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RHS Garden for a Changing Climate

The RHS presents this inspiring garden to highlight the launch of the recent RHS report, ‘Gardening in a changing climate’.


The Garden for a Changing Climate, created in partnership by Dr Eleanor Webster; RHS Climate Scientist, Andy Clayden and Dr Ross Cameron, features a conventional garden of today built alongside a garden set 100 years in the future. This enables visitors to see the information highlighted in the RHS 'Gardening in a changing climate' reportproduced in collaboration with researchers from the University of Sheffield and the University of Reading by Dr Webster, brought to life. It gives ideas about future planting and design, which are further explained by Dr Webster in the video above. 

Changes in climate could make our weather warmer and slightly more turbulent in the coming years. When designing the garden for the future, resilience was a key theme the designers explored within the planting and physical structures. Plants that are resilient and can cope with extremes of weather whilst being functional, providing shade, capturing storm water and filtering water throughout the garden could be key. 

Comparing plants for the future with the plants we use today 

'One of the things we’re seeing with climate change is a need for plants to be able to cope with extremes, thriving in very dry but also very wet periods,' says co-creator Dr Cameron. 'Large flowers, such as pansies, could be battered by the wind encouraging more "in vogue" varieties to be produced with breeders creating plants that are smaller and more resilient in windy conditions. Plants that have the ability to fight wind and frost but also warmer weather will do well. We've also used plants in the garden that provide cooling effects around the building.'

Using water to irrigate spaces 

He continues: 'Rainwater has been captured by running it off the building and leading it down to irrigate the garden. The garden has been created with a fairly wet meadow at one end, benefiting from the rain water, which leads down to a drier meadow. The dry space features alliums and geraniums as well as Mediterranean plants. These areas are really good for wildlife and pollinators. In the future, the conventional lawn may go, as it gets more challenging to keep it in a nice shape. This could lead to social changes, without a lawn, where people create flat spaces to socialise.'

Sharing gardens with neighbours 

Andy Clayden, co-creator, says: 'It's a case of no longer thinking about the garden as something isolated. In the future, the garden could be a community resource and the recreation space we associate with a lawn could be a shared resource with neighbours. We might manage water collectively, perhaps through a community wetland. It also challenges the idea of what the edge of the garden or boundary could be: we may start to tessellate the edge of the garden and that could create different areas of microclimate and social spaces for people to gather. We've created glass structures, inspired by the Great Conservatory at Chatsworth, for plants that are a bit more vulnerable to more extreme weather and they can slide away and be tucked in a more protected place.'

Simple structures and gabion walls 

'I think there’s a lot of very simple things for gardeners to see, the structures are not complicated and they’re relatively easy to build,' Andy explains. 'The gabion walls are quite permeable so they let some of the wind through but create privacy there at the top of the house. Moving down through the garden it becomes even more permeable and leads to a driveway. We created a "dew pond" edged in red brick to capture rainwater and aid drainage. The construction of the garden is really straightforward, it’s not about expensive materials, people can use recycled materials to create the same types of features.'

Other ideas from the garden visitors can take away 

  • A canopy could quickly be erected to provide shelter in the event of an un-anticipated downpour. This could also capture rainwater and direct it to storage tanks/ponds that can be used in times of drought.
  • Solar fabrics may also enable the same canopy to convert energy from the sun to pump water through the garden or recharge an electric vehicle.
  • Recycled aggregates and a porous pavement replace the traditional impermeable patio and tarmacked parking bay, directing water to a shared community wetland.

RHS Gardening in a Changing Climate report 

The garden brings to life some of the concepts explored in the RHS Gardening in a Changing Climate report that was launched in April 2017. RHS Climate Scientist Dr Eleanor Webster was lead author on the report.

Andy Clayden is a Landscape Architect and Senior Lecturer at Sheffield University, Department of Landscape (see photo, below left). 

Dr Ross Cameron is a plant scientist specialising in the use of ornamental landscape plants. 

Dr Eleanor Webster is an environmental scientist at the RHS and specialises in the role of green space in climate change adaptation and mitigation (see photo, below right). 

Andy ClaydenDr Eleanor Webster

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.