Adrian Thorne has recently finished the RHS Masters of Horticulture program and chose the views of professional gardeners on adapting to climate change as his final dissertation project. This blog a very cut-down version of his dissertation, but he just wanted to give people food-for-thought rather than the whole thing.
I’m fairly sure I once heard gardening described as the art of problem-solving, and I’d imagine that chimes a bell with many of us. We make do, adapt, alter, come at problems from different angles – whether doing the smallest job or the largest project. Climate change is going to require us all to adapt in a variety of ways if we are to continue the hobby we love and need. Now bear with me….I’m hoping this won’t be too depressing reading.
I’ve spent the last nine months asking professional gardeners for their views on adapting to climate change, and what happens in professional gardening often flows through into amateur gardening. We talk a lot about mitigating climate change, stopping emissions (think about electric tools and peat-free compost) but we don’t talk so much about adaptation to the changing climate (think about heavy rainfall, drainage, heat waves, droughts etc). The results have been really interesting – we are already seeing a lot of professional gardeners start to change plants for species that are more resilient to climate change, those plants that can take the temperature extremes and are perhaps a bit more resistant to new diseases.
It’s not just the plants that need to adapt – we need to be looking at adapting the hard landscaping of our gardens too. We may want to make sure paths can cope with heavy deluges of rain and don’t become an impassable bog, or consider shade areas for those hot times of the day, or the important topic of water management and rainwater harvesting.
Domestic rainwater harvesting could become a necessity for some gardens
The third area of gardening I want to encourage people to adapt is the gardener herself – we may have to think about what times we go out to work in the garden, about when professionals can work in our gardens, and what our expectations of our garden are.
Shade areas from hot sun will be important not just for plants but for the gardeners trying to work
Nearly all of these problems are surmountable, and I said at the start of this blog gardeners are very good at problem-solving. We do need to get ourselves time and space to think through the solutions and to get them in place early so we’re not caught napping. I’m hoping to continue this research to look more into how are gardens and gardeners are changing.