There are many conflicting and controversial theories as to why our seasons are so unpredictable these days. I am sure that human triggered climate change has as much to do with it as the basic evolution of the planet does. I have certainly noticed a marked change over the 15 years I have been working outside.
When I became a working gardener around the turn of the century we were experiencing long periods of drought. Consequently the planting palettes we worked with at the time were very Mediterranean and as the seasons also remained fairly mild, some more exotic plants were commonly used too. Over the years I have watched the winter cold spells both shrink and grow and shrink again, and I have watched drought turn to flood. Every year we watch groups of plants suffer and have had to try new plants and be more and more careful about what we use.
So where have we got to? Well its exciting in part, as we are thinking more laterally about our choices. Palettes have broadened sideways and we are looking at more indigenous plants as well as plants which tolerate both drought and flood. I'm not desperately sad to see less exotics (maybe its purely a fashion thing..) and Meditteranean plants have to be located carefully and replaced more frequently. New Zealand plants often do well, and there is a lot more varieties of plants coming over from Europe where new-wave perennials and natural swimming pools have been deeply researched for optimum success.
A lot more of us are thinking more like Noel Kingsbury in terms of combining and inter-planting particular species according to how well they establish or diminish over time, and looking to nature to find what works.
Call me a naturalist but I quite like to see indigenous plants growing in gardens as much as possible.
What is not exciting of course is the endless long, mild ..and often grey.. weather we have now. It demands further thinking on colours when selecting plants and hard surfaces, as the light plays very differently on everything on this damp little Isle compared to how it does anywhere with more present sunshine.
Most of us who work outside always end up wishing we lived much nearer the equator...
Mediterranean plants on higher ground combine well here with naturalistic planting more suited to our current climate. Hambledon garden by Rae Wilkinson
All images above are planting schemes by Rae Wilkinson. All rights reserved.