This Easter the Royal Horticultural Society is calling on gardeners to get Greening Grey Britain

Thursday 2 April 2015

• 7 million UK front gardens contain concrete and cars rather than flowers and grass
• RHS call to turn grey to green through plants for health, happiness and well-being
• RHS shares five simple things to do in gardens to have a significant combined effect to regulate temperature, support wildlife and reduce pollution and flooding
• Greening Grey Britain activities to take place across RHS work, including RHS Britain in Bloom to change 6,000 grey spaces into thriving, living green places by end 2017

Hard surfaces in London gardens alone increase by two and a half times the area of Hyde Park every year¹ and seven million front gardens across the UK contain concrete and cars rather than flowers and grass². Britain is paving over its gardens, which is reducing biodiversity, decreasing homes and food for wildlife, increasing flood risks and harming the UK’s health, happiness and wellbeing.

Making a stand against the insidious, depressing concrete sprawl, this Easter the RHS is calling for people all over the country - individuals, community groups, schools, councils, businesses – to get ‘Greening Grey Britain’ and turn unloved and unspectacular parts of their neighbourhood into something beautiful and to make their gardens even greener.

A survey of 2,000 people*, commissioned by the RHS, found that 92% said being in a garden helped them to relax and de-stress; 95% said being in a beautiful garden lifted their moods and over 60% said that looking at a street of paved over front gardens saddens them.

Alistair Griffiths, RHS Director of Science and Collections, said: “Many of us get a boost by simply looking at a beautiful garden or having access to green space. So instead of paving over green we can all play a part in reducing the grey and brightening it, and us, up with some plants.

“On top of making us feel better and happier, if hundreds and thousands of people across the country grew more plants of different varieties in gardens and community spaces, it would all help to improve our air quality, benefit us, our wildlife and reduce temperatures and flooding risks.

“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.”

Work to get ‘Greening Grey Britain’ will begin in earnest with the 2015 launch of Europe’s biggest community gardening campaign, RHS Britain in Bloom on Friday 10 April with a three year target to transform 6,000 unloved grey spaces into thriving planted up places.

Over the coming months the RHS will share and promote ideas ranging from pulling up a paving stone and planting up the space, to creating a window box, planting up front gardens and transforming grey community areas.

Alistair continues, “Through this three year initiative with our army of 300,000 RHS Bloom volunteers engaged, we hope to make a transformational difference across the UK.

“We’ll also put the spotlight on front gardens and how to have parking and incorporate plants. Paving over front gardens, is a critical issue, which we know people care about: 60% of people in the UK worry about paved front gardens and flooding*.”

As part of Greening Grey Britain, the RHS is promoting up to five simple things for people to do in their gardens, in order to have a massive combined positive effect.

1. Plant a tree (regulate temperature, attract wildlife, reduce flooding, reduce pollution)
2. Plant a shrub (regulate temperature, attract wildlife, reduce flooding)
3. Plant a climber (regulate temperature, attract wildlife, reduce energy bills)
4. Plant a hedge (regulate temperature, attract wildlife, reduce pollution, aid health)
5. Plant a perennial (reduce flooding, attract wildlife)

These relatively small additions and changes to the make-up of Britain’s gardens could help regulate future temperatures, reduce flooding, improve physical and mental health and increase the species of wildlife living in our towns.

Inspiration to get Greening Grey Britain will be promoted at the charity’s world famous Shows, including RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and through its Science and Advisory work. Communities and individuals will be asked to pledge what action they’ll take and there will initiatives to share before and after images of Greening Grey Britain gardening activity online.


Notes to editors

Notes to Editors: For further information please contact the RHS press office on 0207 821 3043 or If you need to contact someone over Easter, please email  

Images are available from PhotoShelter at Registration is a simple process and free of charge. Please contact to gain access.
Images to accompany Greening Grey Britain can be found here:  

*The RHS commissioned a survey of 2,000 adults across the UK about gardening and growing plants. The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,023 respondents aged 16+ in GB between 27.10.14 – 28.10.14. The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK adults. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles

On 10 April RHS Britain in Bloom will launch its 2015-2017 campaign called ‘Greener Streets: Better Lives’ to transform unloved community grey spaces into beautiful planted places. There will also be Greening Grey Britain show content at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. RHS Advisory will be launching Greening Grey Britain information packs with advice and tips for homeowners and community spaces.

1. Relevant facts:
• Trees, hedges and climbers can reduce cost of heating and cooling. In particular, summer cooling saving have been estimated at around 30 percent. 3
• Garden plants and trees intercept intense rain, slowing run off and reducing pressure on drains especially during summer storms. 4
• In Leeds, there has been a 13% increase in impervious surfaces over the last 30 years, 75% of which was due to the paving of front gardens. 5
• 45% of local authorities are considering either selling parks and green spaces or transferring their management to others. 6
• 10% increase in vegetation would help control the summertime air temperatures rises predicted with climate change (under the moderate CO2 emissions scenario). 7

1 Smith, C (2010) "London: Garden city?." London Wildlife Trust, Greenspace Information for Greater London, Greater London Authority, London.
2 Bates J, Leibling D (2012) Spaced Out: Perspectives on parking policy, RAC Foundation.
3 Akbari H, Kurn DM, Bretz SE, Hanford JW (1997) Peak power and cooling energy savings of shade trees. Energy and Buildings 25: 139–148.
4 Meerow AW, Black RJ (2003) Enviroscaping to conserve energy: a guide to microclimate modification. In: Circular EES-43. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,University of Florida, Florida, USA, p10.
5 Perry T, Nawaz R (2008) An investigation into the extent and impacts of hard surfacing of domestic gardens in an area of Leeds, United Kingdom. Landscape and Urban Planning 86: 1–13.
6 The State of UK Public Parks 2014 – Renaissance to Risk?
7 Gill SE, Handley JF, Ennos AR, Pauleit S (2007) Adapting cities for climate change: the role of green infrastructure. Built Environment 33: 115–133.

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, our flagship garden, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity.

Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 211 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment.

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About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit

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