Ex­pect droughts – and down­pours

Kent Messenger Maidstone - West Kent Property - - OUTDOORS -

If you have sown sweet­corn in pots and live in a mild area, you should be able to start hard­en­ing them off in warm weather, but don’t plant them out un­til all dan­ger of frost has passed. Sweet­corn is wind­pol­li­nated and should be planted in blocks of at least 12 plants to in­crease the chance of pollen land­ing on fe­male flow­ers which will re­sult in an in­crease in the yield. Space out the plants around 40cm (16in) apart each way. In colder ar­eas, sow them in pots in a prop­a­ga­tor four weeks be­fore the last ex­pected frost date. These pretty peren­ni­als look so dainty, with their love-heart flow­ers drip­ping off long waft­ing stems above fern-like fo­liage, but they’re ac­tu­ally quite tough and given the right con­di­tion will come back year af­ter year. Among the best is D. spectabilis, which looks el­e­gant in dap­pled shade in the spring, when its arch­ing stems are hung with deep pink or white flow­ers. They com­bine well with low­grow­ing plants such as mossy sax­ifrages and helle­bores. Smaller di­cen­tras such as ‘Snowflakes’, which grow to 40-45cm, make good plant part­ners for astilbes, fox­gloves or tall cam­pan­u­las. Di­cen­tras can grow in sun or shade in most soils, but pre­fer a shel­tered spot in par­tial shade and a moist soil. Bri­tish gar­dens could end up de­void of lus­cious lawns, with pop­u­lar plants prov­ing more dif­fi­cult to grow and plant pests and dis­eases spread­ing, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from the RHS and lead­ing aca­demics into the im­pact of cli­mate change on gar­den­ing.

Plants will have to cope with in­creas­ingly warmer and drier weather in sum­mer, but also more tur­bu­lent spells with in­tense, some­times un­pre­dictable heavy show­ers and strong winds.

The wide-rang­ing re­port, Gar­den­ing in a Chang­ing Cli­mate, looks at both the im­pact the in­crease in global tem­per­a­tures is cur­rently hav­ing on plants and gar­den­ers, and the fu­ture of gar­den­ing as tem­per­a­tures in­crease.

It’s the first in-depth anal­y­sis of the ef­fects of cli­mate change on UK gar­den­ing in 15 years and while the 2002 re­port con­cluded that gar­den­ers would be bask­ing in Mediter­ranean tem­per­a­tures and so could grow more plants that thrive in bright, dry con­di­tions, model pro­jec­tions sug­gest warmer but more vari­able cli­matic con­di­tions.

The up­dated re­port has found that gar­den­ers can ex­pect more ex­treme weather, char­ac­terised by more vari­able, in­tense rain­fall, com­bined with an in­crease in dry sum­mers, which will be most pro­nounced in the south of the UK.

Gar­den­ers look­ing to cope with the chal­lenge of in­creased rain­fall may have to adopt new prac­tices to en­sure the sur­vival of some of our favourite plants.

Tra­di­tional plants, such as tulips, al­li­ums and asters may have to be planted in raised beds to sur­vive in­creased rain­fall. The extra height will lift their roots clear of the wa­ter ta­ble.

Those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing higher tem­per­a­tures may turn to heat lov­ing plants, such as aloe or laven­der.

Lush, green lawns are likely to be a ma­jor ca­su­alty and may have to be con­verted to dry mead­ows, as pres­sure on wa­ter sup­plies in­creases.

Landscape man­age­ment ex­pert Dr Ross Cameron has helped de­sign a gar­den for the year 2100, to be dis­played at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show in June.

He says: “Keen gar­den­ers have al­ways en­joyed a chal­lenge, and like to match their skills against the el­e­ments, but in fu­ture we may have to rely on more ro­bust plant species that have proven their re­silience against the ex­tremes of the weather, for ex­am­ple, tol­er­at­ing drought con­di­tions one year and water­log­ging the next.”

Di­cen­tra (bleed­ing heart)

Drought could change the way we gar­den

Sweet­corn

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