Ten Quirky Gardening Questions as RHS launches ChatBotanist

by | Dec 27, 2023 | Associations, Centre News, Features, Horticulture, News, Plantaria | 0 comments

RHS launches chatbot

The RHS is sharing its 2023 Top Ten Quirky Gardening Questions to celebrate launching a new RHS ChatBotanist, which uses the RHS’s extensive gardening knowledge to provide users with an abundance of gardening advice at their fingertips.

A bespoke AI-enabled tool, powered by digital transformation company, Publicis Sapient, the RHS Chat-Botanist advice is based on the output of RHS botanists and horticulturists over the last 5 years to answer users’ questions via an AI-enabled chat.

Clare Matterson, RHS Director General, said; “The RHS ChatBotanist is a great new resource to offer a wealth of trusted gardening advice easily and quickly at people’s finger tips.

“But whilst this new technology is a wonderful way to share 200 years of RHS gardening knowledge with as many people as possible, the most quirky gardening questions from 2023 put to our horticultural teams demonstrate that the ChatBotanist won’t be able to answer every question that comes its way!  We very much need the amazing breadth of our expert’s knowledge, as well as their sense of humour, to keep finding answers to the nation’s burning gardening questions.”

The RHS 2023 Top Ten Quirky Gardening Questions, compiled from over 100,000 questions from members of the public, to celebrate the launch of RHS ChatBotanist are: 

1. Can you advise the cause of death of this adult frog from this photo?

I have found an adult dead frog on a slabbed area in my garden. Could you please advise from this photo if it was poisoned or if the cause of death was something else?

2. Is pampas grass in my front garden an invitation to a sexy party..?

‘I’m in my 80s and I’ve only just found out that having pampas grass in your front garden is an invitation to a sexy party! Well they’ve been there 40 years and I’ve never had a sexy party! Anyway a nice young man came to tidy them up…

3. When does a ‘small’ tomato officially become a ‘medium’ tomato?

Is there an official weight (or a size) where a ‘small’ tomato becomes a ‘medium’ tomato? When I look this up on line there is the most enormous variation…so I thought I would ask the RHS!

4. Is this white matter, which is half the size of my fist, mole poo?

I found this enclosed white matter which was ½ size of my fist about 7cm below the surface of my soil in the garden. A mole has been tunnelling in the area. I am wondering whether it could be its faeces? Or something else?

5. I would like to get a spider plant but I hate spiders, what can I do to stop them?

Spider plants are very popular well known houseplants that don’t attract spiders or other bugs.

6. Has the RHS noticed a link between longevity and living with a leylandii hedge…?  Perhaps because of the pollution absorbing qualities of the hedge…?  I ask as everyone I know who has one is nearly 100!

7. What evergreen planting would best complement a mural of a giraffe?

The neighbours have extended into the side return, it’s about 8 feet wide. A friend is painting a mural of a giraffe, but the lower 3 feet of the wall is breeze block. We have a 6″ wide 18″ high trough made from decking at the bottom, so we’d like to plant something evergreen in that to cover the remaining breeze block and from which the giraffe can emerge.

8. Instead of buying sulphate of ammonia to fertilise veg beds, would my own wee work instead as it has ammonia in it?  And what about manures….

Someone wanted to fertilise their veg beds and had read that sulphate of ammonia is suitable, but didn’t want to buy a big box. They asked “Isn’t ammonia in wee?” “Would it do any harm if I collected my urine and used that instead? The RHS Shared that it isn’t the same – no dilution rate, leaching away etc. not to mention it’s not very hygienic if you’re planning to eat the veg! They then started steering the conversation towards manures and RHS quickly said – yep it’s deffo not ok to collect your own poop and use it on your veg beds!!!

9. Would the few spare vitamins D tablets I put on my Aloe Vera plant have helped it to absorb more solar rays?

Someone left some Vitamin D capsules in the soil of their Aloe Vera plant and later shared with the RHS that they had biodegraded and that there were mould colonies on the old capsules. They shared that they had noticed 2 very tall new growths unlike any other Aloe Vera they had ever seen and wanted to know if the vitamin tablets had genetically mutated their aloe plant to grow completely differently.

10. What is the blight described by Thomas Hardy in ‘Tess of the D’Urbevilles’?

Tess is walking through an uncultivated area “damp and rank with juicy grass” “rubbing off on her naked arms sticky blights, which, though snow-white on the apple-tree trunks, made madder stains on her skin” I wondered what sort of blight this is -Of course, Hardy might be creating his own blight but I somehow doubt it. The RHS answered that the blight that Thomas Hardy refers to is almost certainly American blight which is a name that has fallen out of use for the woolly aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum). The aphids arrived in the UK in the late 1700’s and was widespread by 1891.

Chris Moncrieff, RHS Head of Horticultural Information and Advice, said:  “At the RHS we love nothing more than sharing our top gardening tips and advice to as many people as possible, be that through this new RHS ChatBotanist or face to face in our gardens or at our shows.

“We especially love some of the more off the wall questions we get asked like those in our new Top 10 Quirky Gardening Questions list!  The public definitely likes to keep us on our toes and we wouldn’t want it any other way!”

The new RHS ChatBotanist will be available free for RHS members, and available in the coming weeks on RHS Grow with a small monthly fee.

The RHS ChatBotanist was created in partnership with leading digital transformation company, Publicis Sapient, whose digital business transformation expertise was best placed to devise a revolutionary gardening app, integrating the company’s core SPEED capabilities – strategy, product, experience, engineering and data & AI – in a move towards building its digital future.

Matt Drury, senior client partner, Publicis Sapient finished: “We’re thrilled to partner with and support The RHS. The launch of the RHS ChatBotanist, powered by Publicis Sapient, will emphasise some of the charity’s greatest strengths: world-class knowledge and deep expertise honed over two centuries. Using artificial intelligence, the bot will give all users access to the most trustworthy, validated knowledge and advice to help them with their gardening endeavours.”

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