The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has released a new report, Gardening in a Changing Climate, written in collaboration with researchers from the University of Sheffield and the University of Reading on how climate change will alter British gardens. It summarizes an extensive survey of home gardeners and industry professionals and updates the groundbreaking 2002 RHS report, “Gardening in a Global Greenhouse.”
Gardens, and the plants we put in them, are an important interaction with nature and can positively or negatively impact a site’s environmental footprint. By selecting the right plants and design, gardens can cool, sequester carbon, reduce flooding, provide food, create wildlife habitats, provide economic benefits, etc.
Some horticulturists and gardeners are embracing the challenge that a changing climate presents to grow new things. But, climate change may very well be the biggest test for the art and science of horticulture.
“Gardening in a Changing Climate” identifies broad parameters that will help to shape how Brits garden after mid-century, including:
- Hotter, drier summers, especially in the South of England, which means traditional green, grassy meadows may not survive. Tropicals anyone?
- Periods of drought and flooding, caused by more extreme weather, that will alter the assortment of plants gardeners will be able to enjoy.
- Some fruit, like Ribes nigrum, a northern European native, may not be able to survive.
- The appearance of new pests and diseases.
Future British gardens will be framed by higher temperatures (winters about 9F warmer and summers up to 11F warmer by 2080) combined with more extreme weather—periods of drought and periods of intense rain (more flooding).
While most of the gardeners surveyed believe climate change is occurring, they say they are not ready to deal with it, with just 2% saying they are prepared. “Despite this, the vast majority of people do not seek support from garden centres, nurseries, parks or gardens on how to cope with projected climate changes,” the report states.
Among the many recommendations presented for gardeners that wish to help address climate change are:
- Avoid gasoline powered garden tools and equipment
- Use rain barrels and cisterns to capture and store water
- Avoid using media and soil amendments containing peat
- Plant more trees, shrubs and plants to help sequester carbon
- Use plants to reduce building temperatures by planting on the south and west sides
- Consider a green roof to reduce runoff
- Eliminate or limit grass/lawn in favor of planting more flowers/plants for beneficial insects and pollinators and to reduce use of fertilizers and pesticides used to maintain lawns
- Recycle garden waste by composting debris and recycling plastic
- Use a wide variety of plants to accommodate pollinators
Professor Ellie Highwood, climate scientist at the University of Reading and President of the Royal Meteorological Society, was quoted in The London Times, “Gardening is perhaps the most hands-on way that many of us interact with nature. This report reminds us how climate change is altering the balance of nature, with evidence growing almost everywhere we look.
“The changes that we notice in our gardens are actually a really important part of recording the impact of climate changes. By keeping an eye on our plants, we can keep an eye on our planet.”
The report also highlights opportunities for gardening because of climate change. Among them:
- More and new varieties of plants and crops
- Opportunity will rise from adaptation strategies
- More flexibility in gardening practices
- Better chances of adaptation to UK changes for native species
- Changes in gardening trends: wildlife-friendly gardens will partially replace overly manicured gardens
The report states, “As the effects of climate change take hold, will we value urban green spaces more for the services they provide.”—let’s hope so.
Here’s a great article: Climate change will put the lawn out to grass by Ben Webster in the London Times.
May 1, 2017 NewTerrain.