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Our Emerald Isle could change as warmer climate brings desert plants

Climate change could threaten traditional garden features from lupins to lawns, it was warned, as an exhibition celebrating centuries of horticultural heritage was launched.

According to the climate projections, a 2C rise in temperatures could make southern Irish and English climates similar to south-west France, while a 4C rise could expose gardens to conditions more like south-west Portugal.

Herbaceous borders and water-loving country garden plants, from foxgloves to delphiniums, could struggle in hotter, drier summers, while milder, wetter winters could threaten spring bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths.

But plants from hotter climates such as passion flowers and cacti would thrive in warmer temperatures. Trees such beeches and chestnuts could be hit by drier conditions, and traditional orchards could be replaced by nectarines, oranges or even bananas as Ireland and the UK warm up.

Lawns will vanish -- and be replaced by gravel -- if we head towards temperature rises of 4C, while water features will become a thing of the past.

The study, organised by Britain's National Trust, hopes the touring exhibition will provide a "wake-up call" over the possible impact of temperature rises on horticulture

The changes to how gardens might look in the future are being highlighted in a series of paintings by artist Rob Collins, which form part of the A Plant in Time exhibition.

Celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh, who is backing the initiative said: "The historic plant collections in National Trust gardens are the horticultural equivalent of the collections in our galleries and museums."

Mike Calnan of the National Trust said there was a great awareness of the potential impact of global warming on polar bears, ice sheets and ice caps.

"This exhibition is a gentle reminder that this amazing heritage here in the Trust is equally under threat," he added.