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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Exotic planting scheme stepped up
By Jane Mower
BBC News, London

The Mediterranean Garden, Regent's Park
The Mediterranean Garden in Regent's Park has flourished

As London temperatures continue to rise, so too do the number of exotic plants springing up in the streets.

Over the last 10 years olive trees have become a familiar sight outside cafes and restaurants and palm trees have flourished in some areas of the city.

Now Westminster Council is expanding its planting programme to "reflect the changing weather".

Already this year the UK has experienced the warmest January since 1916, the wettest February in the south-east since 1990 and one of the driest Aprils on record.

In addition the UK's 10 hottest years on record have occurred in the last 12 years.

Diverse species

The council plans to build on its selection of exotic trees and shrubs, which are normally associated with the Mediterranean.

Already there is a large concentration of exotic trees on the Marble Arch traffic island and olive and palm trees have flourished in Connaught Square and Hyde Park Square.

The council's arboriculture manager Paul Akers said: "The milder climate has been especially beneficial to palm and olive trees in Westminster.

"We are diversifying our range of species even further to reflect the warmer weather as some trees do struggle in the heat."

Other exotic species which have been planted in Westminster include Gingko, originally from China, Chinese Privets and False Acacias.

We are having to deal with extremes and new records every month so no-one knows with any certainty what the future holds
Mark Wasilewski

However, in London's Royal Parks a more cautious attitude towards the extremes of weather is being adopted.

Manager of St James's Park and The Green Park Mark Wasilewski said while the changing seasons had not gone unnoticed a radical overhaul of their planting was not planned.

"It is an exciting time as it is giving us an opportunity to look at things differently and try new things out," he said.

But while plants in Regent's Park's Mediterranean Garden had "coped admirably" he said they were not about to rip everything out and start again.

New boundaries

"We are having to deal with extremes and new records every month so no-one knows with any certainty what the future holds."

Mr Wasilewski said they were looking at more drought-resistant plants and trees for the parks.

He said many of the 90 or so trees lost in the January gales were traditional oak and London plane trees which were likely to be replaced with some varieties of Beech, Robinia and Gleditsia.

"We need to be diverse but we will never put all our eggs in one basket.

"Gardening is always setting new parameters, setting new boundaries, the changes are something that would have happened anyway, climate change just means things are happening at a faster rate.

"We should be working with it rather than against it."

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