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.


Seminar On Topiary Composition

organic topiary blob autumn

Topiary Composition and design is a major part of my work – which is why I have created an online seminar for keen gardeners and creatives to learn how to compose a piece of topiary. There are several dates available so please head here to buy a ticket. The seminar lasts two hours (including q and a) and will explore the process needed to look at a shrub or hedge and work out what you can design from it. These principles have been learnt the hard way – through mentoring, experimenting and years of practise. Hopefully, it will help you shortcut …



Brought By Bike – Topiary Making

Brought By Bike is an excellent website I found last month, where businesses offer their services by (of course) bicycle. Modern Mint and my topiary work is now live on the site offering my topiary services, via bike, to the following two postcodes – CM1 CM2 Now I can imagine I will need to borrow a ladder should anyone have a larger shrub, but most town gardens in the Chelmsford area have a need not just for privacy but to let light into the house… so a balance must be struck when shaping hedges and shrubs to cover both needs. …



Transforming Topiary

topiary transforming

Transforming Topiary – a video made for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society by Charlotte Molesworth and I, in her garden. We take a dog topiary and work out how to update it, turning it into a bird. Worth a watch I think, and hopefully useful to you! You can see more of my clipping on the topiary page. Or read my Spring 2021 Topiary Provocation here.