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Responsible gardening

Posted 24/05/2012 by cgodfrey

The 2012 RHS Chelsea flower show promises to be as spectacular as ever, judging by the BBC’s preview coverage this week. Exhibitors appear to have pulled it off once again notwithstanding the unseasonal cold snap, torrential downpours throughout much of April and May – and not forgetting the gardener’s ultimate dread: a hose pipe ban in parts of the country.

Chelsea garden themes have always had a nod to environmental sustainability in recent years - plantings to nurture wildlife, use of recycled materials and so on. But this year’s show has apparently moved the idea even higher up the agenda, with water conservation unsurprisingly right at the forefront of several of the show gardens.

Most notable is a Beth Chatto-inspired garden incorporating water butts to collect rain water from roof tops – a massively under-utilised resource generally – together with a network of channels and sluice gates to transport the collected water to where it is needed.

Beth Chatto’s own garden in Colchester requires no watering at all; based on a dried up river bed, plants are judiciously selected for their ability to survive with only minimal levels of rainwater.

Other Chelsea gardens, meanwhile, feature climate protective green roofs typically covered in drought-tolerant succulents such as Sedum and mosses, or in one case – unthinkable at the country’s premier gardening show – by artificial turf. While its green credentials may be debatable, the big advantage of artificial turf of course is that it doesn’t need watering. And with space at a premium especially in cities like London, there were also several designs such as Diarmuid Gavin’s four-storey Magical Tower Garden.

It is easy to forget that, as gardeners, we are stewards of the land in just the same way as are the world’s farmers. As a Comment feature in the June issue of C&I magazine points out (2012, 6, 9), our choices about whether or not and which pesticides or other chemical products we apply in our gardens can have important consequences not only for our own little patch of land, but for the wildlife and much wider ecosystems that depend on them.

And with the world’s available land area for cultivation becoming ever more scarce, as Sir John Beddington pointed out at an SCI event on 16 May 2012 in London, our gardens are potentially also an increasingly precious resource for growing food. How sad that so many people are still choosing to cover them over in climate unfriendly concrete.

Cath O’Driscoll – Deputy editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    13/07/2012 10:58

    For 2 years now I have been campaigning to get lelisgation introduced concerning energy savings in the home without I have to admit much success although I have had some interest from DEFRA and newspapers.The point I am making here is this we are all aware that we need to make savings in the home for starters it confuses me then somewhat, that when I approach government departments with my energy saving idea which if implemented will reduce energy consumption quite considerably during cold weather months not just in one home but millions year in year out it is either ignored or pushed to another department.This proposal if implemented would save more energy in the home than all other home energy savings put together.Why is this proposal not acted on or at least put up for serious government consideration?(Please see my 360 for link)Add: = ^_^ = You miss the point entirely(Intentionally?)

  • Anonymous said:
    25/05/2012 09:19

    Having been a mainstream chemistry scientist for 35 yrs before redundancy I can wholeheartedly agree with the views of the article. Since it appears impossible for me to get a role back in science - due to the economic situation - I have become a professional gardener working in the beautiful gardens and vegetable plots of Kentwell Hall in Suffolk. Everything from vegetables to fruit to ivy (at Christmas) is used by humans or recycled back to the land. The Beth Chatto garden in Colchester is an inspiration to us all.

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