Palm Trees And Banana Plants In English Gardens

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Traditional English gardens have been changing as the climate warms, as described in an Associated Press dispatch carried in Canada's Financial Post.

The fabled English garden with its velvety green lawn and vivid daffodils, delphiniums and bluebells is under threat from global warming, leading conservation groups said late in 2002. Within the next 50 to 80 years, palm trees, figs and oranges may find themselves more at home in Britain's hotter, drier summers, the National Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society said, releasing a new report on the impact of climate change. Gardening in the Global Greenhouse: The Impacts of Climate Change on Gardens in the U.K. was commissioned by the two organizations and the government, as well as water, forestry and botanical organizations. (Woods, 2002, S-10)

Reading University scientists Richard Bisgrove and Paul Hadley forecast "fewer frosts, earlier springs, higher year-round temperatures, increased winter rainfall (increasing risk of flooding), and hotter, drier summers (increasing the risk of drought)" (Woods, 2002, S-10). "While there will be greater opportunities to grow exotic fruits and subtropical plants, increased winter rainfall will present difficulties for Mediterranean species which dislike waterlogging," said Andrew Colquhoun, director general of the Royal Horticultural Society (Woods, 2002, S-10).

A large number of cool weather plants are likely to suffer, according to this report, including "snowdrops, crocuses, rhododendrons, ferns and mosses, along with bluebells and daffodils. It wouldn't be impossible to grow delphiniums, the Royal Horticultural Society said, but they would be more difficult to grow. The Society said gardeners could expect to see more palms, grapes, citrus fruit, figs and apricots, as well as colorful climbers like plumbago and bougainvillea. New pests from southern climates—such as the rosemary beetle, berberis sawfly, and the lily beetle—were now established in Britain, the society said (Woods, 2002, S-10).

The Chelsea Flower Show in May 2002 "strongly reflected the trend for Mediterranean-style plants suitable for dry conditions" (Johnson, 2002, 5). Climate models for England projected warmer, drier summers and wetter winters. Landscape architects are faced with a paradox of finding plants that can survive hotter, drier summers while building landscapes that can carry off a larger volume of winter floodwaters. Guy Barter, head of the Royal Horticultural Society's advisory service, said, "Olive trees, grapes, avocados and even banana plants could all become common garden features. The air could be full of the scent of acacia... .We will also see more gardens with heat-resistant trees, and cacti and yucca. But the problem will be flooding in winter" (Johnson, 2002, 5).

Snowdrops Daffodils

A dead kangaroo on drought-affected plain in Australia (Jeff Dixon)

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