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A "Digestible Garden" to Enhance Digestive Wellness to be Showcased at Chelsea Flower Show.
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A “Digestible Garden” to Enhance Digestive Wellness to be Showcased at Chelsea Flower Show.

A “digestible grassland” created to enhance digestive well-being will be showcased at the Chelsea flower show in the coming year.

The creators of the “microbiome garden” state that it will contain flowers that can improve digestive health through consumption or simply being in close proximity.

The collection of trillions of microorganisms that inhabit humans, mostly in the digestive tract, known as the human microbiome, is impacted by the bacteria and other tiny organisms encountered in daily activities.

Chris Hull, the co-designer of the garden set to be revealed in May, stated that all outdoor surfaces, including trees, plants, and leaves, contain microorganisms. These microbes can be either beneficial or harmful. Having a varied landscape allows for exposure to a variety of microbes.

Eating yoghurt and interacting with plants can both contribute to a healthy gut flora. While research on this topic is still in its initial phases, studies reviewed by peers have shown that individuals who garden tend to have healthier gut flora compared to those who do not.

The digestive system plays a crucial role in maintaining equilibrium within the body by eliminating harmful bacteria that can cause illness and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and organ function. The significance of the digestive system in overall well-being is an area of growing interest in the medical field, as connections to other organs, such as the brain, have been discovered.

According to Hull, digestive problems are prevalent nowadays, but by focusing on the microbiome and our overall health, we can effectively address many of these issues. Our health concerns are frequently connected to an imbalanced microbiome.

The crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy microbiome garden is having a diverse range of plants, as this promotes a variety of microorganisms. Additionally, the designers have made an effort to showcase how to maintain soil health, as nutrient-rich soil leads to a higher presence of beneficial microbes that are then passed on to the plants we cultivate and the food we consume.

Hull stated that a main plant in our garden is the lupin, which is a type of legume known for its ability to add nitrogen to the soil. While traditional gardens may be deemed attractive, they lack the diversity found in a meadow. Our garden boasts a much wider variety of plants compared to a standard garden, and we hope visitors will be inspired by it.

Following Chelsea, the garden will be relocated to the Apricot Centre in Totnes, Devon. This center offers opportunities for children in foster care to engage in play and education on an environmentally friendly farm.

Sid Hill, the designer of the garden along with Hull, emphasized the importance of outdoor play in a varied natural setting with abundant vegetation for the well-being of children.

According to a study conducted in Finland, researchers examined the skin microbiome of children before and after playing in a sandpit that had been inoculated with forest soils. They discovered a decrease in harmful pathogens and an increase in beneficial microbes on the children’s skin after playing.

Sid Hill sitting among wildflowers in a meadowView image in fullscreen

A variety of plants in the garden are suitable for consumption, and consuming natural food has been associated with improving gut health. The “edible meadow” consists of several plants such as Persicaria bistorta, Camassia, and Lupin luteus, resulting in a vibrant display of yellow, blue, and pink. While these three plants are commonly found in gardens throughout the UK, many are unaware that they are also traditional food sources.

According to Hill, Persicaria bistorta has been traditionally collected from English meadows to create dock pudding since the mid-1800s. Lupins have also been historically collected from various regions as a source of nourishment for gut health. They were highly revered by the Egyptians, with lupin beans even being discovered in tombs dating back to 2000BC.

Indigenous communities in America have been gathering Camassia bulbs for centuries. These bulbs were typically prepared by baking them in earth ovens or on hot stones, resulting in a soft and sweet texture. A specially designed stick made of wood or antlers was used to harvest the bulbs.

“In autumn, Sesleria autumnalis creates a verdant layer on the ground, providing a cohesive element to the overall composition. Silene vulgaris has been chosen as a complementary plant, as it weaves around other plants to fill in empty spaces. It also produces lovely white oval flowers and its edible leaves have a similar taste to pea shoots.”

Hill stated that there are certain plants that can be consumed and have been utilized by past civilizations, but we have lost our connection to them. Our garden aims to rediscover and highlight these plants. It draws inspiration from the practice of foraging and cultivating the land for sustenance. In the UK, it is part of our heritage to rely on meadows for nourishment.

According to the speaker, this agroecological approach differs greatly from modern farming techniques, which typically involve cultivating a single type of plant without any natural diversity. In an agroecological system, plants are grown in a way that encourages the growth of various microorganisms in the soil, on the roots and leaves of the plants, and even in the surrounding air. These microbes can also have a positive impact on our own health when we consume the plants, acting as a form of probiotic. However, industrial agriculture often results in food that lacks these beneficial microbes, leaving us without the essential nutrients and microorganisms needed for optimal health.

When asked how readers can cultivate a garden that promotes gut health, Hull suggested growing a variety of perennial crops to attract more wildlife and diversifying the types of plants grown.

Hill stated that the discoveries being made about the microbiome are incredibly interesting. He also noted that our knowledge about outer space surpasses our understanding of the microbes in our own gut.

According to the speaker, playgrounds should be created with the goal of promoting a variety of microorganisms. This is important because it helps people recognize the importance of having green, nature-friendly, and diverse playgrounds for their overall well-being in the long term. If a child’s microbiome is negatively affected due to limited exposure to nature, it can have lasting impacts on their health throughout their entire life.

Source: theguardian.com