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Archive for March, 2012

I received an email yesterday from Landscape Juice about an appeal by some people in the Landscape industry to be exempt from the temporary hosepipe ban that comes into effect from 5th April.

The letter, from a garden designer, asks for special dispensation for landscapers and designers to be exempt from the hosepipe ban to help establish newly planted gardens and lawns. It has been suggested that anyone in agreement modifies the letter and sends it to their local water company.

I am fundamentally against this.  How can we, as industry professionals, set an example by trying to say that conserving water in a drought really shouldn’t apply to us or our clients – even if it is only short-term?  It is our responsibility to educate and advise not just to please.  Lifting the ban for our own professional gain and for that of our clients is so wrong.  There are plenty of ways that business can carry on during a hosepipe ban – making the most of the dry weather to do hard landscaping and preparation of beds in readiness for planting when there is no hosepipe ban looming.

Alternatively, install drip irrigation systems – these are exempt from the ban and take water directly to where it’s needed without wasting any on paths, fences and into the air.  Individual plants and small vegetable plots can be watered with a watering can (as long as it hasn’t been filled by a hose), water from water butts can be used.  Apparently we could all live off the water that falls off our roofs during the year – we just need to collect and re-use it.  I went to a talk by an irrigation company last year that was sobering to say the least – we were informed that if WWIII ever occurs it’s more than likely it will be over access to water – this is a serious issue, and should not be bypassed.

The point is, that by highlighting the issue to clients the message will be taken on board, at least in some form. Passing on this knowledge is far more important than the short-term gains of planting the garden immediately, so it’s ready for summer.

Thames Water take 70% of their water from rivers – I imagine if people saw a river in dire need of its water they might be less likely to turn on the hose.  I used a hose to water a newly planted tree last year – straight into a submerged pipe so that the water went to the roots where it’s needed…I forgot about it – remembering in the middle of the night and it made me feel sick that I had wasted so much water – you can’t forget to stop pouring a watering can.  Hoses just use more water, even when you don’t forget to turn them off.

We can move towards using drought tolerant plants without the garden looking like a desert and we can do very simple things to help conserve water – drenching pots before planting, digging organic matter into the soil and mulching to reduce evaporation as I said in my last post.  People follow examples and we owe it to the environment to set a good one.

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My goodness – drought, hosepipe bans, water shortage….sounds like doom and gloom for our beloved plots – or is it?

A few days ago I saw the first post on Twitter about a hosepipe ban and now there seem to be comments flying all over the place.  I was discussing the Sunday papers on BBC Radio Berkshire at the weekend and we very briefly mentioned the weather (so very English) and the lack of rain – with the presenter saying how much like a dust bath his garden was.  I quickly replied that you just need to plant the right plants – in no way meaning to be smug, but having only been involved in the industry for a couple of years – I have heard the argument for planting the right plants for the right conditions over and over, so it has always been on my agenda.  His reply was that he wasn’t sure what grew in the Sahara – implying that he didn’t think we’d like it in our gardens.  I didn’t get a chance to discuss the matter further, and we weren’t really there to talk about gardening anyway – but I was somewhat disappointed not to have been able to at least give a few ideas on growing drought resistant plants. Try typing ‘drought resistant plants’ into Google and look at the images – not a desert in sight.

Whilst designing a roof top garden last year for the RHS London Plant and Design Show, I researched using plants suitable for green roofs, as all my plants in the show garden had to be suitable to be grown in 10cm of soil. Taking advice from a green roof company and a well-respected nursery we came up with a remarkable variety of plants that would work.  I narrowed it down to what was looking good in February (see full plant list below) and then after the show re-homed nearly 1000 plants in our blank canvas of a garden.  The result  is that we have lots of ground cover plants that survive with no added water and are happy to self seed.  Because these were the first plants that we put in the garden I have used them as the basis for the rest of the planting, adding in other plants that will cope with dryer conditions – such as Lavender, Salvia and Achillea.  I always soak the pots before planting for at least 15 minutes and often poor water into the planting hole. I also hate throwing plants away and often plant things that look the worse for wear and more often than not they make a come back.  The one thing you don’t want to do is spend money and time on plants that then die as a result of not watering them, so I’m not saying to just pop them in the ground and leave them to it (although, that is the general way I garden) – but think carefully about what you are planting and see how you can minimise water use.  Adding organic matter to the soil and mulching with compost, gravel or bark will help retain water.  Also – drip irrigation systems are excluded from the ban and are not too expensive – have a look at Lia Leendertz post in the Telegraph Gardening .

I’m just finishing this as the weather is on, it;s due to rain on Saturday – let it rain first and then mulch!

Plant List: Sky Green Living @ RHS London Plant and Design Show 2010

Ajuga Catlins Giant, Anementhele lessoniana, Armeria maritima, Ballota pseudodictamnus, Carex Morrowii Variegata, Lamium ‘Beacon Silver’, Saxifrage umbrosa, Stachys byzantina, Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’

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