July 28, 2009
You don’t need to be a follower of Nigel Lawson or Ian Plimer on the question of climate change to demand a rather more rigorous use of evidence. Gardeners are assumed to be soft in the head. An editorial in this month’s The Garden is typical of the confusion that is served to us as gospel. The headline is ‘Climate change may finish Cottage Gardens’. It then quotes an official from the Met Office saying ‘It is quite possible our gardens will look really different in 20, or certainly 50, years from now.’ It certainly is.
The report then shifts to 70 years hence, ’in 2080’, when ‘if no steps are taken to curb greenhouse gas emission,’ average summer temperatures are ‘likely to rise more than 4° C’. According to Hilary Benn, the heatwave in 2003 saw ‘average daily summer temperatures 2° C above average,’ ’estimated to have caused an extra 35,000 deaths in northern Europe’. Clive Lane, of the Cottage Garden Society, ‘has already seen …… primulas and violets struggling to survive.’ At Rosemoor Chris Bailes is happy to see Tetrapanax payrifera thriving, ‘though Rosemoor is in a frost pocket’. Same here. If more evidence of global warming were needed, the exciting new feature at Newby, well north of York, is an avenue of olive trees. My doubts about this are more aesthetic than meteorological.
We have been lucky, over the past 26 years (since the winter of 1982/83 in fact) to have got away with growing plants traditionally labelled borderline for hardiness. Last winter was too cold for a few. But to extrapolate from gardeners’ experiences to global trends is absurd, and the R.H.S. should know better.