Future proofing your garden in a changing climate
22nd Aug 2017
The RHS recently published a report on the impact of climate change on our gardens & choice of planting. Having recently returned from a holiday in Italy with temperatures of 34 degrees it got me thinking about to what extent is this already influencing design choices. The aesthetic pleasing nature of grasses in terms of movement, colour & sustainability have been an increasingly popular choice in terms of people looking for drama, all year round interest and low maintenance.
One of the fundamental principles of garden design is putting the right plant in the right place. Some clients will have a clear idea of what plants they want and these choices will be influenced by emotion, aesthetics and memory as much as anything else. With changes in climate your planting palette may start to reflect plants more suited to drier conditions particularly if you live in East Anglia.
The report highlights warmer springs & autumns (an increase of 2-6 degrees) and with that an extended growing season. What will this mean for the garden?
Growing a wider range of plants like edibles will take advantage of the longer growing season but then flowering times of plants will be affected. It may no longer coincide with the active feeding period of pollinators. Increasing a diverse variety of pollinator friendly native and non native plants will help to address this.
It is anticipated that the South West will be warmer with milder humid winters and heavier rainfall. Extreme rainfall events will increase water logging and flooding as we already know.
Incorporating design features like rain gardens to deal with heavy rainfall or green roofs to minimise run off rates from built structures offers a solution to these climate changes. Warmer & damper conditions means more pests. Planting choices will need to be mindful of this and the impact of pest control on the environment. Similarly large trees on wet soils are prone to wind toppling. We are already seeing camellias, fuchsias and other temperate species becoming dominant hedge & boundary plants.
It is no doubt that climate change will provide opportunities and challenges for gardeners. The RHS are supporting gardeners with the latest climate change research. Garden designers can also support them in meeting this challenge with innovative and sustainable designs that are future proofed in a changing climate.