Whole rhubarb crop moves north to Salford’s RHS Garden Bridgewater to combat climate change in south

An entire collection of rhubarb plants have been painstakingly moved to the north because climate change 'extremes' have made it impossible for it to thrive down south.

The Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) collection used to live at RHS Wisley in Surrey, but increasingly hotter temperatures has made it too dry and too hot for them to grow.

Instead it has now been moved to a new home in Salford, at RHS Bridgewater.

"Managing the collection there [in Wisley] was becoming more and more difficult with climate change," says Bridgewater's Curator Marcus Chilton-Jones.

"They get very long, hot, dry summers. The soil dries out a lot and they get quite low rainfall.

"So at Wisely they'll get something like 70cm across the year on average, whereas here [in Salford] we get an over a metre.

The RHS rhubarb collection has been moved from Wisley in Surrey to RHS Bridgewater in Salford because of climate change Credit: ITV News

"But it's not just the amount of rain that we got here that's higher. It's the distribution of the rainfall patterns.

"So across the year, we'll get more regularity of rain. Now in terms of growing a big hungry crop like rhubarb that likes a lot of water, it's a win win for us whereas down there it was meaning they had to add a lot of extra irrigation to these plants. It was less sustainable."

Climate change is affecting plant growth so much, the RHS collection of gooseberries and blackcurrants will also be moved up north to the newest RHS garden over the coming months for the same reason.

"You're getting these more extreme events occurring more frequently," Marcus added.

"And as a result of that, it's better to move plants around to places that they'll be able to better cope with those extremes."

Credit: ITV News

Climate change is making gardening trickier and more unpredictable.

Extremes of weather are causing seasons to become confused and shorter, some plants are flowering earlier, while others are failing to thrive.

But there is a lot we can learn from a place like RHS Bridgewater, where they are finding ways to mitigate the changing climate.

And it is that adaptation to the changing climate that we're all being urged to follow.

This is part of the COP26 Garden at RHS Bridgewater, showing how gardens can adapt to the change in climate Credit: ITV News

Our gardens and the plants we use, can play an important part in combatting the climate crisis.

Rosie Naylor is a community Outreach Coordinator at Bridgewater and has been involved in curating an exhibition alongside a group of local young people, which is currently being displayed at Bridgewater.

"In terms of looking at solutions that will support us to be able to manage our rainfall," Rosie says. "We looked at rain gardens, which are designed to soak up water."

"And particularly in cities because the water is lost so quickly - the impermeable surfaces, all of our concrete, it doesn't really provide many opportunities for water to be captured.

"So if we can be thinking about any small patch that we can kind of look at for capturing that water and growing plants, ultimately that's also going to help with our wellbeing, our ability to cope with these situations."

Credit: ITV News

So what are the other things we can all do in our own gardens to help combat climate change?

"One of the best things that you can obviously do in any garden, even the smallest ones, is have a small tree." says Marcus.

"You know, it's going to cool down the temperatures in that space. When when it gets really, really hot, it's going to provide you with shade."

"It's kicking out some oxygen. It's taking in carbon dioxide. So the more plants that you can fill in the garden in terms of trees, or in terms of food that you're growing, perhaps in pots, the better for you, but also for the environment and for humankind in general."

Credit: ITV News

But that is not the only advice, and, at Bridgewater there is a handy example of just how we can alter our own gardens in light of the changing climate.

A special garden, designed for COP26, takes you through a journey from where we are now - to a garden of the future.

The last few weeks of searing heat and torrential downpours have already given us a window into the future.

But here at Bridgewater the message is one of hope, that we can actually do our bit to mitigate the climate crisis.

A green future is possible, all it needs is some green fingers.

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