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Flowers for the future

How might your garden adapt to climate change?

Walk in the park or look out of your bedroom window and chances are you’ll see a garden growing. These special patches of paradise are an ecosystem on our doorsteps. They are home to bugs, birds, and mammals and the plants they depend on. You might even be lucky enough to find a slimy amphibian or a scaly reptile there.

But just like you, plants need water to survive. If the climate is too hot, water evaporates, it turns from liquid into gas - water vapour. If the climate is too cold, water freezes, it turns from liquid into solid – ice.

So how will our gardens look as the climate changes?

As plant species have evolved they have adapted to the different climate conditions that they grow in.

Adapting to change

Have a look at the plants below to identify the adaptations you mostly commonly find in the different climates.

Different plants have also adapted to live in the shade or the sunlight and to attract or repel the interest of animals.

Dry conditions plant – these plants have really thick skin that can expand to store water. The thick skin prevents them loosing the water they have through transpiration. They can expand to store as much water as possible when it does rain. This helps them survive during dry times.  

Cold conditions plant – the plant prevents the water in its leaves from freezing and causing damage by rolling them up. This makes them look like needles!

Wet conditions plant – broad leaves shelter the plant from the rain and prevent the roots from getting water logged. 


Hot conditions plant – a waxy surface prevents excessive transpiration - evaporation of water from the plant leaves.

What grows where?

Click on the activity below to find out more about the climate in these four parts of the world.

In the activity you can:

  • Look at climate graphs* to decide what climate belongs to which place.

  • Match the correct description of the climate with the country and the type of biome - ecosystems that extend over large geographical areas - that exists there.

  • See if you can tell which plants grow where

*the climate data is based on monthly averages for the 30 year period 1971 – 2000 from the World Meteorological Organisation

Drawing on your knowledge

Imagine you are a plant growing in one of the countries you investigated in What grows where. How would you adapt to the climate conditions you will be living in?

Draw a picture of what you imagine you should look like and annotate your picture to explain how your adaptations will make you successful.

How does your garden grow?

Water is essential for plants to grow. The soil acts like a sponge holding onto the water and letting the excess drain away. When it doesn’t rain for a while the top layer of soil will dry as the water evaporates. Sometimes if you dig down just a few centimetres you can find moist soil.

The amount of water needed to make the soil moist again is called the soil moisture deficit. Some plants can survive a larger soil moisture deficit than others. Plants that can cope with a higher soil moisture deficit will survive best if there isn’t rain for a while. Can you find out:

  • Which plants need the most watering?

  • Which plants need the least watering?

  • Does the height of the plant make a difference?

These images show what deficit a plant can survive before watering:

Established trees and Shrubs

Young trees and shrubs

Herbaceous perennials

Perennials and bedding plants

Fruit trees


To understand more about different types of plants, go to the BBC’s gardening website.

Design a garden for the future

Gardeners often water their gardens in spring and summer to help the plants grow and make the garden look beautiful. But water is also essential for human life and wildlife. As the climate changes we could see less rain falling in the UK, but more falling in winter and less in the summer. The lowest rainfall and the highest temperatures may be in south east England. This means gardeners and wildlife could end up competing for our scarce water reserves.

There are two ways we could avoid this happening: 
1.Reduce the demand for water by growing plants adapted to drier climates
2.Increase the supply of water by saving and recycling water in the garden

Geographers are always looking for the most sustainable solution to a problem. Your job is to design the most sustainable future garden. You only have a budget of £1000!

Step 1: Research the options

Work in pairs or groups. Choose one option each to investigate.

Find out:

  • How using this option will help your garden grow even if the climate gets drier.

  • What you can do to make sure your garden always looks great.

  • What problems you might encounter.

Step 2: Design your garden

Together, design a garden for the future using the information from your investigation.

You will need to decide:

  • How big your garden is

  • Who your garden will be used by (don’t forget to think about wildlife)

  • What you want to grow

  • Where you want plants and features to be placed

  • Costs of plants and features

  • Remember paving over areas reduces the amount of rainfall that your garden can absorb

Download a design template 

Step 3: Prepare a presentation of your design.

Make sure that you clearly identify:

  • Why a new type of garden is necessary - what is happening to our climate? Gather data from other areas of this website

  • How you designed your garden

  • What you want it to be like

  • How you want it to be managed

Download more information on which plants may suffer and which plants will be easier to grow as temperatures increase and rainfall becomes less, but more intense. Use the links below for further research.


See how others have designed green gardens

Royal Horticultural Society website

Plants and climate change in the UK, from a leading conservation society

Environmentally friendly gardening catalogue

Stand up and deliver

Present your design to the rest of the class and to your teacher. You will be judged on how sustainable your garden is and how well you prove this in your design and presentation. You can download an evaluation grid which uses the following points to judge the presentations.

  • Does it have a strong visual impact?

  • Is it under budget?

  • Are there new and exciting ideas?

  • What do you think of the group’s presentation skills – use of powerpoint or other visual aids?

  • How does the group present as at team and how did they show they worked as a group?

  • Do you think the group showed an understanding of climate change with the plants and features that were used?