Whilst we have been aware of climate change for a long time, this year has brought it into sharp focus. From the inspiring example of Greta Thunberg setting off a new wave of schoolkids protests, to our own Extinction Rebellion, there is a strong swell of opinion that action must be taken, the time for talk is over. This is driven in no small part because the effects of climate change, long predicted, are now starting to be felt across the globe.
We are waking up to the reality that global warming doesn’t simply mean warmer summers. The rise in average temperature is driving ever more unpredictable weather patterns. Extreme events becoming much more frequent. Storms, drought, floods and unseasonal weather are the way many of use are experiencing first hand the effects of climate change.
Storms and floods are set to become more frequent in the UK
Here in the UK this last summer’s weather was unpredictable, and sometimes made for a challenging time for gardeners. This autumn is equally untypical with heavy rains alternating with periods of unusual warmth and sunshine. Climate change is upon us and it seems even scientist are taken aback by the speed of the change.
How can garden design and gardeners respond to global warming?
It’s worth remembering that we the garden lovers, the gardeners and garden designers are the goodies here. Just by having a garden we are already on the side of the angels. Plants help regulate temperature and humidity, they are refuges for severely depleted and stressed wildlife, particularly insects and birds. Trees lock away carbon from the atmosphere and release oxygen. Gardens act as mini reservoirs for rainfall, soaking it up and slowing it down to lessen severe flooding.
But even so many of us will be asking what more can we do? We’ll be worried about the effect of climate change on our gardens and wanting to know how we can design and adapt our garden to deal with the more extreme and unpredictable weather, whilst also wanting to do our best to help our garden join the fight to slow down and minimise the effects of global warming.
Adapting our gardens for global warming
We’ve blogged before about creating insect friendly gardens and we’ve talked about how the lawn could be rethought and made much smaller or even replaced by such things as meadows. These are all important steps that you can take to refocus your garden to play its best part in this important battle.
You can also take a look at what you are using to keep your garden in top condition; it almost goes without saying that gardening organically will become increasingly important, that the garden that encourages local wildlife will both help control pests through becoming a haven for their predators but also that, as the renowned Bob Flowerdew of Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time fame has said, in an organic garden an infestation of greenfly will swiftly be followed by an influx of ladybirds and because the ecology is richer and more robust, things will balance themselves out over time.
Climate change brings an opportunity for a new type of garden
The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus) may be seen in many more gardens.
Whilst it can seem like this is all bad news it also offers all sorts of exciting new ways to garden as well. People are designing rain gardens to cope with heavy rainfall events (you can see this featured in the RHS Gardening for Climate Change Report (see links below). Whilst native plants are becoming more important there are also opportunities to look at exotics that previously have been rarities in an English Garden (especially here in Yorkshire!). Eucalyptus, Strawberry Tree, Canary Date Palms and Chinese Windmill Palm may all take their place in these new gardens. Ironically whist we will need to adopt plants that can tolerate extreme rainfall we’ll also need to look at planting more drought tolerant plants.
Thinking through all that you can do and turning it into a coherent plan can fell a bit overwhelming. To be honest many of us are more garden lovers than garden designers. But people like us at North Leeds Garden Design are here for you. We can help you from anything from working out your plans and ensuring they will work well, to designing and installing a complete climate change makeover garden.
Read more on Bob Flowerdew: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/9176729/Bob-Flowerdew-home-grown-produce-guru.html
Read the RHS report on gardening in a Changing Climate https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/gardening-in-a-changing-world/climate-change