebekah Robinson has been promoted to the role of Senior Plant Pathologist and will lead the implementation of the RHS’s new plant health policy. Jassy Drakulic has been appointed in a permanent role as Plant Pathologist to replace Rebekah.
  • We are delighted to welcome two new summer studentship placements supported by the British Society for Plant Pathology and the British Mycological Society in 2018. Amy Stewart from the University of Bristol (honey fungus) and Elizabeth Sharp from the University of Cambridge (box pests and diseases) will join the team at Wisley this summer.
  • Dr Paul Alexander, Head of Horticultural & Environmental Science leaves the RHS in July after 18 years. We wish Paul well in his new role at Bulrush and will miss his ‘knees’ around the lab. Recruitment is underway for a new opportunity as Head of Horticultural Science.
  • Clare Booth-Downs joined the team as Herbarium Digitisation Technician in March. Clare works two days a week at Wisley, as well as volunteering at the Natural History Museum.

Check out our other blogs including one on our carrot root fly research and one from PhD student Nick Turnbull on his Xylella fastidiosa research.

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.