Centenary Garden@RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Professor Wendy Bickmore (former President of the Genetics Society and Director of the MRC Human Genetics Unit) and fellow members of the society have brought home a prestigious award by taking genetics to the general public at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

In its centenary year, the Genetics Society viewed the world-renowned Royal Horticultural Society event as on opportunity to create a garden showcasing plants which have been studied by geneticists throughout history.

Led by Professor Bickmore, the exhibit showcased plants such as peas, snapdragons, petunias, lilies and strawberries, telling the story of genetics and why its study is fundamental to our understanding of health and disease.

Visitors were welcomed to the garden by Wendy (as “Professor Pea”) and Dr Jonathan Pettitt of the University of Aberdeen, who played the role of scientist and Augustinian friar, Gregor Mendel. Mendel’s pea plant experiments established many of the rules of heredity and had a major influence on the science of genetics.

Visitors to the garden could watch the genome of a plant being sequenced live in front of them.

The focal point of the exhibit was a hybrid zone of snapdragons, in colours ranging from yellow through to red, plus a DNA double helix sculpture made by the John Innes Centre which represented Mendel’s work with peas and pyloric snapdragons.

 

A word from Wendy:

“This was one of the most rewarding public engagement events I have ever taken part in. Over the course of the week we engaged with many hundreds of interested gardeners, plant breeders and the general public and were able to show them how the principles of genetics apply to all living things including flowering plants and humans.”

The centenary garden, named ‘The Flowering of Genetics’ was awarded a silver medal by the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

See all the event photographs taken by Matthew Webb.