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English Country Gardens Under Attack From Global Warming

English gardeners were witnessing changes in dates of leaf emergence, flowering, and the appearance of many species of butterflies in spring. - Ian Pearson.
by Brigitte Dusseau
London (AFP) Sep 12, 2006
Britain's legion of gardening fanatics were warned Tuesday to get ready for global warming which threatens to spoil the traditional English country garden of legend. The immaculately mown lawns and flourishing flowers found in gardens across the country may become a thing of the past if stereotypically rainy Britain continues to struggle with drought and warmer weather.

Environment Minister Ian Pearson told the estimated 27-million strong green-fingered army, some 40 percent of the population, that they had to face up to the challenges of climate change if they wanted to keep their cherished gardens looking splendid.

"The quintessential English garden will have to adapt to our changing climate," warned Environment Minister Ian Pearson.

"Gardeners have a responsibility, in water use, species type, and garden design, to adapt too," he said, surrounded by the flora of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, southwest London.

In Britain, 10 of the warmest years on record have occured since 1990, and July was the hottest month since records began. The last two winters have been the driest in over 80 years in parts of southern England.

Pearson said the situation was likely to become worse.

"If the majority of scientific opinion is right, and I think it is, these conditions will become commonplace in the future. They will put gardeners in the front line of climate change," he said.

"Our gardeners will continue to be among the first to feel the effects. The growing season for plants is a month longer than it was 100 years ago."

He said gardeners were witnessing changes in dates of leaf emergence, flowering, and the appearance of many species of butterflies in spring.

The annual moisture content of soils was likely to decrease by 10 to 20 percent on average across Britain by the 2080s, and even up to 50 percent during summers.

Instead of the traditional hollyhocks, delphiniums, roses and fuschias, gardeners were advised to plants other flowers more able to cope with warmer, drier conditions.

"Gardeners need to think about choosing drought-resistant bedding and perennial plants like marigolds, petunias or geraniums," Pearson said.

"They should also think about trees that will thrive in Britain's future climate. Silver maple and black cherry trees thrive in warmth."

The government was providing handy tips for gardeners on saving water.

They were advised to use water butts and watering cans, try not to cut lawns too short and water the roots and soil around plants rather than spray leaves and flowers.

Drought orders were issued in May, affecting some 13 million people in southeast England who were already subject to hosepipe and sprinkler bans as two successive dry winters left reservoirs and underwater aquifers sorely depleted.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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