Three things to know about the Cambridge climate - and plants that love it!

As resident horticulturalists – with 30 years experience working in Cambridgeshire and the surrounding regions – we've come to understand and love its challenging climate and soil PH. Here’s what we’ve learnt...

1. Cambridge is one of the driest regions in Britain

With is continental-style climate; the region has lower than average rainfall. At Cambridge University Botanic Garden the 30-year average annual rainfall from 1970 to 2000 was recorded as 577mmm, while Kew Gardens by comparison recorded 629mm. Some years, the region’s rainfall has fallen into the semi-arid category with less than 500mm per year.

How to garden: Work in lots of organic matter and mulch around plant bases to keep in moisture and trap nutrients that might otherwise wash out. Dig deep holes when planting, and add lots of compost to the base of the hole.

What to plant: Bearded iris, stachys, foxtail lilies, lavender, sedum, knautia.

 Knautia is perfect for Cambridgeshire's dry conditions

Knautia is perfect for Cambridgeshire's dry conditions

2. It can be warmer than London

Gardens can often bake in Cambridge. The highs of the region can sometimes exceed the capital thanks to its low-lying easterly position. The maximum average for Cambridgeshire has been recorded as 22°C in July and 6°C in January.

How to garden: Go for greys that reflect the rays, keep the weeds down, plant ground cover and create shade. Find more tips in our Drought blog here.

What to plant: Eryngiums, agapanthus, globe artichokes, erigeron.

 Globe artichokes can withstand the hot summer temperatures in Cambridge

Globe artichokes can withstand the hot summer temperatures in Cambridge

3. The soil can be easier to cultivate

The soils of the Botanic Garden are silts and sands derived from the flood plain of the River Cam, and throughout most of Cambridge the earth is alkaline derived from chalk and limestone. While this kind of soil can often be less fertile, the benefits are it is free draining, rarely floods, easy to work and warms up more quickly in the spring – great for some early plantings.  

How to garden: Dig in organic matter and apply fertiliser where possible to increase nutrients. Green manures can help fix nitrogen, which is good in areas where you plan to grow vegetables.

What to plant: Mediterranean and prairie plants grow well. Try tryphacelia, lilly of the valley, Jacob’s ladder, lavender, honeysuckle, spindle and lilac. There's also lots of trees that favour the alkaline soil too, including the Wild Cherry – read more here.

 Lavender can tolerate our alkaline soil

Lavender can tolerate our alkaline soil


Learn from the experts

Despite its climatic challenges, Cambridge can boast some of the finest gardens in the UK. Visiting these gardens and taking notes is great way to learn which plants and planting techniques are best for this region. Here are some of our favourite gardens:

Angelsey Abbey

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Chippenham Park Gardens

Elton Hall

Peckover House

Greenknowe

Wimpole Estate

We can offer expert advice and perfect planting schemes for the location and climate. Book a consultation via rob@abbotswoodgardendesign.co.uk