shop – but I couldn’t buy it in a garden centre? There’s a real issue with that.” With garden centre retailers

struggling to reach the masses because of different levels of interest and experience in gardening, James Wong believes house plants are a big trend, that not only look aesthetically pleasing, but can demonstrate many health and environmental benefits, and ultimately this would pique the interest of many gardeners old and young. He concluded: “I think there’s a

real opportunity for [garden centre retailers] to look at house plants in a bigger way, and I think that, in a home environment, house plants are the way that it’s most relevant to people most of the time.”

Environmental resilience RHS director of Science and Collections, Professor


This talk was led by two speakers, each providing a unique insight into both the science behind our biology linking us to horticulture, and the intrinsic link between humans and plants that can improve our health and general wellbeing.

Evolution and youth engagement Kew-trained botanist, science writer and broadcaster, James Wong talked about evolutionary genetics that tie us to plant life, he said: “Human eyes can distinguish

more shades of green than any other part of the light spectrum. We are actually quite unusual amongst mammals at being able to see that spectrum, and the evolutionary and anthropology argument about why we can see so many shades of green, is to be able to identify plants – because when you are surrounded by plants in a natural environment, you need to see the difference so you can identify them better, so you can distinguish toxic plants that you don’t want to put in your mouth from healthy, safe plants that you do want to eat.” “Our whole biology is evolved

around plants and understanding plants, they are the driving force for our evolution and every part of


our body and our culture – literally the way we see the world, is down to that co-evolution with plants. We are built to be botanists, we are built to find them fascinating, and that really shows just how bad a job we’ve done to have so many people who are not interested in gardening.” “We have managed to convince a whole generation of people to see the miracle of plants as outdoor tidying up.” There seems to be a disillusionment surrounding gardening, and garden centres may be struggling to connect with younger consumers who are interested in plants, but wouldn’t necessarily go to a garden centre for information. James Wong continued: “I’m so surprised that, when you go onto Instagram, there is a whole generation you’ll see that basically everyone under the age of 45 wants to have a terrarium, I went to so many garden centres trying to find the ingredients to build a terrarium and it’s really hard to find them. And, then I went down to Oxford Street and I could buy them in Urban Outfitters, I could buy them in Zara Home, I could even buy them in a hipster coffee

Griffiths spoke of a technologically driven age where we must remember our core instincts as mammals who are habitually dependent on green space. He said: “The more we connect people with plants, the better. It’s not a proven illness but, certainly, plant blindness for the majority of the population is a challenge. And, then a shocking statistic that some of you may have heard: three quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. So, how do we expect people to want to buy plants, to be connected with plants, if they’re not even out in the nature listening to those plants?” He went on: “30% of children

couldn’t identify a Magpie, but 90% of them could recognise a Dalek.

“I challenge you as an industry, to find a way of reconnecting people through nature, or the 50% of the population actively gardening in this country – it’s not enough, we need them all doing it. And we need them to be reconnected with nature, we need to embrace technology but we also need to embrace that in the garden, and we need to find ways of how we’re doing that. Horticulture can act as a catalyst to bring humans back in touch with the natural world.” With more awareness of mental health issues becoming a prominent problem in society, Prof. Griffiths noted the impact plants could have on issues like anxiety, and how garden centres can use this as an initiative to reach consumers.

“One in four adults experience at least one diagnosable mental health problem,” Prof. Griffiths said. “All of these scientists can’t be wrong in that they’re saying [plants] improve recovery, it improves emotional wellbeing, it improves self-esteem, it does all of these things and we should embrace it; and as an industry we can use that as a tool to sell plants but also to make the world a better place.”

It has been said that 40,000 deaths

each year attributed to exposure to outdoor air pollution, a friend told Prof. Griffiths “one medium- sized shrub captures 30 diesel cars particular pollution every year.” He concluded: “The horticulture industry is worth about £13 billion to the UK economy each year and there is massive potential as industry to develop products that maximise environmental resilience and wellbeing.”

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32