Coming to a British garden near you as the climate warms ... an agave plant. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

By Robbie Blackhall-Miles
9 June 2017

(The Guardian) – It hit me like a smack in the face. This year’s RHS Chelsea flower show was quite blatant in showcasing the effects of climate change; you may not have noticed though. Most people visiting the show or tuning into the BBC coverage were homed in on the increasingly more naturalistic planting style, the reduced number of large show gardens and the amazing lupins.

However, the increasing temperatures that our planet is experiencing are catching up with us gardeners. While the changes may be subtle in our own gardens, when you see them distilled and condensed, as I did at the world’s greatest flower show, the dawning realisation that they are real comes as quite a shock.

The first thing I noticed on entering the show was just how hot it was. It was a pleasure to walk around the show gardens on such a lovely sunny day, but in the back of my mind I had the realisation that the heat was part of an extended period of drought that the southeast, and the UK more generally, had been suffering. On talking to the gardeners and designers I heard many an exclamation of “I can’t wait for it to rain”. After such a very warm, wet winter in 2016 and then this, the driest winter for 20 years, I wondered if these unpredictable weather events are what we should come to expect in future?

Almost the first show garden I clapped eyes on rammed the point home a little further. James Basson’s M&G garden was an absolute triumph in my eyes. It transported me directly to the lime stone quarries of the Mediterranean and fitted so beautifully with the sun’s heat. I wanted to clamber into it and botanise between the columns of limestone. I could see plants of one of my favourites from the region, white henbane (Hyoscyamus albus), winking at me with its black eye from among the rocks and prickly goldenfleece (Urospermum picroides) shining at me, reflecting the yellow sun above.

While revelling in such delicate and beautiful planting, I couldn’t help but feel that this was what the southeast of the UK may have to count as normal in future years. We may have to accept some of these Mediterranean species as the newcomers in place of the hedgerow plants and garden weeds that we feel so comfortable with. [more]

Climate change is catching up with gardeners: just look at the Chelsea flower show

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