Palmstead announces health focus for soft landscape workshop

Palmstead Nurseries' annual soft landscape workshop this year will focus on the health and well-being benefits of plants and how certain plants can enhance human health while others can really make people sick.

Birches may tick the BREEAM box but make allergy sufferers sick. Image: Pixabay
Birches may tick the BREEAM box but make allergy sufferers sick. Image: Pixabay

Nick Coslett, marketing manager at Palmstead in Wye, said: "We are excited about our soft landscape workshop in September - health and plants are high on everybody's agenda this year. Designers such as Jekka McVicar and the 'Greening Great Britain' campaign championed the topic this week at RHS Chelsea and really stimulated a good debate on garden design and harnessing plants for health.

"We want to examine this debate fully and champion smart horticulture which can make urban life better for all."

Discussion at the 21 September event in Kent will be underpinned by scientific research and advice will be given on how to make plants work for optimum human-health.

Speakers will include landscape and garden designer Jinny Blom, botanist and curator of the Natural History Museum Dr Mark Spencer, urban greening specialist Anne Jaluzot, RHS research fellow Dr Tiana Blanusa plus garden designers Jackie Herald and Shenagh Hume from Allergy UK.

Blom is greatly admired and respected in the landscape industry for her integrity and sensitivity to the basic principles of design. Last year she became a board member of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, an American non-profit organisation that provides information, education and inspiration about the relationship between health, well- being and landscapes. She is also 'Artist in Residence' at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Palmstead has also invited one of the country's best known botanists to speak: Dr Mark Spencer, senior curator at the Natural History Museum and an acknowledged expert in environmental change and its impact upon the UK's flora to speak at the popular workshop.

Dr Spencer appears regularly on television talking about his work but early on in his career he was a professional nurseryman and gardener. He studied at Kew Gardens where he became particularly interested in the history of gardening. That interest has continued to the present day and Mark has significant knowledge of the 17th and 18th century botanic gardens of Europe and their role in the development of medicine, agriculture, horticulture and empire.

RHS scientist Dr Tijana Blanusa will be looking in depth at pollution mitigation, the properties of plants and managing these for optimum health.

Jackie Herald and Shenagh Hume from Allergy UK will be speaking on the topic of managing the allergenic effects of plants and increasing plant choice criteria at the design stage. Hume is a former medical practitioner specialising in allergies before taking up garden design. Her designs and planting schemes aim to reduce exposure to pollen allergies.

Over 150 million people have allergies in Europe. In the UK, one in five people suffer from hay fever, with the prevalence of this and eczema in children both trebling over the last three decades.

Coslett said: "Managing plant choices for health and well-being and putting this at the very top of the agenda during the design stage is becoming increasingly important to the garden design industry. When 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from 'hay fever'; that's a lot of people being made to feel unwell, and as an industry we owe it to our clients to look closely at sensible plant selection. A birch tree may tick a 'native' box for BREEAM points, but if it makes the client sick and irritates their health then the design will have failed on a fundamental level."

Palmstead's workshop will aim to provide delegates at the workshop with the latest information and research.

Coslett added: "We hope that delegates will leave the workshop better equipped to deliver this information effectively to clients who increasingly want their garden spaces to enhance their well-being and health. We think that by asking "What have plants done for us?" we will stimulate a very timely debate. Plants can make us all better and we need to make informed choices to achieve right plant right place".

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