Discover science at RHS Chelsea 2021

Science is at the heart of what we do and the Discovery zone was a perfect showcase for some of the amazing work carried out in the world of horticulture

From Mains to Rains

Sustainability and how we as gardeners work to slow climate change and mitigate its affects is becoming ever more important and there were many tips to take home from RHS Chelsea 2021.

Water was a key focus of the show and our scientist Janet Manning’s exhibit From Mains to Rains demonstrated how best to make use of this precious resource.

Even the tiniest green space can help; management in gardens means water is used more sustainably, resulting in better plants with less effort, more carbon capture, and reducing our reliance on tap water – which in turn cuts down emissions from treating and pumping.

Top five water saving tips

  • Slow the flow – Healthy garden soil that is 250 mm deep could be holding as much as 60 litres rain per square metre
  • Healthy soils – Adding a layer of organic homemade compost to your soil can increase the amount of rain that can be absorbed by up to 30 litres per square metre
  • Collect the rain – If you collect half the rain from a shed roof into a water butt you could save up to 1,600 litres water per year

  • Roots matter – Knowing where the roots of your plants might be growing is important so you can get water to them. Choosing plants that suit your conditions mean roots can find the moisture they need at different soil depths
  • Use less – Plants drink more slowly if they have limited water  available to them, and nutrients will remain in the soil for longer rather than being leached out
  • Get smart about using water in your garden

The Natural Kalendar

This exhibit from Sparsholt College examined climate change while celebrating the life and work of Gilbert White, the father of ecology, born in 1720.

It brought phenology to life – the study of nature’s lifecycles and seasonal variations in climate from 301 years ago through to the present day, looking into the potential impact on plant species’ survival.

Visitors could see features from White’s garden ‘The Wakes’ recreated using plantings familiar to him alongside cutting-edge cultivars such as the Thompson & Morgan Plant of the Year 2021 entries.

The Biophilic Classroom

Putney High School’s exhibit showcased its ground-breaking research into the impact and benefits of plants on learning environments, highlighting the simple and sustainable improvements that indoor horticulture and external landscaping can bring.

The Biophilic Classroom demonstrated design principles that use natural materials, views of nature and plants to positively impact health and productivity for students and staff.

The plants used in the exhibit have been proven to thrive in the classroom and improve internal air quality.

Bees for Development

The humble bee needs our help and this exhibit demonstrated ways we can. Bees need an abundance of nutritious food from a variety of flowers but they also need nesting sites.
In the wild, honey bees nest in hollow trees, increasingly rare  in the modern world. This exhibit showed that beekeeping does not look the same everywhere - in Egypt beekeepers use clay cylinders to form a hive.

This display featured the Bees for Developement Bee House and other easy and sustainable ways to support bees.

My Houseplant Changed My Life

With a huge increase in the amount of time people have been spending at home there has been a corresponding increase in interest in plants.

This exhibit explored the relationship between humans and plants and showcases the top 50 indoor plants, explaining the benefits to one's wellbeing.

This stand was judged Best Discovery Exhibit.

National Plant Collections Everywhere

Plant Heritage highlighted the value of the UK’s 650 National Plant Collections as a living resource for preserving our nation’s rich diversity of garden plants.

It showcased plants from the collections of four passionate National Plant Collection holders and told the story of how they got started – often with just a single plant and a curious nature – together with the latest historical, horticultural or scientific research available.

Plant Heritage hoped to encourage visitors to consider becoming plant collection holders and set up a National Plant Collection of their own.

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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.