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Greening Grey Britain

RHS: we’ve paved over 15 square miles of front garden in 10 years
Stone Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

Yesterday, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) launched a report at Chelsea Flower Show that highlights an alarming trend of Brits paving over their front gardens and not growing any plants in them.

The RHS 2015 Greening Grey Britain Report reveals that, compared with 10 years ago, three times as many front gardens are now paved over – a total increase of 15 square miles of ‘grey’. As a result, plant cover in front gardens has decreased by as much as 15%.

Over five million front gardens now have no plants growing in them; 7.24 million are nearly totally paved over and 4.5 million front gardens are completely paved over.

‘We can all make our streets greener and better places to live and take action against this growing concrete jungle. We’ve made this conversion to grey one garden at a time and now, today, there are 7.24 million front gardens that are mostly paved. It’s time to get gardening; we can all make difference: from window boxes to tree planting, let’s join the RHS and get Greening Grey Britain.’

Joe Swift, BBC presenter of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Reversing the trend

The RHS believes it is vital to reverse this trend – for the nation’s health, for wildlife, to mitigate against pollution and heat waves and to protect the UK’s homes from flooding.

‘There is a recognised critical need to increase green in our towns and cities by 10% to help combat predicted rises in temperature. The evidence in this report suggests we need to increase this target to deal with the 15% loss of greenery in front gardens. We need to urgently increase plants in urban environments, and better understand how to select and use ornamental plants, not reduce them, as this reports indicates we’re doing. Whatever the pressures to pave, there is always room for plants.

‘Gardens are good for our towns and cities. This reduction of plants in front gardens and increase in grey is harmful for wildlife reducing their homes and food sources. It is also damaging for the nation’s health linked to increasing pollution and increasing temperatures during heat waves and puts our homes at more risk from flooding.’

Sue Biggs, RHS Director General

Pledge to green your grey

The RHS launched the report at the world-famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show, as part of its campaign to get Greening Grey Britain. The gardening charity is calling on people to pledge to green their own bit of grey, and is sharing updated advice and ideas to green up front gardens.

As part of the campaign, RHS Britain in Bloom will also transform 6,000 community spaces from grey to green over the next three years.

‘Our work to get Greening Grey Britain began in April with the 2015 launch of Europe’s biggest community gardening campaign: RHS Britain in Bloom has a three-year target to transform 6,000 unloved grey spaces into thriving planted up places.

‘Over the coming months we will continue to share and promote ideas for individuals and communities to go from grey to green, ranging from pulling up a paving stone and planting it up, to creating window boxes, planting up front gardens and transforming grey public spaces. Greening Grey Britain can be as big or small as anyone likes, the critical point is that collectively we can all make a positive difference one plant at a time.’

Sue Biggs, RHS Director General

1/2 London’s front gardens paved

The worst place in the country for paving over front gardens is London, with half of all front gardens paved over – a 36% increase over the last 10 years. London also had the biggest reduction of plant cover in front gardens in the UK, with five times as many front gardens with no plants compared when compared with 10 years ago.

The North East is the only place in the UK that has reduced the number of completely paved gardens. Front gardens in the North East with 50% plants or more also increased by almost 30%.

RHS 5 top tips

  1. Fill up the corners: you usually can’t park there so plant instead
  2. Go up the wall: climbers and wall shrubs take up little space. And they don’t only look great, they’ll insulate your home, too – saving on heating bills
  3. Hedge your bets: rather than walls or fences, grow a hedge to filter out particulate (dust) pollution to help you breath more easily. It will provide a home for wildlife, too
  4. Growing up: with a slender trunk, a tree can take your greenery up and over the cars
  5. No soil? Plant in containers: even 100% paved gardens can be made greener by using containers

Click here to pledge to green your grey and to find out more about the RHS campaign.

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