A groundbreaking Show Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013 from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) will highlight how imported plant pests and diseases such as Chalara ash dieback, Oak Processionary Moth and Phytophthora ramorum, and invasive non-native species such as Floating Pennywort and Water Primrose, have huge potential to change how our landscape looks and severely impact our biodiversity and wildlife.
The National Trust is sponsoring the garden and is lending their support to its development.
The garden, by designer Jo Thompson, is entitled “Stop the Spread” and will present two distinct characters: beautiful and ugly. A beautiful sunken garden featuring herbaceous planting and a sculpture by Tom Stogdon is bordered by quintessential native trees and lush shade-loving planting. This is starkly contrasted with sinister and shocking elements: an avenue of dead trees, an ominous pool with an island holding a single sapling, and concrete-panelled walls surrounding the garden covered with a delicate pattern that is not as innocent as it looks. Here lies the message of the garden: British trees and plants are under threat from pests, diseases and invasive species – help us stop the spread!
The ‘Stop the Spread’ garden aims to inspire the public to play their part in preserving our horticultural heritage, biodiversity and wildlife by adopting good practices to minimise their chances of unwittingly spreading plant pests and diseases, or invasive non-native species. These include sourcing plants locally, being more patient in planting small plants and watching them grow, cleaning footwear and bikes and other equipment after visiting the countryside; checking, cleaning and drying water sports clothing and equipment after each use; and disposing of plants and garden waste safely, never letting them escape into the countryside.
Fera is undertaking this project as part of its responsibilities under the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan and in support of the GB Invasive Non-native Species Framework Strategy, to raise awareness and show the public how they can help prevent the spread of harmful plant pests, diseases and invasive non-native species that threaten our landscapes, gardens and wildlife.
Dr David Slawson, Head of Plant Health Public Engagement at Fera, commented “The current Chalara ash dieback crisis is an indication that our trees are facing an unprecedented threat from pests and diseases. It’s really important that we all work together to help protect the British countryside for future generations to enjoy. This garden is a “call to arms” to the great British public to help stop the spread by changing our behaviour, even in small ways.”
For designer Jo Thompson, at Chelsea for the fourth time, the garden contains a personal message: “We are increasingly guilty of taking our landscapes for granted. Our ancestors nurtured these landscapes in the patient knowledge that they would never see them fully grown but future generations would. I’m keen that we follow their lead – for example we can safeguard our heritage through simple actions such as the careful buying of plants and large specimen trees and shrubs from trusted growers and making sure any unwanted plants are composted carefully – never dumped in the wild.”
Ian Wright, Plant Health Specialist at the National Trust said: “As illustrated with the recent Chalara ash dieback outbreak, a large proportion of both our ornamental garden ash and native ash trees are at risk which could have a huge impact on our gardens and countryside as we know it.
“The Trust cares for 200 gardens across the country and we look after one of the largest cultivated gardening collections in the world.
“Gardens and landscapes which have been loved for centuries are changing due to threats such as pests and diseases at a faster rate over the last 25 years than at any other time in history. In order to keep our special places special we need everyone’s help to limit and hopefully eradicate the pests and diseases. We hope this ‘Stop the Spread’ garden will help raise awareness of new pests, diseases and invasive species, and look forward to helping the garden take shape over the coming months.”
The show garden follows work that is already underway to help stop the spread of invasive non-native species through the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ and ‘Be Plant Wise’ campaigns, both of which have ‘stop the spread’ as their core message. Invasive non-native species are one of the biggest threats to biodiversity worldwide and cause significant impacts for native species, habitats and ecosystems. They can also choke waterways, increase the risk of flooding, take over whole landscapes and pose a threat to human health. Stopping their spread is more important than ever. This can be done by keeping garden plants in the garden, never allowing them to escape into the wild and cleaning boots, tools and other equipment that could transmit soil, seeds or plant fragments.