The changing face of Britain’s gardens
Is our beloved English rose in peril? Will global greenhouse gases force her to live a cloistered life only in Britain’s greenhouses? How long will she be strong enough to ramble freely? The iconic rose is only one of the many plant species that will be affected by the changing face of Britain’s gardens as they evolve to keep apace of global warming.
For centuries, the rose reigned over the traditional English garden alongside other favorites that include crocuses, rhododendrons, and snowdrops. And where would an English garden be without a profusion of feathery ferns interspersed amidst the blooms? It’s sad to think it but they may all migrate north as global warming brings a more Mediterranean-like climate to Britain.
The threat that greenhouse gases may alter the British climate to such a degree that its natural habitat changes its species of plants has been closely examined by leading researchers at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and the National Trust. This collaborative effort led to the publication of a report titled “Gardening in the Global Greenhouse: The Impacts of Climate Change on Gardens in the UK.” Also involved in the study are the UK government and organizations that influence the kingdom’s flora, fauna, and water supply.
The study indicates that the drier, hotter growing seasons expected across Britain in the coming 50 to 80 years will be more suitable for tropical plants such as the figs, oranges, and palm trees native to the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. A warmer Britain will likely be threatened by more droughts than are seen today and warmer winters with fewer days of frost. Spring will come earlier and higher temperatures year round will produce more rain and increase the risk of flooding.
While warmer, milder British Isles may become ideal new homes for many subtropical plants, they won’t all survive in what’s to be a wetter climate than many of them can bear. The many mosses native to the area may continue to thrive as new plants stake their claim but the expected climate of the near future will create an entirely new ecosystem suitable for a mix of current British favourites and new garden plants from traditionally warmer climates. Along with the new climate and new plant species will come new populations of pest and plant diseases that will affect native habitats.
Climate change will certainly affect the lawns and gardens the private British gardener cherishes but it presents a tricky situation for the nation’s many world-famous public gardens and parks, too. Fiona Reynolds says the effects of climate change are already in evidence across a wide spectrum of the nation, from its wildlife populations to its gardens and historical buildings. Lakes, rivers, and coastlines are already showing evidence of climate change, too. Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, says it’s imperative that we reduce emission of greenhouse gasses while striving to “adapt to an evolving and more unpredictable climate.”
The future may look bleak for the long-term enjoyment of today’s bluebells, daffodils, and delphiniums but conservationists predict the welcome arrival of bougainvillea and plumbago. The changing face of Britain’s gardens may still feature the English rose but she’s likely to find delicious new garden mates as apricots, citrus fruits, figs, and grapes move into her neighborhood.