By Paul Collinson
For many the Royal Horticulture Society is epitomized by the annual flower shows such as Chelsea, Hampton Court and Tatton Park. However, behind the perfection there is serious horticulture research being undertaken at the RHS HQ at Wisley in Surrey. I joined with various Hull and East Riding environment, business and community groups in a visit to RHS Wisley and met the Environmental Horticulture staff who are conducting research into how horticulture and gardens are being impacted by climate change and planning how they can adapt to this crisis in the UK
The visit was organised and funded by the University of Hull’s Flood Innovation Centre. The small businesses and community groups making the visit were Miresbeck Nursery, EMS, Time Bank (MAGIC), Down to Earth, Friends of Garrowby Orchard, Rooted in Hull, and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.
Mark Gush, Head of Environmental Horticulture at RHS Wisley explained the RHS’s gardening for the health of people, plants and planet policy and their sustainability strategy so that the RHS as a whole can be carbon net positive for nature and people, and water neutral by 2030. RHS’s vision is to be the recognized UK leader in scientific knowledge based on the interaction between gardening, the environment and human health. This scientific knowledge in practical terms has involved, for example, measuring the transpiration rates of trees in a controlled environment to gauge water take up for preventative flood mitigation, urban cooling and carbon storage in restricted spaces i.e. gardens. Key findings showed that genus Cupressus (evergreens such as cypress) have the best relative transpiration rate for preventative flood mitigation in gardens; Prunus have the largest absolute transpiration rate, but are not good in drought prone areas; Pyrus and Prunus have the largest total growth for carbon storage; and Crataegus, Malus and Prunus have the largest crown volume for shading in gardens. For more advice on what gardeners can expect and how to plant for climate change the RHS have produced this useful web page https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/types/trees/for-climate-change
The visiting representatives from each group were then able to present their respective projects to those at the meeting and show how they are improving the ecology and environment in their community and the wellbeing of those they work with, either as suppliers, advisors or through community engagement. It demonstrated that beyond the garden fence many groups and organisations in Hull and East Riding are actively taking part in and promoting a way forward for preventative flood mitigation, water saving, urban cooling and increasing tree cover for the health of people and nature. However, one of the main outcomes from the visit was a chance for those of us taking part to get to know more about what each of our respective organisations do here in Hull and the immediate area, and for further meetings with each other.