Diluted – A New Talk about Water

‘Diluted’, our new garden talk about the gardener and their relationship to water, will be presented for the first time this week at Shropshire Organic Gardeners.

We have learnt a huge amount, studied many books and asked lots of questions in order to find out how we use water. Below is a brief summary of what we know…

4 Ways We Use Water in the Garden

  1. To water the lawn, the flowers and the vegetables
  2. To clean the dog, the car, the greenhouse and the patio
  3. To fill up the paddling pool or the super soaker water guns when playing with children
  4. To provide a home for fish, aquatic plants or a habitat for water-loving wildlife

These are really simple ideas. What it tells us is that because water is always available, we don’t have to worry very much how we use it. Turn the tap and all that we need is right there.

This happened in other cultures too, the ones who were powerful and historically important – for example the Persians, the Romans, the Mayans, the Incas – they were all able to harvest water, store it, transport it and then use it well. By using it well, we mean they could use it to grow enough food to eat…

Which says something about the importance of water to a society.

7 Uses for Water in Society

  1. Agricultural use – 70% of a total countries water use can be found in growing food in countries in Asia, Africa and South America.
  2. Hydropower.
  3. Power plant cooling – the % of water use to cool a power plant in Europe exceeds that used in agriculture. This tells us our water needs can be met by importing water from somewhere else. If we lost this source of water, we may end up needing to divert it from cooling a power station and use it on our crops…
  4. Domestic use – hardly dominates when compared to cooling power plants and growing food. Until you go to a hot, wealthy country that is, and realise most of the water they use is for domestic purposes – and incredibly extravagant too…
  5. Ecosystem use – this is a service provided by landscapes such as wetlands, which attenuates river flows and allows water to percolate into the ground.
  6. Gardening – as mentioned above we use it for watering plants and washing the dog. But that is about it!
  7. Fluvial use – this is for swimming pools, boating lakes, fishing, fountains in parks…

We found it amazing to discover how varied our water use is in the UK, considering how little we use it for anything of real importance in our gardens. If we don’t grow vegetables (and we should… don’t even think lack of space is a problem) nor bother to water the lawn (why would we? Grass quickly recovers) we may never need to turn on a tap.

But not worrying about the effects of drought on a plant, or bothering to grow vegetables, does leave us with one more problem with water in the garden – what if we have too much of it?

How To Stop Flooding

The Government recommends adding storm barriers to your doors and windows, moving electric sockets higher up the walls, using waterproof plaster and making sure your floor is well-built and solid.

Then they suggest taking out better insurance.

We don’t buy into that though. Our research for Diluted has left us with some fantastic garden ideas to try… and they are guaranteed to be far more use than the Government proposals…

7 Ways To Stop Flooding as a Gardener

When you know your ground is waterlogged, your house sits on a floodplain and you can see a storm is coming, you will have a far better chance of keeping the water out if you have done the following:

  1. Built your driveway of permeable paving – the water can just seep right through into the ground.
  2. Added a green roof to your home – this stops the precipitation at source, the easiest way to deal with it. Looks great as well when in flower!
  3. Harvested rainwater – you have a water butt right? Of course you have! It may not look pretty but it stops the water heading into drains that don’t carry it away fast enough…
  4. Have a pond in the lowest part of your garden. With a boggy area next to it – this will help store the water away from your house and, because it is planted with species relevant to these soggy conditions, they will thrive rather than be damaged. Smart move…
  5. Bioretention planter – this is simply a lovely planter at the bottom of a downspout that has been waterproofed and planted with flowers that enjoy a good soak. Each time it rains the water collected from the roof goes into the planter and waters the plants.
  6. Rain garden near the patio – an excavated bed that allows itself to fill with water during storms, once again planted with species who don’t mind an occasionally moist bottom. Try plants from the daisy family as a starter tip…
  7. Helped restore riparian woodland – these are the trees that make their home on riverbanks, their deep roots helping to stop the soil eroding, providing broken branches and dead bits of wood that get caught along the bends in the rivers and so form damns that slow the water flow… and best of all, these woodlands slow run-off and help the water to percolate into the soil far better than any pavement filled city could. You have helped volunteer at your local wildlife trust to do this, haven’t you?

Water plays a massive part in our landscape, our gardens and our lives – the fear of not having it, the chaos of having too much of it – deserves more of our time and attention.

We need to tell ourselves a new story about water – not that we are British, and rain and water is something we get everyday…

…  but that we are a member of this planet, that water is a scarce resource for some, while being a tremendous monster for another, and we must recognise that how we use it over the next few years will have as big an impact on our lives as climate change or peak oil.

If you want to book our new talk about water, ‘Diluted’, please contact us now for dates and prices.


Guanock House – Trainee Topiary Artist Needed

guanock 1

Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …



Topiary In The Snow

Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture)  helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.


Topiary Teaching For You

Topiary Teaching

I am an experienced teacher of topiary and pruning, running workshops in the topiary garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent, as well as for The English Gardening School and The European Boxwood And Topiary Society. So if you are a keen gardener, a garden club, a group of friends who want to know more or even an absolute beginner who has been bitten by the gardening bug, then do contact me about what you might like to learn. What a laugh we are having in this workshop session I ran for a group of friends in Essex… Many people employ …