RHS COP26 Garden: Decline

The consequences of thoughtless planning, intensive building, and a desire to pave over our front gardens were represented in this zone

Visitors were welcomed through the RHS COP26 Garden along a path made of recycled scaffold boards.

To their left, a garden of decline demonstrated oft-repeated mistakes which contribute to global warming, degradation of local habitats, flash flooding or a decline in wildlife.

The design of the zone 'spun' clockwise around the central Universal Window Box with several smaller areas illustrating some familiar and unfamiliar gardening practices.

Visitors were shocked when they are presented with a view of a degradad environment caused by intensive urbanisation in which small pioneer plants or weeds such as bramble, bindweed and daisies competed for space with discarded building materials and rubbish.

As the eye wandered beyond the initial shocking image, guests were presented with a represntative of intensive drainage and impermeable surfaces, seen in towns and cities across the country and causing increasing problems.

The consequence of a lack of natural drainage was represented in a flood with partialy submerged paving and building debris.

Beyond the flood was a representation of a typical suburban garden featuring an over-watered, clipped lawn, in effect monoculture, representing a lifeless habitat. This lead on to a functional ‘grey’ front garden containing impermeable paving and evergreen plants that provide a poor habitat for pollinators.

The edges of this zone are defined by an Aesculus hippocastanum 'Baumanii' (horse chestnut), the scaffold path and a dead hedge.

The plants used in this quarter are not necessarily problematic and all have their uses in the right place. But some may need counter-balancing with another species to create an ideal environment.

The Mitigation quarter of the RHS COP26 Garden showcased ways in which to do this and provided a solution to all the corresponding problems in the Decline zone.

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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.