August 21, 2017

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Talk helps gardeners adapt to changes in climate

Keen gardeners and growers will have a rare chance to hear from the team behind an innovative garden at this month’s RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, demonstrating how gardeners can adapt to changes in our climate.

Dr Ross Cameron will give the AGM guest lecture for Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) in Penrith on Monday 3 July, exploring how the changing climate has been affecting gardens across the UK and what the future holds.

Ross is one of the authors of the new RHS report ‘Gardening in a Changing Climate’ and is a senior lecturer in landscape management, ecology & design at the University of Sheffield.

He’ll be joined by National Trust gardener Chris Braithwaite, who will share his observations on what’s changed here in Cumbria. Chris has almost two decades of first-hand experience to draw on as gardener in charge at the Trust’s Acorn Bank property.

“Gardeners are starting to notice the consequences of the rise in global temperatures,” Ross said. “When I talked to gardeners a decade ago about how changes in our climate would affect gardens, I typically got strange looks. Now, though, most gardeners, growers and farmers will tell you they’re seeing changes.”

One of the effects is the longer growing season in the UK now.

“Gardeners have been finding they can grow varieties of plants and food that they perhaps wouldn’t have before, but, on the other hand, it means they’re having to adapt to changes in when plants are in bloom.”

Ross feels the toughest challenges will be the unpredictability of our weather and water management.

“The changes in our climate won’t be a smooth upwards curve in temperature – rather, it’s a bumpy road ahead,” Ross said. “We’re likely to see more unpredictable frosts, more dry spells and more periods of prolonged heavier rainfall, so water management is something gardeners will need to consider,” Ross said.

“We’ll also see regional differences – warmer and wetter in the north west and dryer in the summer in the south east.”

Ross’s climate change garden at RHS Chatsworth was designed with zones showing what the gardens of the future could be like in different parts of the country, with the planting and water management adapted to suit the likely local climates.

During the talk in Penrith, Ross will also touch on his wider research into how gardens and buildings can work better together, as a whole system.

“My recent research has centred on how people can use trees and plants to manage sunlight and shade for their house, how they can create shelter to exclude draughts and, in particular, how planting alongside walls and on roofs can keep buildings cool in summer and insulate them in winter,” Ross explained.

Gardeners can even help alleviate the impact of flooding, which is predicted to happen more often in the future.

“The type of hard landscaping and planting in gardens can make a big difference to the amount of run-off from a property,” Ross said. “And where people live in areas at risk of flooding, we could begin to see neighbours working together to plant trees and other vegetation to slow the movement of water across land,” Ross said. “It can also mean less soil is washed away, so less carbon is released into the atmosphere, helping to prevent climate change.”

CAfS’ chief executive Hazel Graham said: “We hope local gardeners and growers will take away lots of tips from the talk that will help them in choosing plants and tweaking the design of their plots with future weather conditions in mind. We’ve been fascinated to learn from Ross about how the humble British garden can even help prevent climate change and hopefully it will give local residents some great ideas that they can try out for themselves.”

There is no charge for the talk, although donations will be very welcome. Places can be booked online at cafs.org.uk/events or by calling 01768 210276.

For those unable to attend the talk, a link to the RHS report Gardening in a Changing Climate is available: https://www.rhs.org.uk/science/gardening-in-a-changing-world/climate-change.

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