Landscape research drives policy and practice with the RHS

Ross Cameron was invited to the RHS to discuss current research on the benefits of front gardens

Department of Landscape research programmes are being used to help develop new strategies and policies for the urban environment.

Dr Ross Cameron met with the Senior Management Team of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) on 8th March, to discuss ways in which the RHS might revise its policies, based on latest research findings, and how it can lobby government to embed more and better quality green infrastructure within cities.

Ross was invited to lead a discussion on the value of gardens and gardening for the urban environment, and the way they contribute to our society, at the organisation’s head quarters in London. During his discussions with the 60 senior members, he outlined the latest research findings on gardens, which drove discussion on how these might best be put to practical effect.

Some of Ross’s previous research (Cameron et al., 2012) has outlined the benefits domestic gardens can provide in terms of flood mitigation, urban cooling, energy conservation, pollution control, habitat for wildlife and as a resource for health and well-being.

“The great value of this opportunity to me was to meet the wider Horticultural and Policy Community within the RHS,” said Ross. “I have worked with the RHS Science Team closely over the past 15 years, but this was about science driving changes in attitude in the wider community as well as subsequently affecting policy. I was impressed by the way practitioners were keen to absorb and exploit some of the points coming through. Seeing research beginning to be put into practice is always rewarding.”

Six Members of the House of Lords have been tasked to investigate the concept of horticulture being used as an official health intervention strategy, i.e. in the future, gardening could be prescribed as an antidote to mild forms of depression and other mental health problems.

dr ross cameron

The RHS are keen to promote the value of gardens – and gardening as a pastime – to policy makers; ensuring gardens are given high priority in future planning policy, as well as existing gardens protected from development.

Director General of the RHS Sue Biggs said: “the RHS has a key role to bring gardening to everyone, and that gardens and gardening needed to be promoted more effectively both as a health intervention and to target specific problems in the urban environment, particularly the increased risks associated with flooding linked to a changing climate”.

The discussions highlighted a role for the RHS’s own flower shows and flagship gardens to promote the important messages emerging from contemporary research. The RHS were keen that the messages should reach both UK gardeners (1 in 2 of all adults), as well as others who may not have realised the benefits gardening can bring.

Ross added: “I was also heartened to hear that through the activities of the Horticultural Innovation Programme (of which I was a science advisor) that six Members of the House of Lords have been tasked to investigate the concept of horticulture being used as an official health intervention strategy, i.e. in future, gardening could be prescribed as an antidote to mild forms of depression and other mental health problems.”

Some of the points raised at this meeting were also covered in the John MacLeod Lecture presented by Ross in November 2016.