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The Flood Re: Flood Resilient Garden

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024

As the climate changes the way we garden needs to adapt to cope with the extreme weather events of the future. But as the Flood Re: Flood Resilient Garden shows, it is not simply a case of making sure that we can continue to garden and enjoy our outdoor space, but by using our outdoor spaces to capture water, cool the air and filter pollution we can help ensure that our own environment remains habitable and healthy.

It is estimated that around five million homes in the UK are at risk of flooding. I have designed the Flood Resilient Garden to help illustrate how any outdoor space can be adapted to cope with heavy rainfall, high groundwater and run-off.

Flooded garden. Naomi Slade.
Birch tree. Harlow Carr.

The key theme is water management, so the garden is packed with ideas which will inspire visitors and provide solutions that they can easily use at home, in gardens of any size.

Dense planting slows the flow and water is captured and stored for later use. After heavy rain, the elevated deck and mound provide both habitable places for people and well-drained soil for the plants that need it – as well as providing refuges for wildlife. The high points are linked by a dramatic bridge over a central swale that forms an ephemeral stream, channelling rainwater into a feature pond where it can gradually soak away. Large tanks, doubling as ornamental ponds, store water for later use, discharging it as and where required using smart technology.

The Flood Resilient Garden in Rain & Shine - Designed by Naomi Slade & Ed Barsley (1).jpg
Naomi Slade

The planting is lush and green with pops of jewel colours, and it is made up of species that are tenacious and appropriate for the range of soil conditions. Raised mounds ensure the handsome feature fruit trees keeps their feet dry, as do other plants such as roses and peonies that prefer well-drained conditions. Lower areas of ground, meanwhile, are populated by plants that are tolerant of damp conditions, or like Ranunculus flammula (lesser spearwort) and Caltha palustris (marsh marigold), enjoy boggy ground and shallow water.

I am designing The Flood Resilient Garden in collaboration with Ed Barsley who is a specialist in flood resilience in the built environment. The project is sponsored by Flood Re, a re-insurance scheme which makes flood cover more widely available and affordable. Our contractors are Belderbos Landscapes and we are also working closely with the team at Water Artisans.

Ed Barsley, Ben and Steve (Water Artisans), Naomi Slade, Phil Jones, Ed Belderbos
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