Impossible Plants AKA The 'difficult' 2nd prediction post
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Following on from my first prediction on what 2020 will bring, here, in my second crystal ball gaze I offer another glimpse of the future.
I predict that...
2020 will be the first year where we have to really think about how we approach plants and planting in the future on a national scale.
If my first prediction post was one of optimism, brace yourselves as this is less cheery. If 2019 has taught us anything and let’s face it, it probably hasn’t in many ways; it should have taught us that climate change is happening and indeed will happen pretty much because we’ve ruined things for ourselves already.
While the following generations will rightly be able to scream vitriol at us for being the last of the planet destroyers, they will also have to consider how they garden and approach horticulture and agriculture very differently to us now.
‘Global Warming’ is a misnomer as it suggests that warmth is the only change here. ‘Global Weather Turbulence’ would be a far more apt, if less catchy, name. The UK is likely to experience warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers in general as the planet heats up, but instability of weather will be the main issue with our overall climate.
Now, I don’t know of any plants that like to be cold and wet as well as hot and dry. Even the Fake Plastic Trees (recycled plastic, of course) that Radiohead sang about would likely melt in the hot dry summers of our imminent future. Perhaps I am missing something, but the range of temperature and humidity/rainfall change will just be too much for most plants to tolerate. Imagine botanical gardens with glasshouses used to chill spaces for plants to grow rather than heat them! This could be our future in 20-30 years.
The consequence of this change will require a radically different approach to plant selection and application. We will have to completely rethink our gardens and very sadly a large percentage of our native flora will likely not do well in this changed environment.
Friends in Canada and Scandinavia are used to hot, if short summers and cold, often protracted winters with both being generally either dry heat or dry cold. Many plants can take this and those that can’t (often recognisable, hardy plants in the UK) are grown as bedding plants with use during the growing season even if there is no hope of them making it through the winter.
I can see this become an approach to plant use in our future, though not as early as 2020.
Next year, I expect professionals designing large landscape projects to approach planting design with a greater focus on seasonal flooding. Resilient tree and shrubs plantings, more seasonal flood defences and groundscaping to accommodate seasonal ponds, culverts, surface drainage and redirect water flow.
From here, artistry in the creation of rain gardens and seasonally adaptive landscapes will hopefully grow and will ultimately filter down to garden level.
Image: Rain Garden (c) Seattle Parks & Recreation (unedited) https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattleparks/15105699074
It’s bleak and hopefully we can mitigate much of the damage we have caused, but we must think with our future in mind. Over the last decade we have had multiple ‘once in a hundred years’ floods in the UK with tragic loss of life and damage to property. We need to address this quickly.
Image: Mat Fascione / More flooding / CC BY-SA 2.0
I’ll make sure my next prediction is happier, maybe even pithy in its lightheartedness. In the meantime, here is a picture of a kitten to soften the blow of this post.