Eden Project's Tracey Smith collects the Gold Medal Award at RHS Chelsea Flower Show
It was another award win for the Eden Project last week, when the team took home a gold medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show for an immersive display highlighting the critical importance of UK peatlands to our climate.
It was a call to action – to urge gardeners to ditch using peat, conveyed through the clever use of a real piece of ‘borrowed’ Cumbrian peatbog in a display presented in partnership with the peat-free compost maker Dalefoot Composts.
The display used a little piece of Cumbrian peatland on loan under special license from Natural England.
Housed in the Discovery Zone display at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, gardeners were invited to step into Bolton Fell Moss National Nature Reserve – a restored Cumbrian bog previously used to harvest peat for horticulture – to experience the secrets, sounds, and beauty of these enormous bog gardens.
An immersive experience, visitors to the exhibit were able to hear sounds from a peatland, including curlews, lapwing, the hum of billions of insects, and the occasional squelch. They were also given the chance to get up close to the fascinating bog plants – sphagnum mosses, cotton grass, cranberries, and heathers.
The aim of the exhibit is to demonstrate the importance of peat bogs and the environmental damage gardeners are causing to our planet by using peat compost in their outdoor spaces. Alongside the peatland, a bountiful potager of vegetables grown by gold medal-winning Pennard Plants went to illustrate what gardeners can achieve by switching to peat-free gardening.
Professor Jane Barker, the co-founder of Dalefoot Composts, a major manufacturer of peat-free compost and a leading restorer of damaged peatlands, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled by this award and so pleased that peat-free gardening is being recognised in this way.
“I hope people visiting our special piece of Cumbrian peatland will come away understanding why using peat is no longer acceptable, and how easy it is to make simple climate friendly switches in your garden.”
Tracey Smith, Eden’s commercial manager, added: “We’re delighted to have received this gold medal – thank you to the judges and everyone who has visited the stand for their enthusiasm and kind comments.
“It’s really exciting for Eden to be back at the Chelsea Flower Show with a stand that highlights the huge importance of peat bogs and we hope that visitors will come away with a greater understanding and appreciation for these vital habitats.
“Working alongside our friends at Dalefoot, our aim with this stand was to change people’s perceptions of peat bogs, showing that they are thriving environments, rich with biodiversity as well as being crucial for carbon sequestration. We’d urge all gardeners to make the switch to peat-free products – it’s the best decision for your garden and for the environment.”
Peatlands only occupy about three per cent of the Earth’s land surface but are the largest terrestrial carbon store on the planet. UK peatlands cover around 12 per cent of its land area and store 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon, more than twice that of the UK’s forests, as well as being very important habitats for biodiversity.
While the Government has set targets for peatland restoration and is currently consulting on a peat ‘ban’, in amateur gardening there remains a significant resistance to switching to peat-free. It is predicted that even more peat could be used in the future.
Of the 5.44 million cubic metres of growing media used in 2020, 79 per cent was used by amateur gardeners. Two-thirds of peat sold in the UK is from Europe, meaning we are effectively exporting our carbon footprint.
Dalefoot has supported six show gardens and exhibits at RHS Chelsea with its peat-free compost this year. These were: The New Blue Peter Garden: Discover Soil by Juliet Sargeant; Brewin Dolphin Garden by Paul Hervey-Brookes; The Mothers for Mothers – This Too Shall Pass Garden by Pollyanna Wilkinson; The Wild Kitchen Garden by Ann Treneman; RHS Queen’s Jubilee Photographic Exhibit by Dave Green, and the Animal and Plant Health Agency - Don’t Risk It! exhibit.
Two of the company’s peat-free composts were also finalists in the RHS Chelsea Sustainable Garden Product of the Year 2022 – Wool Compost for Potting and Wool Compost Double Strength.