Award winning flower show garden coming to Washington wetland reserve

07 July 2016

A garden that shows people how they can help solve local flooding through gardening has won a Gold Award and Best Garden Award at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2016 – and it’s coming to wow visitors at WWT Washington Wetland Centre.

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s “Working Wetlands Garden” is designed by Jeni Cairns and supported by HSBC. It uses 85 species of native plants and a series of water features to manage rainwater running off the roof of its pavilion.

RHS Gold Award winning designer Jeni Cairns has created the garden with WWT so that it can be transported to WWT Washington when the show is over, to become a permanent outdoor classroom later this year as part of HSBC’s Water Programme.

Learning staff from Washington were at the show to road-test some water cycle lessons with local children from Trafalgar Infants School, Twickenham.

Many people don’t realise that the sheer speed with which rainwater runs off hard surfaces like your roof, patio or decking can contribute to local drains becoming overwhelmed after heavy rainfall. Multiplied by many homes and gardens in a local area, the sudden rush of water can have serious consequences: when Carlisle was flooded in 2005, a quarter of the floodwater came from overwhelmed drains and surface water from properties for miles around.

At RHS Hampton Court Show, the WWT “Working Wetland Garden” shows how your garden can hold back heavy rainfall and release it slowly, by using a series of water features that can make your garden more attractive for you and for wildlife.

Instead of pouring down drains, the water filters through gravel beds, runs down channels into flowerbeds, through permeable paving, into a pond and soakaway hollows, and feeds and nurtures a variety of marsh plants that help to keep the water clean.

WWT Washington’s centre manager Gill Pipes said, “Having visited the garden at the show, I’m blown away by the design and the opportunity it offers to show people how the slightest changes to their gardens can provide much needed defence against localised flooding. The fact that these actions also enhance gardens as places to spend our time enjoying wildlife is a real bonus.

Just one day after the garden was completed, it was buzzing with bumblebees, damselflies, butterflies and hoverflies. It’s a great yet peaceful environment for learning groups and those who just want to spend some time in a beautiful space. We can’t wait to install it here at WWT Washington and hear what our visitors think of it.”

Designer Jeni Cairns, of Juniper House Garden Design, said, “I’m amazed and delighted to win these awards. The garden demonstrates it’s relatively easy for anyone to recycle water by getting creative with recycled objects.

It’s more difficult to do this for a show where you’re using mature native plants that are so fragile and can easily snap, but it was worth it because the effect is beautiful. I’m really pleased that all the hard work crafting metal and wood and making the water system work has been recognised.”

It’s all about spreading the message that water is important and you can use it creatively rather than waste it.”

HSBC Holdings Plc Group Chairman Douglas Flint said, “Water will be one of the most important resources for the world to protect over the next 20 to 30 years”

Facts behind the garden:

• The garden uses 85 plant species, most of which are British natives. Summer flowering plants have been selected for colour including loosestrife, flowering rush and greater spearwort – providing a predominant purple mixed with cream and yellow.
• Rainwater falls on a pagoda roof and cascades into tanks filled with gravel and marsh plants. While rainwater is very clean, this filters out any dust, leaves, twigs or bird poo that might be on your roof if you’re recreating the garden at home.
• The marsh plants take up some of the water, but at peak flows it will overspill into a pond surrounded by plants. The fact the pond is rain-fed with clear, clean water helps to attract wildlife. Some of the water slowly evaporates or transpires away.
• The pond can overflow into a number of features including permeable paving, flower beds and hollows, all of which allow water to soak away slowly into the ground. The entire garden makes use of all the incoming rainwater to create a beautiful, wildlife-rich without any water being wasted down any drains.
• Several features are recycled. The pagoda roof is the inverted roof of a grain silo, two of which are operational on the Washington site; bench supports are made from the curved girders from the same silo; the cascade was an air duct from a warehouse; the chain cascade is made from the chains of an old harrow; old sheets of steel have been intricately carved to make relief water scenes of dragonflies and kingfishers.
• The garden pavilion is built on a wooden platform weighing six tonnes, which spreads the weight of the structure across the Hampton Court ground underneath.
• After the show, the whole garden – including all the plants – will be transported to WWT Washington Wetland Centre as part of WWT’s Inspiring Generations scheme to provide outdoor learning to disadvantaged school pupils. Funded by the HSBC Water Programme, 60,000 children across the country are receiving a free outdoor learning session including hands on activities like pond dipping and bird feeding.
• The garden furniture may well be the heaviest at Hampton Court: it is made from recycled ekki wood, which is so dense and durable that it’s widely used as pillars to stop ocean liners bumping into jetties. We’re pleased to find ways to extend this timber’s working life. Each chair is so heavy that we haven’t managed to put it on a set of scales, but it will certainly weigh more than all the children at the learning session put together!

Deborah Nolan on 0191 419 5934 or email
• Photos of the WWT Working Wetland garden, including local children having fun learning about water, are available here

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Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)
• Whatever the season, come rain or shine, WWT Washington Wetland Centre is the perfect place to connect with nature. Open 364 days a year, our award-winning, family-friendly site offers visitors of all ages a host of unforgettable wildlife encounters and beautiful scenery all year round. Explore an exciting mix of wetland, woodland, nature reserve and meadows; home to rare wildfowl, flocks of waders, Chilean flamingos, Asian short-clawed otters, Eurasian cranes and more. Enjoy daily animal feeds; regular walks, talks and activities and other special events. Excellent access (free electric scooter hire), café with views of spectacular wildlife, gift shop and play area. WWT members go FREE.

• WWT is a conservation charity that saves wetlands, which are essential for life itself. Wetlands are the primary source of drinking water for people and wildlife. They also connect us with nature, and with ourselves, through beautiful landscapes and inspiring encounters with wildlife.

• WWT’s ethos starts with the simple act of feeding a duck. That innocent connection with nature is more special if you’re feeding – say – the world’s rarest goose, saved from extinction by our expert aviculturists. It’s even more special if you’re surrounded by some of the UK’s top wildlife at one of our world-class reserves, carefully designed and managed so wildlife will flourish.

• We take this wetland expertise around the world. We rescue endangered species from the edge of extinction. We investigate what’s damaging the wetlands on which people and wildlife depend. We protect, repair and actually create exciting new wetlands for people and wildlife.

• We work with communities, businesses and governments to help people live sustainably alongside wetlands, benefitting from the water, food, materials, shelter, livelihoods and enjoyment a well-managed wetland can provide.

• WWT is one of the world’s leading science and conservation institutions in its field. But we’re unique because we never forget it all starts with the simple pleasures, like feeding a duck. And maybe a nice cup of tea.

• WWT members enjoy free access to all nine WWT visitor centres and are kept up to date with developments through an award-winning quarterly magazine, Waterlife.

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