Hosted by the RHS at the Lindley Hall in London, the John MacLeod Annual Lecture was created to highlight important and inspiring topics on horticultural science. A broad audience of RHS members, scientists, policy makers and the media is invited every year to hear luminaries of the scientific field give talks on major research projects or new areas of thought.

2017 lecture: Gardening with a Mission

Providing leadership for climate change adaptation and mitigation

We can no longer rely on historical weather records to tell us what to expect; these records do little more than reveal how far from “normal” our climate has strayed. It is not just thermometers revealing a change in the climate, the living world is responding, with earlier spring bloom dates, and earlier spring arrival and shifts in the range of many birds and insects.

Extended growing seasons in the UK and other high latitude regions may allow exploration of new species for the garden, but some long-time favourites will no longer be viable. Also, weeds and pests will be more difficult to control, and there will be unprecedented challenges with water management and extreme weather events. Gardeners and public gardens can lead the way in experimenting with what is possible to grow and how to grow in the face of an uncertain climate.

There are also many things gardeners can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, store more carbon in soils, and maintain resilient and diverse landscapes. Perhaps most importantly, gardeners can enter the public dialogue to share their knowledge and concern for impacts on our landscapes and the living world, including impacts on our own species.

Download the PowerPoint slides from David Wolfe's talk (3MB pdf)

About the speaker

Dr David Wolfe is Professor of Plant and Soil Ecology in the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University. His current research projects focus on soil, water, and landscape management for climate change resilience, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon sequestration. He also contributes to soil conservation and food security projects in Ethiopia, Malawi and Kenya. 

In addition to peer-reviewed research publications, science communication efforts include writing commentary for the popular press and analyses for policy-makers, such as co-authoring the 2008 and 2014 National Climate Assessments sponsored by the US Global Change Research Program. At Cornell he teaches courses on climate change and environmental science writing, and he is author of the award winning book on soil ecology, Tales From the Underground: A Natural History of Subterranean Life.  Wolfe serves on the Corporation of the Board with the New York Botanical Garden, and the Advisory Boards for New York’s Water Resources Institute and Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. 

Useful links


The late professor John MacLeodAbout Professor John MacLeod

The lecture's namesake, Professor John MacLeod, who died in 2010, was a plant scientist and Professor of Horticulture at the RHS. He was also chairman of the RHS Scientific Committee, and was a powerful advocate for horticultural science. He was acutely aware of its pressing relevance in sustaining the natural environment and world food supplies.



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