Vines growing in Scotland, olive trees in England and longer, dryer summers were among the long-term predictions in a landmark report from the Royal Horticultural Society 11 years ago based on work at the university.
Now scientists are conducting the biggest survey of its kind to find how gardeners are responding to climate change in Britain, which has been dominated in recent years by cold spells in winter, extended periods of drought, record rainfall and flooding.
The new survey, again commissioned by the RHS, follows on from the 2002 report ‘Gardening in a Global Greenhouse’. Since then, our understanding of how climate change is affecting Britain has developed considerably.
Dr Claudia Bernardini, a climate change plant scientist at university’s department of agriculture, said: “Over the past three winters many optimistic gardeners have seen borderline hardy plants such as the Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis), Soft tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica) and Hardy banana (Musa basjoo) killed by severe frosts and snow. Yet, despite this, climate models continue to predict a warming of the climate and we are told to prepare for much hotter summers in the medium term.
“The Royal Horticultural Society with the University of Reading are now launching a survey to better understand how individual gardeners are reacting to these difficult growing seasons and to discover whether they have been provided with the knowledge they need to plan their gardening for the future.
“The latest projections indicate that the climate is likely to affect gardens and gardening in a significantly different way than that predicted in 2002.”
The results of the survey will help researchers understand the perceived effects of climate change and the individual’s response to those changes. The results will be used alongside the latest climate models to produce a new report to support British gardeners and the horticulture industry.
Dr Bernardini added: “Whether you are a keen gardener or new to gardening, whether you visit parks and public gardens regularly or just occasionally, we would like to hear your view and personal experience of the effects of a changing climate.”
The online survey is available here.