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.
Graham Askew, Simon Walker, BBSRC (Jan 2018), £699,781
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society (Jan 2018), £512,801
Jennifer Tomlinson, Royal Society-Research Fellows Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £94,681
Helen Miller, AB AGri Grant (Dec 2017), £73,600
Simon Walker, Royal Society Enhancement Award (Dec 2017), £10,000
Carrie Ferguson, Bryan Taylor, Harry Rossiter, The Physiological Society (Dec 2017), £7,392
Ralf Richter, Royal Society (Dec 2017), £6,000
Christine Foyer, British Council Newton Fund (Dec 2017), £49,840
Adrian Whitehouse and colleagues in School of Chemistry and University of Liverpool, MRC (Nov 2017), £622,319
Michelle Peckham, Neil Ransom, MRC (Nov 2017), £495,159
Dave Lewis, British Council India (Nov 2017), £22,540
Elton Zeqiraj, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Hannah Dugdale, Royal Society (Nov 2017), £15,000
Shaunna Burke, Cancer Research UK Innovation Grant (Nov 2017), £20,000
Alex O'Neill and colleagues in Chemistry, BBSRC (Nov 2017), £431,865
Jessica Kwok, Wings for Life (Nov 2017), £87,365
Tom Bennett, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £523,679
Neil Ranson, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £494,318
Nikita Gamper, BBSRC (Oct 2017), £490,426
Amanda Bretman and colleagues from UEA, NERC (Oct 2017), £430,886
Juan Fontana, Rosetrees Trust consumables grant (Oct 2017), £22,500
Helen Miller, DSM Nutritional Products AG (Sep 2017), £69,988
Neil Ranson, Juan Fontana, Mark Harris, Michelle Peckham, Ralf Richter, Peter Stockley, Patricija Van Oosten-Hawle and colleagues in Engineering, FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Sep 2017), £418,000
Jamie Johnston, Physiological Society (Sep 2017), £10,000
Frank Sobott, Adrian Goldman, Mark Harris, Andrew Macdonald, Stephen Muench, Sheena Radford and colleagues in FMH and MAPS, Wellcome Trust Equipment Call (Aug 2017), £415,000
Ralf Richter, David Brockwell, Eric Hewitt, Jessica Kwok, Emanuele Paci and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £600,000
Eric Blair, Adrian Whitehouse, Nicola Stonehouse, Alison Baker, Richard Bayliss, Joan Boyes, Ryan Seipke, Sally Boxall and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £376,000
Stefan Kepinski, Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Tom Bennett, Michelle Peckham, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £331,000
Roman Tuma, Lars Jeuken, Paul Millner, Sheena Radford, Peter Stockley and MAPS/FMH, BBSRC (Jun 2017), £222,000
Vas Ponnambalam, Darren Tomlinson, Stephen Wheatcroft, BHF (May 2017), £107,878
Graham Askew in collaboration with Bangor University, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £477,383
Stephen Muench, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £132,945
Nic Stonehouse, MRC (Mar 2017), £906,341
Bill Kunin, Steve Sait, BBSRC (Mar 2017), £602,831
Adrian Goldman, EU (Mar 2017), £546,576
Sheena Radford, Wellcome Trust (Mar 2017), £1,836,482
Beatrice Filippi, Royal Society (Mar 2017), £15,000
Tom Bennett, Royal Society (Mar 2017), £15,000
Jamie Johnston, Royal Society (Mar 2017), £15,000
Ryan Seipke, BBSRC (Feb 2017), £52,116
Mary O'Connell, BBSRC (Feb 2017), £46,986
Hannah Dugdale, NERC (Feb 2017), £504,138
Anastasia Zhuravleva, EPSRC (Jan 2017), £100,792