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Chelsea Flower Show Warning From North Yorkshire Scientists

Fera Garden 2013 Design Visual

8:24am 20th May 2013

Gardeners at this week's Chelsea Flower Show will be given a warning from North Yorkshire scientists. Experts at the Food and Environment Research Agency in Sand Hutton have created a garden which shows the damage caused by foreign plants.

Created by award winning garden and landscape designer Jo Thompson and commissioned by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), “Stop the Spread” includes a sunken garden featuring herbaceous planting and a sculpture by Tom Stogdon is bordered by woodland trees and lush shade-loving planting.

This is contrasted with a symbolic avenue of bare and lifeless trees, an island holding a single seedling in a black pool and garden walls covered with an intricate pattern that contains a hidden message.

Garden designer Jo Thompson, at Chelsea for the fourth time, said: “I’ve designed this garden for Fera to creatively show what impact plant pests and diseases, and invasive non-native species, can have on our environment now and for future generations.

“I'm keen that we safeguard our heritage through simple actions such as the careful buying of plants, trees and shrubs from trusted growers and making sure any unwanted plants are composted carefully – never dumped in the wild.”

The discovery of ash dieback in 2012 reinforced the need to step up efforts to reduce the likelihood of accidently introducing and spreading pests, diseases and invasive species which could severely impact on our natural environment, say Fera.

They add that tree diseases such as Chalara (ash dieback), Oak Processionary Moth and Phytophthora ramorum, can kill or weaken trees, while invasive plant species, such as Floating Pennywort and Water Primrose, can grow out of control clogging garden ponds. When they escape from gardens into the wider environment, pests, diseases and invasive non-native species can cause extensive environmental and economic damage, say Fera. For example, in Britain alone, the damage caused by invasive non-native species is estimated to cost at least £1.7 billion every year.

David Slawson, Head of Plant Health Public engagement at Fera said: “Raising public awareness and providing advice about how everyone can help us prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests and diseases is a high priority for Government.

“We want this garden to make an impact by showing the worst case scenario if plant pests and diseases take hold. Ultimately we want to change the behaviour of gardeners so they take action including being more patient in planting small plants and watching them grow; cleaning footwear and other equipment regularly; avoiding bringing plants or cuttings home from trips abroad and preventing plants from escaping out of gardens.”

“For example, a water feature can be a great addition to any garden but some common aquatic plants can take over a garden pond if they aren't managed properly and in the case of invasive non-native species can cause significant environmental and economic problems if they escape into the wider countryside. Gardeners should seek advice on the most suitable plants from retailers and take care to dispose of all garden plants responsibly.”

Some gardening hints and tips on how to “Stop the Spread”:

Sourcing plants:

  • Check new plants are healthy and are not contaminated by fragments of invasive nonnative species
  • Buy UK-grown plants where possible
  • Avoid bringing plants or cuttings home from trips abroad
  • Preferably plant small and enjoy watching your garden grow
  • Pick the right plant for the right place, avoid plants that might become invasive

Good gardening:

  • Prevent your plants escaping from your garden
  • Keep your gardening equipment and outdoor footwear clean
  • Dispose of garden and pond plants and waste responsibly – never dump them in the wild Sponsors of the “Stop the Spread” show garden include Defra, Forestry Commission, National Trust, Welsh Government, Scottish Government, Woodland Trust, Horticultural Trades Association and Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation.

For more information on the Chelsea garden visit www.defra.gov.uk/fera/chelsea.

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