Looking for tips on how to save water in your garden? You've come to the right place.
As our world changes, the need to take care of our most precious resource is greater than ever.
That’s why we’ve worked with Tony Woods, a former RHS Young Garden Designer of the Year, to create a sustainable garden at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival.
But don’t worry if you can’t visit the Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden for yourself – we’ve got all the insider tips you need for a water-wise garden, right here…
Step away from the hosepipe
Every year, our population grows by around 100,000 people. Eventually, we’ll reach the point where there’s not enough water to go around.
It doesn’t help that our climate’s changing too. With more heatwaves happening in the summer, it’s no surprise that 40% of people worry about their plants and garden dying during hot weather.
But that doesn’t mean you need to reach for your hosepipe and start spraying everything in sight! You can keep your garden looking lush while still caring for water – and here’s how.
Choose water-wise plants
“What will our gardens look like in the future?” says Tony. “With hotter summers and prolonged periods of drought on the horizon, we’ll see more beautiful gardens with plants that are adapted to survive without water for extended periods of time.”
This was one of the main inspirations for the Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden, which features a wide range of water-wise plants that need less water to thrive.
Take a leaf out of our garden and get your green fingers on:
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): After initial watering and a little bit of time, rosemary will look after itself. As well as being a useful kitchen herb, it looks lovely all year round and will bloom with stunning blue flowers.
English lavender (Lavender angustifolia): Plant this in a sunny spot, ideally in early spring, to reduce its reliance on water. Large, fragrant flower spikes will fill your garden with a lovely scent.
Sea holly (Eryngium zabelii): This unique-looking plant originates from dry mountainous regions and is great for summer. The spiky flowers add a pop of colour, and bees love them!
Stonecrop (Sedum ‘Matrona’): This fleshy plant needs little care, except removal of the previous year’s growth. It has stunning dark fleshy foliage and flowers in late summer.
Catmint (Nepeta): These colourful plants feature soft silver foliage and blue flowers, which only need cutting back after flowering. They’ll bloom for weeks in the summer to attract bees.
Water plants in the right way at the right time
We recommend watering all your plants less often but more thoroughly, using a watering can instead of a hose. This gives your plant’s roots plenty of time to dry out, promoting growth and preventing waterlogging. Win win!
Don’t forget to water your plants late in the evening or early in the morning, rather than in the middle of the day. Otherwise, more water will evaporate in the sun, leaving your plants thirstier than ever.
Protect your soil
Take Tony’s advice on this one. “Using clay-rich, quality soil in your beds and borders will help to hold water more evenly,” he says. “You can also add bark, compost or straw around your plants to reduce evaporation (known as mulching).”
Don’t forget to stay on top of weeds – invasive species can take over your garden quickly, competing with your flowers not just for water, but for sunlight too.
Take a walk on the wild side
From butterflies to bees, birds to badgers, we’re doing everything we can to support Britain’s wildlife at more than 300 of our sites across London and the Thames Valley.
In the Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden, we’ve planted a blooming wildflower meadow underneath soaring native trees like birch and willow to show you how easy it can be to encourage biodiversity in your own garden. It’s time to get your green fingers dirty!
Sow your own wildflowers
Is there anything better than a garden filled with birdsong, buzzing bees and brightly-coloured butterflies?
From brilliant blue cornflowers to pinky-purple corn cockle, ruby-red poppies to sunshine-yellow corn marigold, annual wildflowers will add a pop of colour and provide food and shelter for pollinating insects, birds and small mammals in any outside space.
And you don’t need a full meadow of them, either – native blooms will look just as pretty if you scatter them in your beds and borders.
Plant long grasses
Many butterflies love to eat wild grasses. Why not lure them in by leaving a patch of longer grassland in your garden? Mix in wildflowers and herbs like sorrel and oregano – the more variety, the better, especially if you want to attract as many species as possible.
“Butterflies love the sunshine, so try to pick a warm spot that’s sheltered away from the wind,” Tony says. Just remember to avoid using insecticides and pesticides as they can kill pollinating insects.
Swap fences for hedges
Not only do native hedgerows shield your garden from wind and sun, they’re also the ideal home for hedgehogs, beetles and birds. So why not swap drab fences for fresh greenery?
“It’s not as difficult as you’d think to create a hedge,” says Tony. “You can use most native trees and shrubs, including blackthorn, hawthorn, yew, beech, hornbeam, holly and crab apple, to build your own.” Done right, we reckon it’ll provide a home for hundreds of species in the years to come!
Designed to help you recycle rainwater, reduce water use, keep sewers flowing and reduce flood risks, our latest sustainable innovations will be on display in the Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden. Over the next five years, we’ll be investing around £60 million to develop even more.
But you don’t need to invest lots of money if you want to innovate in your own garden. In fact, a few simple changes can make all the difference…
Make grey areas greener
You can encourage natural drainage and help rainwater to naturally soak into the ground with soakaways or permeable paving, both of which can help to slow the flow of run-off into sewers and reduce the risk of flooding.
But if that’s not possible, why not plant a rain garden with a mix of shrubs, perennials and flowers, which will help to temporarily hold rainwater flowing from your roof, patio or lawn?
Tony also suggests using your pond as a natural holding area for rain. “In the Thames Flourishing Future Garden, we’re using the plants in the pond as a filter for rainwater and excess surface water,” he explains.
Water butts can collect as much as 5,000 litres of water a year – enough to fill 370 buckets or 500 watering cans, which you can use to wash your car or water your plants. Don’t worry if you don’t have a water butt – you can just leave your bucket or watering can out to fill up on rainy days!
Grow your own fruit and veg
As Tony says: “Lots of us are eager to grow our own herbs, fruit and vegetables.” Not only can you live more sustainably by growing your own fruit and veg, you can save money too!
In the Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden, we’ve created a teaching garden to showcase the full range of produce you can grow at home. If you’re a beginner, some of the easiest to care for include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, peas and runner beans.
Want to visit the Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden for yourself?
From 1 to 7 July 2019, you can enjoy:
World-class show gardens, including our very own Thames Water Flourishing Future Garden
Expert talks on gardening, growing your own produce, cooking and more
Health and wellbeing zones
Stalls selling plants, gardening products and delicious food
Our Thames on Tap Water Fountains – bring a reusable bottle to fill up on as much free water as you like!
Discover how easy it can be to encourage biodiversity, reduce water use and prevent flooding in your garden, local schools and community spaces, and fill up your bottles with world-class drinking water for free.
Want to get your green fingers on two tickets to this year’s Thames Water Flushing Future Garden at Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival?
Just take a photo showing how you take care of water, how you create a home for wildlife OR how you garden sustainably in your outside space, then post it on Instagram with the hashtag #flourishingfuturegarden or post your picture in our FB post comment section with the hashtag.
Competition closes on Monday 17th June and winners will be notified by the 21st June, for full T&Cs click here