The RHS has ambitious plans for further development at Wisley garden including a new science block where the Hilltop Lecture Hall currently stands. Gardeners with problems often make their first approach to the society via questions to the increasing number of scientists employed there.
While this advisory service is of great value it rather overshadows some of the scientific trials and research undertaken at Wisley and elsewhere. One of the objectives of the annual John MacLeod Lecture, I am told, is to bring together all those with science interests from every horticultural discipline.
This year’s lecture was very well structured and professionally delivered, but left me cold. The lecturer’s stereotyped advice to use peat-free compost showed little understanding of the real situation and arguments for and against.
Casting an eye over Chemistry & Industry magazine, I am amazed by the rapid advances being made by scientists. For example, a soil bacterium has yielded an ingredient that could make ice cream resistant to melting, new methods of storing generated electricity, clever use of bacteria to extend the life of cheese and yoghurt and innovative crop cover technology to help deliver sustainable food production.
We desperately need speakers with fire in their belly who are well briefed about all that is going on to fill their audiences with new ideas and energy rather than just churning out the same old "save the world" platitudes. It is not a matter of standing on a platform saying schoolchildren need to have their eyes opened to the marvels of nature and miracle of life, we have to get out into schools and do something about it.
Show kids how to space sow single seeds of lettuce on the end of a damp match, see their concentration as they do it and experience their delight when shoots appear in days. The decoration in front of the dais in the RHS hall, where the John MacLeod lecturer stood, said it all — a row of dead teasels. So much for Greening Grey Britain.
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster