Discover hidden life in your plot with the RHS Invisible Garden

Take a look at the fascinating world of microscopic organisms in the RHS's Invisible Garden at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

The RHS Invisible Garden shines a light on the hidden world on our doorstep by allowing visitors to magnify usually unseen organisms, including plants and insects, to more than 1000 times their actual size.

Among the organisms under scrutiny are:

The lacewing larva
This tiny creature, which due to its ferocity is sometimes called an 'aphid lion', hunts by seizing aphids and other small insects with its curved, hollow jaws, before sucking out their juices. Under the microscope it is possible to see the larva’s guts pulsing as it sucks on its prey.

A butterfly’s wing
When magnified the remarkably intricate structure of a butterfly’s wing reveals the tiny scales that make up the wing and give moths and butterflies their scientific name ‘Lepidoptera’, which in Greek means scaly wings. 

The wings of a Blue Morpho butterfly, which will be available to visitors, possess an amazing structure that manipulates light. This unique ability is inspiring researchers in the development of novel security tags to combat fraud, self-cleaning surfaces and protective clothing.

Carnivorous plants
A range of carnivorous plants will be shown devouring live prey to illustrate the remarkable adaptations they have developed to help them to exist in soils that are low in nitrogen and phosphorous. Adaptations include the development of elaborate leaf and stems that enable the plant to entice, trap, kill and digest their prey.

These simple multi-cellular animals that live in soil and fresh water are the vultures of the microscopic world. They will eat almost anything that will fit in their mouths, including decomposing organic materials.
In fresh water they are an important part of the water purification process, cleaning up organic particles and algae and helping to prevent algal blooms.

Without organisms like rotifers, soils and fresh water ecosystems would quickly fill up with waste materials; meaning nutrients vital to plant growth such as nitrogen, would stay locked in this organic waste.

Find out more about the Invisible Garden

Discuss this

for the site or to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.

Get involved

We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.