Will climate change affect your outdoor space? Gardeners’ World’s Arit Anderson shares 5 top tips

Fashion buyer-turned-garden designer, Arit Anderson, is focusing on how gardening is going to look in the future, as she reunites with the Gardeners’ World team for a new series.

Anderson is particularly interested in how climate change is going to affect gardens in the future. She reckons we could be planting spring bulbs deeper and later, while the whole gardening calendar could change to fit in with warmer temperatures earlier in the year. “Last year, we hardly had any frost, which means that the bug cycle also goes out of kilter, because more bugs survive the winter, while plants emerge earlier,” she says.

We may be planting bulbs later (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

And romantic, blousy blooms may become less popular if they can’t survive extreme weather, she predicts. “Last year, my peonies came out in May and then we had a massive downpour and they were gone,” Anderson recalls. “It’s not that you can’t have these pretty blooms, it’s that they may get ruined by the weather.”

Peonies may suffer in extreme weather. (Hannah Stephenson/PA)

Here, Anderson offers some top tips for anyone creating a new garden, and advises on how considering key elements – heat, water and soil – can help them adapt to climate change…

1. Be water wise

Do you really need that sprinkler? (Thinkstock/PA)

“We know that gone are the days when we can just blithely turn on the sprinkler on our lawn all day and night. That’s not sustainable and is not the right way of going forward in the future,” says Anderson. “We must make sure we have efficient irrigation systems, should we need them, but more importantly, looking to see that we can make plant choices in our gardens which can actually cope with the water levels in their particular area. We can start to look at plants which have come from the Mediterranean, like lavender and rosemary, which can cope with heat and a little bit less water.”

2. Opt for semi-hardy plants

Cannas may survive winter (Thinkstock/PA)

“As we are not getting spikes in extreme temperature fluctuations across the year, we can look towards more semi-hardy plants such as cordylines and cannas. In that respect, our choice of plants might widen.”

3. Beware of creating extra heat with hard landscaping

“When we’re designing our gardens, are we introducing more heat into the garden space for those hotter, more extreme moments? For example, we are trending at the moment towards artificial lawns, which can have a place because you don’t need to irrigate them or put fertilisers on them. Obviously, there’s an argument in terms of how they are manufactured, but in the right position, they can sometimes work. However, artificial lawns get hot, as do a lot of the composites which are coming out now,” says Anderson.

“People are liking artificial wood composite decking, which gets extremely warm and increases the temperature in the garden, which gives you a different micro-climate. You need to be aware of the elements that you put into your space. If you are creating more heat, there’s more evaporation of water, which can be detrimental to the type of planting that you have.”

4. Consider drainage issues

Create a planting pocket between hard landscaping (RHS/PA)

“I love a lawn and all the romance it brings, but the reality is, in a space like mine – which is not huge – to keep on top of that lawn and not water it in the summer isn’t easy. In a smaller garden, having gravel or lawn alternatives, such as small ground cover plants, is perfectly acceptable as long as you are allowing the water to run off, because when we get the deluge of water, we need to ensure that it can permeate somewhere,” says Anderson. “When people have their front gardens hard-paved, the water’s not going anywhere. We just have to be more aware is that we are going to be subjected to extremes of weather, extremely hot and extremely wet, and we have to have enough management within that to cope with those extremes.”

She suggests gardeners who want to hard-pave areas include planting pockets in their designs, to give permeability, so the water can be taken up by the plants, and recommends a ratio of soft to hard landscaping of at least 50:50, and that permeable products, not just solid paving, are used if possible.

5. Look after your soil to reduce its carbon footprint

Take care of your soil (Thinkstock/PA)

Being able to keep as much carbon in the soil, so it is not released into the atmosphere, will help put the brakes on climate change, she says. “The plants we have in the soil keep carbon in the ground, and take carbon-dioxide out of the atmosphere. We need to look after the soil, keeping it as healthy as you can and putting organic matter back into it, and treating it as something very precious.”

Gardeners’ World returns to BBC Two on Friday, March 9.

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