press release
Published: 12 March 2019

University of Surrey celebrates the power of plants as anti-stress garden comes to RHS Chelsea Flower Show

By Laura Butler

Transporting city dwellers to the Surrey Hills using scent and sound generated by plant energy, the University of Surrey has teamed up with Silent Pool Gin to present an anti-stress garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

This exciting collaboration sees the University partner the premium gin brand, acclaimed Surrey-based garden designer David Neale and Dutch horticultural pioneers Plant-e, to explore plant technologies that encourage wellbeing. Through their combined expertise, the team will create a sustainable oasis of calm for visitors to enjoy.

Guests will experience the soothing sounds of the Surrey Hills – projected via a plant-controlled soundscape created by two professors at the University of Surrey.

Professor Tony Myatt, Head of Department of Music and Media, has designed a natural, three-dimensional soundscape featuring audio recordings from the Surrey Hills. The orchestration of this soundscape will be done by the garden itself, through the power of plants.

Director of the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, Professor Richard Murphy specialises in plant science and sustainability. By using sensors to detect and capture changing electrical signals directly from the plants, the garden will be able to govern and interact with the soundscape.

These natural sounds, which help the body relax, will be combined with plants that have been selected for their wellbeing properties.

The result will be a stunning garden packed-full of roses (powerful antioxidants), elderflower (used for swollen sinuses), juniper (a known digestive aid), chamomile (sleep-booster) and iris (moisture-booster), many of which also feature among the 24 botanicals in Silent Pool Gin. The aroma will positively impact on the five million receptor cells in the brain and their links to the limbic system – which governs emotions, behaviour and long-term memory.

After the Flower Show, the garden will be donated to Cherry Trees; a small local charity which provides home-from-home specialist short breaks for children and young adults who have a range of complex disabilities including learning, physical and sensory impairments.

Professor Richard Murphy said: “This truly exciting collaboration brings to life the hidden power of plants, their value for sustainability and the innovative ways we can experience the natural world.  It has provided a brilliant experience for our students in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, who have been busy experimenting with plant electrodes and signals as we prepare to showcase our engagement with plants and technology at RHS Chelsea.”

Professor Tony Myatt said: “By creating a soundscape orchestrated by the plants in the garden, I hope visitors will enjoy and appreciate the natural sound environments of the Surrey Hills, and be inspired that the garden itself has a role to play in recreating these beautiful soundscapes.  I’m sure the garden will reveal more about what’s going on inside plants and how we can work with them, rely on them and benefit from them. We are absolutely delighted to be working with our inspirational Surrey Hills partners, Silent Pool Gin and Neal Richards Garden Design, to enhance guests’ experience of this garden.”

Ian McCulloch, Co-Founder of Silent Pool Gin said: “We are thrilled to be working alongside University of Surrey and award-winning garden designer David Neale for this Chelsea Flower Show partnership. By looking at the ways in which we can use plants to generate energy and sound, we’ve been able to work alongside the professors to create a multisensory Silent Pool Gin garden. The garden will emulate sounds inspired by the beautiful Surrey Hills, a celebration of local heritage of both the Silent Pool Gin distillery and the University.”

David Neale of Neale Richards Garden Design says: “After winning the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show People’s Choice award last year, we wanted to take this one step further. The inspiration came from spending time in the tranquillity of the Surrey Hills. We wanted to find a way of using plants to allow everyone to enjoy that sense of calm – and the University of Surrey’s soundscape and knowledge of plant technology has made that possible.”

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