Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden

Meet the Designers Behind the Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden

Symprove and Bowel Research UK have teamed up with designers Sid Hill and Chris Hull to launch the Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this May. We asked Sid and Chris to give us the lowdown on their pioneering edible meadow and whether we can really eat our garden.  

What is the Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden? 

Our aim is to raise awareness of the studies funded by Bowel Research UK on the importance of the microbiome. Informed by medical and botanical research, our Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden highlights the fascinating connection between the health of the soil, wildlife and our own gut microbiome. When we cultivate a healthy landscape, it supports a healthy gut and a healthy mind. This is why we want to inspire people to rewild their diets, gardens and their relationship with the land. 

How did you get involved in the project? 

I (Sid) met with Bowel Research UK’s team to discuss the Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden as they knew of my ecological horticulture and design and my experience of creating edible meadows and they felt I would be the perfect fit to create the garden to highlight the importance in the gut microbiome in our overall health.  I was fascinated with their research around the microbiome and so it was a natural fit. The project is hugely prestigious, and I soon realised I required a greater resource to bring it to fruition and so I wanted to join forces with someone I could trust and work closely with on the project. My lifelong friend Chris Hull, with his 16 years of experience and expertise in horticulture and landscape design was the obvious and perfect choice to create the perfect team. 

Can we really eat these plants? Which ones and why? 

Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden emphasises the interconnectedness between land health, plant life, and the microbiome through cultivating a diverse range of plants within a pioneering and beautiful, edible meadow. In particular, we are highlighting a trio of beautiful plants which are commonly grown in gardens, but which few people know are actually great food crops which could offer a myriad of gut health and microbiome benefits. The edible meadow supports thriving microbial communities in the soil, on the plant leaves and in the aero-microbiome (that’s the microbes in the air). When we spend time in this diverse planting and eat the edible plants there are millions of beneficial microbes that transfer into our microbiome and support our overall health. 

  • Bistorta boasts pale pink bottle-brush flowers on leafless stalks, creating an airy meadow aesthetic as they gently float above the planting. While commonly grown for its ornamental value in gardens, it remains a hidden ingredient, with few recognising its extensive history as a green vegetable in the UK.
  • Camassia provides contrast with its vivid blue flower spikes and weaves into the edible narrative of the garden with its bulbs that have been used by indigenous north American people for generations.
  • Lupinus luteus has been chosen for its long history of use by people for food in the Mediterranean, its benefit to the human microbiome when its seeds are prepared and consumed and by its beautiful yellow flowers that attract pollinators.

Now, picture strolling through this meadow, gathering edible beans for preserving, leaves for stir-frys, and roots for roasting. 

What else can we do in the garden which will help support the gut? 

Think about including edible plants in your garden in your pots or borders. Eating fresh food harvested from your garden is one of the best things you can do for your overall wellbeing. These do not need to be your standard vegetables. There are tens of thousands of edible plants available to us today. You could include some fruit, perennial vegetables or herbs. In fact, it is likely some of the plants in your garden are edible. 

What have you learnt along the way about your gut? 

We have both learnt a lot from the research we have carried out in the creation of the garden. The importance of a healthy gut microbiome is even greater than we knew.  My (Sid) microbiome is pretty healthy, as I’ve been fascinated with the subject for many years. Chris’ microbiome was tested and although he has always tried to eat healthily – there was room for improvement, and he is now taking a shot of Symprove every morning to enhance the good bacteria in his gut. 

Dig into more

Five things you can do in your garden for your gut

We asked the brilliant designers behind the Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden for the top 5 things you can do in your garden for your gut.

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Ever looked closely at the soil? It’s teaming with microbes, just like your gut microbiome. Dietitian Laura Tilt explains the connection and why green fingers can mean a healthy gut.

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