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Secret 'Twitter garden' reveals itself when you tweet

Who needs Miracle-Gro when you've got Twitter? The Digital Capabilities garden responds to live tweets by revealing hidden areas of exotic foliage.

Familiar foliage greets visitors to Digital Capabilities, with more exotic plants hidden behind the electronic wall. University of Lincoln

It's always good to stop and smell the roses, but sometimes you have to tweet to access them.

At least that's how it works with an interactive Internet-connected garden created by the U.K.'s University of Lincoln. Familiar plants greet onlookers, but when they tweet using a specific hashtag, electronic paneled screens dividing the plot into two distinct areas shift to reveal an area containing more exotic foliage.

Who needs fertilizer when you've got Twitter? (Click to enlarge.) University of Lincoln

The garden, called "Digital Capabilities," just won a gold medal at this year's prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which runs through Saturday. But its architects hope to keep it up and blooming as a permanent installation.

The thermoplastic paneled screens separate the 10x20-foot plot garden diagonally. When viewers tweet with the hashtag #rhschelsea, the screens shift to reveal plants with stout stems and large, bold leaves that contrast with the soft green tapestry of the familiar-foliage section.

The more people tweet about the show, the more of the garden's exotica gets revealed. The polite garden even tweets back with a thank you.

"One of the things we're trying to do through our research is to understand how digital media can be made to meaningfully intersect with the physical world," said Shaun Lawson, a professor of social computing at the university's School of Computer Science and a member of the project's cross-disciplinary team.

"The planting inside represents the exotic or unknown immaterial world of the Internet, moderated and revealed by our desire for knowledge and interaction."

Designer brothers Tom Hartfeet and Paul Hartfleet collaborated with the University of Lincoln team to build the garden, which they agree is a "metaphorical representation of the Internet." Turns out social media has quite a green thumb.