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24 April 20

Affinity Water supports National Gardening Week with a call to action for better water efficiency labelling of plants

Affinity Water has today launched on social media a short audio podcast to support its collaborative campaign for the improved water efficiency labelling of plants at the start of National Gardening Week 2020.

The podcast combines interviews with three of the UK’s most respected national gardens including Kew Gardens, Beth Chatto Gardens, and RHS Wisley. The interviews were conducted earlier this year as part of Affinity Water’s #WhyNotWater campaign.

It begins with Richard Barley, the Director of Horticulture of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew saying why gardeners should think about today’s growing conditions when deciding what to plant.

Mr Barley is a fount of knowledge and passionate horticulturist, having previously been Director of Melbourne Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne and Chief Executive Officer of Open Gardens Australia, responsible for the leadership, direction and management of a national organisation with the mission of promoting the benefits and enjoyment of horticulture and gardens across Australia. He has been at Kew six years as its Director of Horticulture, Learning and Operations.

Mr Barley key quote: “People need to understand about intelligent and efficient watering. What I think is a little prevalent in the UK is that tendency to water for a long time in one area. To leave a sprinkler on for example overnight. Once that soil reaches field capacity and all the porous places are full of water there is no additional benefit in adding more water and sometimes you can get there in half an hour. Why keep watering and watering when there is no benefit to it? It is about awareness and people being a little bit more educated about what the water is doing in their gardens and what benefit they are getting from it. The British gardens are fabulous and they are one of the great things about this Country. We need to be careful to not demonise the garden because it uses water but to think here are all the benefits we get from gardens, lets apply a bit of water but let’s be sensible about it.

“With any new planting I guess we need to apply common sense and judgement. If a plant comes from a place that doesn’t have much rain then it is probably best to not try and grow it here.

Over in Essex David Ward, the Garden and Nursery Director at the Beth Chatto gardens, famous for its drought resistant garden, says why he supports Affinity’s four #WhyNotWater Asks and goes one step further. He also calls for all plants to be labelled for the amount of water they use.

The Beth Chatto gardens are now run by her granddaughter Julia Boulton. They are located at Elmstead Market, in Essex.

David Ward key quote: “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.”

Dr Mark Gush, Head of Environmental Horticulture at RHS Wisley, says why he supports Affinity Water’s four Asks and also the “fifth” Ask for better labelling of plants. He says gardeners need to think about putting “the right plant, in the right place for the right purpose.”

Dr Mark Gush key quote: “We do absolutely support the drought labelling of plants and labels for waterlogged soils too, but there are many other eco-system services that can be labelled as well. You can label trees and hedges too, to say if they can help to reduce pollution, or alleviate flooding by taking water out of the soil or act as noise barriers, or to promote biodiversity and remediate soils and take pollutants out. Labels can tell the public of these purposes and services. Plants help to promote health and well-being. As we say at the RHS you need to have the right plant, for the right place and for the right purpose.”

Jake Rigg, the Director of Corporate Affairs and Communities for Affinity Water said public education was now at the forefront of how water companies in the UK would be countering the challenges that climate change will present and that gardeners had an important role to play.

“The coronavirus has changed how we all use water in the home, and it is absolutely vital we follow the advice from Public Health England on hand washing to help save lives and to help protect the NHS.”

“Although our water resources are in a good position following heavy winter rainfall, it is still important to save water, especially in the garden, to ensure a sustainable future.

“The garden is a great place to save water and the call to action by the Beth Chatto Gardens and now RHS Wisley to label plants is at the forefront of the changes we need to get better at the ways we all use water in the garden.

“National Gardening Week gives all of us a chance to reflect on whether we should be watering our gardens so often and to think about buying dry weather resistant plants when planning our gardens.

“Our #WhyNotWater campaign is about tackling the long-term challenges we face to reduce demand and ensure a sustainable future. The issues that climate change present throughout the world are now so pressing, we must all rise to this challenge and be eco water warriors. Cutting water use in gardens is just as important as adapting our household appliances.”

The podcast can be found on the Affinity Water twitter account @AffinityWater

You can hear all the three podcasts in FULL and download them from the #WhyNotWater series here.

The #WhyNotWater campaign has a call to action for consumers to demand key changes to legislation and policy supported by government and manufacturers.


The Affinity Water #WhyNotWater Asks are:

  1. Mandatory water efficiency labelling on all goods.
  2. Rights for tenants to request that their landlords install water saving measures so that they are able to enjoy water efficient homes.
  3.  Domestic water efficiency by ensuring fixtures and fittings meet standard requirements through mandatory certification.
  4. Every Local Plan in a severely water stressed area should include the target of 110 litres per person per day.

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