Gardening in a changing climate at RHS Wisley

Yesterday I took part in the climate change walk around the RHS Wisley gardens in Surrey which is part of the British Science Festival taking place this week.dsc01679

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Climate Change Gardening is a subject close to my heart so I was disappointed to see that I was the only person on the walk ! The good news was that this enabled me to spend an informative hour wandering round the gardens with a charming horticulturalist called Ian Stanton and Johanna Forster, a young enthusiastic, climate change PhD student from my old university, UEA in Norwich.

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Wisley is a wonderful place – full of inspirational, dream-like plants and vistas that make you want to rush home and start again in the garden. Ian and Johanna showed me the new wave herbaceous borders inspired by Peter Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury. http://www.amazon.com/Designing-Plants-Piet-Oudolf/dp/0881929530

How the famous top terrace – see below – is no longer planted as a formal, time/water-consuming herbacous border but is now full of half hardy annuals such as Cosmos Bipannatus, Sea Shells which create strong impact and are a fine example of climate change gardening.

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We walked around the fruit area and discussed how blackcurrant and many other fruits are being challenged by reduced frosts but how vines and apricots/peaches are re doing well with longer growing seasons – all music to my ears and subjects covered in previous blogs.

Ian and Johanna told me about the huge amount of water that Wisley requires to keep its plant looking good and how the RHS is well aware aware that in the future it will have to re-think its water usage and planting schemes.

This was all excellent information but I feel sure that absolutely NONE  of the other visitors to the gardens had any idea about the importance of these factors  – both for the RHS and in their own gardens! There was a distinct lack of any climate change information – surely THE most important fact affecting the future of gardens like this?  If climate change happens as predicted, gardens like this will simply not survive . Inspirational gardens are wonderful but to my mind they need to be connected to reality.

My highlight on the  walk was discovering a beautiful tree called Albizia Julibrissin Rosea with delicate feather-like leaves and a delightful pink flower. This originates from Australia and Ian explained that 20 years ago, it would have been impossible to grow this specimen anywhere in the UK.  Milder and shorter winters  have allowed it to spring up in many southern gardens, although he suggested that it still needs  a sheltered spot to thrive.Surely this would have been a perfect climate change story for the RHS to have explained on an information board next to this beautiful tree?

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Educating gardeners about climate change is a role that the RHS has already started on its web-site .It also put on an excellent display about the effects of climate change at the Hampton Court Flower Show which I covered on this blog:

http://www.myclimatechangegarden.com/blog/rhs-hampton-court-show-spells-out-global-gardening

As the UK’s leading garden charity and, possibly the bigest horticultural influence on gardeners all over the country,  the RHS needs  to introduce Climate Change Education into all of its gardens. Only by educating visitors about the reality of what is happening can we encourage them to adapt their gardening habits to accommodate climate change.

Would be interested to hear your thoughts on how the RHS can use gardens like Wisley to educate its members and the horticultural industry about climate change?

This post was written by:

- who has written 866 posts on My Climate Change Garden.

I am not an experienced gardener - more of an enthusiastic amateur who learns by trial and error and is keen to "manage" the effects of the weather on my garden. Writing this blog is my passion and I hope that it will continue to grow, allowing global gardeners to communicate about the effects of climate change on our plants and the future of our gardens.

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