Research by scientists at the University of Leeds has shown that having a 'messy' area in your garden is the most effective way to give bugs a boost and improve pollination in gardens. The University is to exhibit a garden at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show that actively demonstrates how, with clever yet minimal changes to their gardens, everyone can be an "ecosystem services champion".
"If everyone were to make a few, key alterations to their garden, the cumulative difference we would make to the environment could be very significant," said Dr Rebecca Slack, of the university's Faculty of Environment. "It doesn't matter how small your garden is, it can still make a real difference - in fact our garden is deliberately based on the kind of garden you'd usually find in Yorkshire's urban fringe in order to show just how easy it is to get involved."
The University's RHS Chelsea exhibit has been designed to resonate with the RHS Environment theme of "urban greening" and has been developed by a team of academics from two faculties at Leeds who are researching ecosystem services. The team includes: Dr Gordon Mitchell and Dr Slack from the Faculty of Environment and Professor Les Firbank and Professor Bill Kunin from the Faculty of Biological Sciences. The team are working with Chelsea gold medal-winning designer Martin Walker who is helping to bring the research to life. Support has also been given by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which has funded much of the research into ecosystem services, including most recently the Insect Pollinators Initiative.
"Our design is based on an average urban garden," said Martin Walker, the acclaimed Chelsea gold medal winner. "But we've made a few vital tweaks: the path is made of permeable material, so that instead of water running off the surface into drains, it percolates into the soil and stays within the garden. There's a cottage garden section planted with a mixture of fruit bushes and companion flowering plants: the flowering plants attract pollinators and encourage pollination of the fruit allowing gardeners to grow their own and reduce their carbon footprint."
Dr Slack added: "We're showing a garden that's just like any other - it's the kind of garden you or your friends have - it's meant to look familiar, rather than different. What we're showing is the science behind a garden and the many benefits, or services, that a garden ecosystem can provide for the gardener. By focusing on the services of pollination, carbon sequestration and water management, we show that many of the measures gardeners already take are making important contributions to the ecosystem functioning of a garden but is easy to do more."
The University of Leeds is also to launch a "virtual garden" on Facebook where people can grow their own flowers and shrubs and leave gardening tips, effectively making everyone that takes part a member of the University's online ecosystem.
The garden represents an average urban garden, the kind found on the fringe of any northern city. A path made of permeable material will allow visitors to walk through the garden. There is a green-roofed (planted with Sedum Grass) pagoda which houses information boards to explain the function of the garden. The path and pagoda divide the garden into three areas: the vegetable and fruit bed; the shady garden common in many north-facing gardens; the rain garden planted for areas of high rainfall or water run-off.
A "bee-vision" camera and linked screen will allow visitors to see the garden from the perspective of a pollinating insect.
Dave Westhead and colleagues in Experimental Haematology, Cancer Research UK (Jan 2015), £700,521
Sheena Radford, Mark Harris, Peter Stockley, Alan Berry, Alex O'Neill, Thomas Edwards, Adrian Goldman, Anastasia Zhuravleva, Wellcome Trust (Jan 2015), £443,015
Bill Kunin, EU (Jan 2015), £157,490
John Colyer, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Charitable Fund (Jan 2015), £40,000
Chris Hassall, Royal Society (Dec 2014), £14,500
Ryan Seipke, Royal Society (Nov 2014), £13,700
Alan Berry, Wellcome Trust (Oct 2014), £749,865
Ian Hope, Marie-Anne Shaw, BBSRC (Oct 2014), £396,565
Alison Ashcroft, Peter Stckley, Sheena Radford, Nic Stonehouse, David Brockwell, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (Oct 2014), £340,937
Les Firbank, Joe Holden, BBSRC (Oct 2014), £210,302
Darren Tomlinson and colleagues in Chemistry and Pathology, anatomy and Tumour Biology, Dr Hadwen Trusy (Oct 2014), £194,475
Paul Knox, EU (Oct 2014), £167,229
Martin Stacey and colleagues in Medicine & Health, Pfizer (Oct 2014), £90,453
Darren Tomlinson and colleagues in Experimental Oncology, YCR (Oct 2014), £69,480
Andrew Macdonald, Jamel Mankouri, Kidney Research Fund UK (Oct 2014), £58,878
Mike McPherson and colleagues in Dentistry and Engineering, Wellcome Trust (Oct 2014), £58,437
Dave Westhead and colleagues in Experimental Haemotology, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (Sep 2014), £281,424
Emmanuel Paci and colleagues in Chemistry, BBSRC (Sep 2014), £636,759
Andrew Peel, BBSRC (Sep 2014), £371,598
Lars Jeuken, Stephen Evans, BBSRC (Sep 2014), £333,684
Lars Jeuken, BBSRC (Sep 2014), £313,463
Michelle Peckham, Mark Harris, Rao Sivaprasadarao, Eileen Ingham, Nic Stonehouse, Nikita Gamper, Wellcome Trust (Sep 2014), £192,763
Neil Ranson, BBSRC (Aug 2014), £355,253
Stuart Egginton, BHF (Aug 2014), £271,094
Darren Tomlinson, Mike McPherson, Technology Strategy Board (Aug 2014), £98,665
Peter Henderson, Leverhulme Trust (Aug 2014), £15,222
Mike McPherson (and colleagues in the School of Chemistry), EPSRC (Jul 2014), £819,880
Peter Stockley, Neil Ranson, BBSRC (Jul 2014), £455,787
Sheena Radford, Univesity of Michigan (Jul 2014), £138,452
Ryan Seipke, British Society Antimicrobial Chemistry (Jun 2014), £11,960
John Trinick, BHF (Jun 2014), £222,614
Chris West, Leverhulme Trust (Jun 2014), £181,241
Jon Lippiat, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (May 2014), £125,174
Christine Foyer, Royal Society (May 2014), £24,000