Biodiversity at Chelsea Flower Show

Sat, May 24, 2008

Climate Change

More palm trees in England may please some of the people some of the time but, it is equally important for gardeners to understand how biodiversity is crucial for preserving our natural fauna and wildlife.

As well as adapting our gardens to climate change, the issue of biodiversity will always be a key area for the maintenance of our plants in the future.


This was the theme explored by the University of Reading at the Chelsea Flower Show. A key question posed by the exhibit was ‘Could UK gardens become vital reserves as plants in the wild face extinction due to climate change?’

The silver winning stand showed how Reading’s research scientists are trying to answer questions like these.
Alastair Culham, from the School of Biological Sciences, who leads the work explained:

“We’ve looked at Olives and Cyclamen for example – two plants that grow naturally in the Mediterranean.

In the future, the Mediterranean is likely to become too hot and dry for Cyclamen, while the climate of central Europe and even the south east tip of England will become more suitable. However, the speed of climate change could be too fast for plants to move naturally to new areas and many Cyclamen species face extinction. Gardens could become a vital reserve for this plant in the future.”

For this year’s Chelsea stand we’ve done some preliminary work on a number of other plants, including Olive and Lavender. With a 2 to 3 degree warming, Olives are likely to do well in the south of the UK and to continue to thrive in the Mediterranean where they currently grow in the wild.”

However, it’s not as simple as the UK climate becoming more like the Mediterranean. The hotter, drier summers and less winter frosts predicted for the UK will suit many species that currently grow further south. However, we’re also likely to see wetter winters in the UK and that won’t suit plants like Lavender which don’t like having water logged roots.”

The University’s stand at Chelsea involves researchers from the School of Biological Sciences collaborating with the University’s Walker Institute for Climate System Research. The Walker Institute aims to bring together climate related research at the University to improve knowledge of climate change and its impacts.

The stand features a backdrop explaining the research as well as pots containing various well known plants like Olive and frost-sensitive Lavenders. For each plant, there will be a panel showing where climate is ideal for growth now and where the ideal areas will be in the future.

Outside of Chelsea, there are many campaigns which encourage communities to get involved with biodiversity.

Britain in Bloom will be holding special biodiversity events throughout the summer, and will be recording their experiences on the website.

This website is a joint project between the RHS and the Wildlife Trusts to highlight ways in which nature conservation and gardening can go hand in hand.

The aim is to build awareness that gardens – private or public – don’t have to go wild to support wildlife. It is possible to include traditional and formal planting schemes in parks and gardens that still support thriving habitats.

By incorporating a range of native and non-native planting schemes, anyone can provide food sources and habitats for wildlife, as well as creating beautiful environments beneficial to people.


The RHS have a list of plants to encourage biodiversity that is worth considering:

  • Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg plant) – for hoverflies and bees.
  • Heliotropium arborescens ‘Chatsworth’ (cherry pie plant) – for bees and butterflies.
  • Echinacea purpurea ‘Elton Knight’ (coneflower) – good late nectar source for bees and butterflies.
  • Solidago ‘Goldenmosa’ (goldenrod) – for birds, bees and butterflies.
  • Primula veris (cowslip) – a good native butterfly food plant.
  • Rosa rubiginosa (sweet briar) – a nectar source for birds, bees and butterflies.
  • Viburnum opulus ‘Compactum’ (guelder rose) – native species for birds and bees and a butterfly nectar source.
  • Pyracantha Saphyr Rouge ‘Cadrou’ (firethorn) – a beneficial insect nectar source.
  • Malus ‘John Downie’ (crab apple) – for birds, bees, butterflies and moths.
  • Sorbus aucuparia ‘Sheerwater Seedling’ (rowan) – native species for birds, bees and butterflies
  • This post was written by:

    - who has written 872 posts on My Climate Change Garden.

    I am not an experienced gardener - more of an enthusiastic amateur who learns by trial and error and who is keen to "manage" the effects of shifting weather patterns on my garden. Writing this blog is my passion and it has evolved over 12 years to inspire engagement with climate change outside our back doors, in our personal gardens and green spaces. My mission is to fertilise and expand this platform to grow a community of global gardeners communicating about the effects of climate change on our plants and exploring how each individual can make small changes in our lives to become more sustainable. The future of our gardens and #OurPlanet is in our hands - please plant your own seeds for our collective sustainable future.

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    2 Comments For This Post

    1. kurye Says:

      Biodiversity at Chelsea Flower Show | My Global Garden great article thank you.

    2. Sophia @ same day flowers Says:

      I was thinking on this theme last evening and I resolved to search the web for some info. Your blog came up in my search and I’m impress what you have penned on this topic. As I’m currently widening my research and thus cannot chip in further, however, I’ve bookmarked it and will be returning to further comment. Like I said, love this comment and will be back shortly.