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The Beth Chatto Gardens and Affinity Water call for the introduction of a new water labelling scheme for garden plants

03 February 20

The Beth Chatto Gardens and Affinity Water call for the introduction of a new water labelling scheme for garden plants

Lord Deben

Affinity Water and The Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex, famous for its drought resistant garden, have joined forces to call for the introduction of a plant water labelling scheme.

In an exclusive #WhyNotWater podcast for Affinity Water, David Ward, the Garden and Nursery Director at the Gardens says they not only support Affinity Water’s #WhyNotWater campaign with its call to action for consumers to demand key changes to legislation and policy supported by government and manufacturers but he also additionally calls for plants to be given a drought resistant rating.

In the podcast, Mr Ward takes a 30 minute tour of the seven acre site and recounts its history as he walks and describes the philosophy that led Beth Chatto and her husband Andrew to design the spectacular grounds which rely on finding the ‘right plants for the right place’. The drought resistant garden was built on a former gravel car park.

Mr Ward says: “I absolutely support the four Affinity #WhyNotWater Asks. I also particularly support giving a drought resistant rating to plants and that is something we should explore further. Like a fridge with an energy rating, why not buy a plant with a drought rating. “A” is totally drought resistant “B” is not so resistant, and so on. A fifth Ask would be a good idea. People can come along here and see you can have a drought resistant garden looking good. If people come along here in a couple of months you will see lots of bulbs. There are bulbs in the woodland garden but there are lots of bulbs in the drought garden too, scillas, crocuses, all sorts of things and later on tulips. We’ve had this drought garden for nearly thirty years so it is achievable, it is possible.”

Jake Rigg Affinity Water’s Director of Corporate Affairs, said: “Even with the recent wet weather over the autumn and winter, the Climate Crisis is making periods of prolonged dry weather more intense in Southeast England in the long-term. It makes sense to ensure that the choices you make about what to plant in your garden are informed choices. That’s why we are teaming up with The Beth Chatto Gardens in Essex with a call to action for the introduction of a drought resistant rating for plants. We will certainly add this to our #WhyNotWater Asks. There are better choices available for gardeners than plants that need a lot of water.”

Mr Ward ends the podcast by giving gardener’s a top tip for 2020. “We all make mistakes, we still make mistakes. In this part of the garden we found plants that we thought would survive but that haven’t. With bulbs a good tip is not to plant all your bulbs in the ground in the autumn. Put them in pots and then plant them in the spring. They’ll root in the pots and then pop up. The reason we do that a lot here, is that you can see where to put the bulbs, in the autumn you can’t see where to put them and where the others are. In the spring, you can place them exactly where you want them and see when they’ll be in flower. Soil preparation and plant choice is important, even if you just dig the soil over so that young plants can get their roots into the soil. If you can add something to improve the soil whether it is sandy, gravel, or sticky clay, then compost will help to improve the soil and break up the structure. Try and provide the best you can.”

Mr Ward says gardeners should plant for the conditions of their soil, including drought. “There’s no need to plant those plants that require lots of water. Once you water a plant it will want more water, so we don’t feed those plants in the drought garden, we don’t water them. We want to grow them hard, starve them. We are here to help there is lots of information on the website and lots of books on the subject. There are possibilities for every situation in the garden which will reduce your water usage, save your water for your vegetables. There is no need to water an ornamental garden.”

Listen to the podcast here.

The Beth Chatto gardens are now run by her granddaughter Julia Boulton. They are located at Elmstead Market, in Essex. They have a mail order service. Find out more information about the gardens.

You can also find information on gardening tips on our website.

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