On Tuesday 18th April we were joined by Darren Lerigo. Darren is a gardener who specialises in topiary and pruning but today he had come to talk to us about water conservation and how to cope with and manage the extremes of too much rain and not enough rain. In recent years we have experienced both. In developing countries where there is more emphasis on growing crops much more water is used for irrigation than here in the UK. In fact, Darren told us that 92% of the water we use in this country is for cooling power plants and very little is used for irrigation …
Darren started his talk by giving us a whistle stop tour of garden design through the ages. The first gardens were built near water and this precious resource was used to cool the air in hot countries. It was calming and still as in the paradise gardens unlike the fountains and huge cascades which, at a later stage, became a feature of large country estates in England. More naturalistic areas of water followed and contemporary design now features plants that naturally enjoy water. Darren went on to talk about the next stage in garden design being “Rain gardens”. Here water is captured at source when it rains and is stored for later use on site. Darren mentioned, green roofs, bio -retention planters, swales – flat bottomed ditches or gutters as a way of transporting water to where it is needed, sunken borders and the importance of good soil structure. I was particularly taken with the idea of terracotta pots filled with water and sunk into the ground so that the water seeps out and gets to the roots of plants. We are all aware that excessive sprinkling of the surface of lawns and borders is a mistake and that getting water down to the roots of plants is more effective. Get plants established early on so that they can look after themselves should be our mantra.
Attention was then turned to the huge amounts of rain and flooding which appear to be happening more frequently. Bare uplands lead to fast run off when rain fall is high. Darren discussed the importance of soft defences in terms of vegetation to slow the water down. Encouraging water to meander to reduce flooding – beavers are also very helpful in using vegetation to slow water down. Darren’s top tips were to water in the morning, use shrubs and trees as wind breaks to stop gardens drying out, mulch, buy locally produced plants, use grey water and build a rain garden. During his talk, Darren mentioned many plants which will tolerate water logged ground and those which will tolerate drought. We understand that he will send us a list of such plants. There were lots of questions and comments from the audience and the attendees were in agreement that this had been an excellent, common sense talk that had given us inspiration for helping us to combat the effects of extreme weathers.
After the talk Janet Bird’s daughter Susan was presented with an award from the RHS by the BGA recognising the important part that her mother had played over many years in her support of and contribution to Biddenham Gardeners’ Association
[Apologies for the quality of these two images/RB]