Global warming and cultivation of the grape vine in England

When John Harvey became President of the Garden History Society, in 1984, the great medieval historian suggested bringing back the grape vine as an ornamental plant. He explained that: ‘From very early times until the eighteenth century the vine was one of our chief garden plants, quite apart from attempts to make wine in England or to obtain dessert grapes – though both these enterprises had considerable success. As a climber, against walls or used to cover arbours and tunnels, the vine is outstandingly beautiful and, in several varieties, completely hardy in most of Britain. This is brought home to us when we realize that one of the largest and oldest vines ever grown was in the open air in the High Street of Northallerton, surely one of the coldest and draughtiest towns in England. The grape-vine was, and could be again, one of the greatest beauties of our gardens.’ (Journal of the Garden History Society, Spring 1984, p.5). The seemingly ever-warmer summers with which Global Warming threatens to bless England reinforces Harvey’s suggestion: Bring Back The Grape Vine.
The vine was probably introduced to England by the Romans and the image (courtesy Gauis Caecilius) is of a vine pergola at Fisbourne Roman Palace.

7 thoughts on “Global warming and cultivation of the grape vine in England

  1. Thomas Mickey

    Vines in America were much more popular as decorative plants for the home landscape in the 19th century than today. The Cornell horticulturalist Bailey in his Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (1901) first says they are “excellent ornamental plants when it is desired to cover arbors, porches, or trees.” Then a few paragraphs later writes that the popular interest in them is however primarily pomological. So the wine industry of California and New York, and now, many other states around the country took off.

  2. Lara Hurley

    We used to have a beautiful vine in Edinburgh (in a conservatory) and I think that they will become more popular again. The leaves for cookery and the grapes for vinegar (sorry, wine) as well as their beautiful autumn colour are all superb features.

  3. christine

    I wonder whether there will be a stable temperature period of warmth in Edinburgh for you to enjoy your vines. Or whether the temperature will continue to climb making enjoyment of the outdoors not so pleasant even in Edinburgh?

    Knowing the answer to this question will ensure the best investment decision in viticulture.

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    I saw both vines and mulberries growing near Edinburgh this summer. But their fruits needed some global warming to ripen. Scotland’s North Sea Coast could become the new Costa Brava and the present Costa Brava could become the new Skeleton Coast!

  5. Christine

    Adam Smith in ‘The Wealth of Nations’ had a little to say about the cultivation of vines in Scotland:

    “By the means of glasses, hotbeds and hotwalls, very good grapes can be raised in Scotland, and a very good wine too can be made from them at about thirty times the expense for which an at least equally good [wine] can be bought from foreign countries. Would it be a reasonable law to prohibit the importation of all foreign wines, merely to encourage the making of claret and burgandy in Scotland?”

    He goes on to say:

    “…whether the advantages one country has over another, be natural or acquired, is in this respect of no consequence. As long as the one country has those advantages, and the other wants them, it will always be more advantageous for the latter, rather to buy of the former than make.”

    I suppose this means that Scotland is gaining the advantage in global warming?

  6. Tom Turner Post author

    The grapes I saw (in the garden of Culross Palace) were but 24 miles from Adam Smith’s hometown (Kirkaldy) and I am confident the great man would have been delighted to revise his opinions in the warmth of global warming. But I am not so sure. The Fife Coast (known as the fringe of gold on a beggar’s mantle) may become a new Côte d’Azur but an advantage? – those who love quietness may have to move to Caithness.


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