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New RHS report on climate change threat



May 1, 2017

A new report on climate change from the Royal Horticultural Society outlines challenges to UK gardeners, as well as opportunities.

The RHS’s report, Gardening in a Challenging Climate, has forewarned British gardeners of the changes posed by climate change, including a dryer summer, more frequent high-intensity rainfall events, and the emergence of new pests and diseases that haven’t been able to gain a foothold before.

The report, a collaboration between the RHS and the universities, Sheffield, Reading and Coventry, outlines not only the changes UK green thumbs can expect, but also asked gardeners how they are already changing their habits and whether or not they feel prepared for all the challenges ahead.

Half of all respondents said they had already changed some aspects of their gardening in response to climate change, and up to 79% of people saying they were already paying more attention to the climate.  Only 2% of all surveyed said they felt they had sufficient knowledge to adapt to the changing climate.  A majority of respondents were concerned about climate change in general and worries about whether they’d be able to continue to grow their favourite plants were high on the list of specifics.

Both an increase in drought in the summer and water logging in the wetter parts of the year are forecast, with the report saying these two factors will become the biggest determinants of plant survival and selection in the future.  The spread of new pests and diseases as the UK warms up is also of major concern to both academics and gardeners alike.

The report also highlighted changes between geographical regions could become more pronounced, with a prolonged growing season in the northern regions predicted but the effect being curtailed in the south due to already dwindling rainfall.  Northampton has been identified as sitting on the boundary of the newly emerging wet/dry, north/south divide.

The comprehensive report also includes recommendations on plant selection and placement for each region based on how the climate is projected to shift.  For instance, gardeners in the north may find themselves being able to grow a wider variety of plants, many that would have otherwise struggled, such as canna lilies.  Whereas gardeners in the east are projected to start storing water on site for use in summer as temperatures soar to 4-8°C above current averages, with the possibility of most of the UK being frost-free in the winter in the not too distant future.

Keeping true to the unofficial British national creed of ‘Keep calm and carry on‘, the report is a warning as well as a call to keep on gardening.  RHS climate scientist and co-author of the report, Dr Eleanor Webster stressed:

This report provides really important information about the challenges gardeners have been and will continue to face as a result of climatic changes.


While there will undoubtedly be hurdles for gardeners to overcome, when armed with guidance on the steps they can take to adapt to the changes, we are confident that they can continue to garden successfully.


To read the full report go to the Gardening in a Challenging Climate page on the RHS website.

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