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Hertfordshire AL10 9EZ
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28 March 23
Affinity Water is advising gardeners to think carefully about what they plant this Spring as the UK experiences hotter dry summers and colder winters.
As gardeners get busy with their trowels and spades a new more traditional flavour to Spring planting could well help their flower beds, trees and bushes to survive what is predicted to be another dry hot summer.
In a new podcast Affinity Water takes a tour of Maydencroft Manor, in Hitchin, Hertfordshire to ask its expert landscape gardeners Jon Collins, Head of Consultancy and Lottie Miles, a Senior Landscape Consultant, what their planting recommendations are, and how we can all be more mindful of biodiversity and the environment whatever size garden we may have.
Maydencroft work regularly with Affinity Water across the South East of England as its ecological framework partner.
Jon and Lottie begin their tour by a cowshed that houses some of Maydencroft’s 200 pedigree long horn cattle and they manage to catch up with the Company’s Managing Director, Tom Williams, whose father before him managed the estate. These long horn cattle can be seen “conservation grazing” on public land all over Hertfordshire and the surrounds, acting as a natural way of keeping spaces such as wildflower meadows in check without the need for larger farm machinery.
“We like to think of it as natural sculpting of the landscape,” Tom explains, “but based on animals not large machinery.” Even though his parents may have watered their lawns in past hot summers he let his lawn “turn brown” last summer and has begun planting out again this year.
Tom’s sentiments are shared by Jon and Lottie, who also did not water their lawns and garden in Summer 2022 despite the soaring temperatures and are adapting to climate change by introducing new plant species which are more sustainable to their family homes.
Jon advises: “The brown lawns do grow back. Focus on plants that want to be there and are self-propagating. Even some of the continental plants that have become fashionable didn’t survive this cold winter, so why not try planting out some Verbena bonariensis or Pulmonaria officinalis (common lungwort). Also think about your ponds and water features, water is a way of introducing biodiversity into your garden and it helps the frogs and newts survive. Natural species of trees like oaks, maples, apples and pears, will also do well. Even oak trees from Spain. We all need to be stewards of the environment these days and what we plant will in turn help birds and wildlife thrive”.
Lottie explains that Lavender has proved hardy during hot summers: “I’d recommend Lavender, it always looks good, and it attracts bees and butterflies. It is important that we as gardeners think about providing habitats for wildlife. We need to think about biodiversity and creating as much diversity in our landscape as possible. The more habitats we have the more they can support a wide range of species of birds and insects and mammals. We want to create as many habitats as possible and even if you have a small garden, you can put out an old sink, and create a mini pond with wildlife”.
Both Jon and Lottie use grey water from their homes, recycling water from their kitchens and bathrooms onto their gardens when need be. Jon tips out the paddling pool onto the plants at the end of the day when his children have finished playing in it. They both suggest that investing in a water butt, large or small, is a good way of ensuring there are water supplies available and you can use it to water salad crops, like lettuce and tomatoes. “A fantastic time to be thinking of salad crops, when there is a shortage,” said Jon.
“I would never think of throwing the paddling pool water away, it all goes on the plants, but absolutely using water butts, thinking about use of grey water from our homes I fully support that,” said Jon.
While Lottie added: “You can now get smaller water butts, so you don’t need as much space as you used to. Here we rainwater harvest from the roofs of the barns to keep the water topped up. You don’t need to use water from the tap”. Both said they liked to see bees on plants even if it came with a small risk they might be stung. “Nothing better than having bees in your garden,” said Jon. Who also said he didn’t cut back hedges; “fluffy edges are the way forward”. “Yes” agreed Lottie, “we don’t want to disturb the birds”.
Affinity Water has more water saving tips on gardening on its website including making the most of the wet weather by getting a water butt: https://www.affinitywater.co.uk/saveourstreams/garden
More advice and tips from Maydencroft on sustainability, biodiversity, landscaping and gardening can be found here: https://www.maydencroft.co.uk/case-studies.html
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