Rapidly rising temperatures have prompted Wakehurst, which describes itself as “Kew Gardens’ wild garden in the country”, to take drastic measures to future-proof its 535-acre site in Sussex.

Last year, he created a new American prairie lawn with 12 million seeds, 110 different plant species, and more than 50,000 live plants planted on six acres of landscape, and now the results are showing within a year.

Iain Parkinson, head of landscape and horticulture at Wakehurst, told the Guardian: “The reason for the desert was to think about the future, and this summer is a good example of how we think the future will be warmer and drier.”

“We want to create landscapes at Wakehurst that move away from the conventional form of gardening that requires lots of watering, weeding and mulching, and towards developing landscapes that are more resilient to a changing climate.

“These are landscapes made of living plants that are woven together and will adapt to the conditions and instead of surviving that summer, they’ll actually flourish because those are the conditions they’re more used to.”

Larry Wenner, an American horticulturist with experience in prairie restoration in the United States, is working as a consultant on the largest project at Wakehurst in the past decade.

However, while the plants, including small blue-stemmed grasses, pale purple coneflowers and rough burning stars, are naturally suited to hot climates, Parkinson said the dry summer has already slowed progress.

He said: “It’s a bit of a slow burn as it can take up to five years for viable plant communities to develop. We’re now in our third year… We were expecting to see a bit more diversity this year, we think the very hot and dry conditions have really delayed germination .

“It’s not that these seeds won’t germinate, but because the conditions are so dry, they’re sitting dormant. This means that the seed has either not germinated, or it has germinated and the seedlings are alive, but there is not enough water for them to flower above ground.

“We are not overly concerned, but it will take many years to find its balance. That being said, it already looks absolutely amazing.”

Pioneer plants like black-eyed Susans have already crossed over, creating a blaze of yellow flowers across the landscape. Over time, those plants will decline and grass will begin to appear.

However, horticulturists at Wakehurst are already seeing America’s field experiment as an opportunity to learn how the UK can adapt to drier and hotter summers.

“Big changes are happening in Wakehurst because we can’t pretend climate change isn’t happening,” Parkinson said. “We need to take action and conduct research that will inform our decisions moving forward.

“These [prairies] what we develop are really robust landscapes and we think that everyone in the UK will need to garden with progress. We cannot rely on watering everything to keep it alive; we will have to change our garden style and look at a wider palette of plants.

“Some trees are more vulnerable than others, such as shallow-rooted trees, and some of our collections are struggling. It’s not just hotter summers, we’re also seeing wetter, milder and windier winters. This is not right.”

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