Climate change-resilient garden designed for a flourishing future

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Hampton Court garden impression

A garden sponsored by Thames Water and designed by award-winning horticulturist Tony Woods to withstand the challenges of climate change, including drought and flooding, will be the largest show garden at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival.

Visitors to the show, which opens to the public on July 2, will be able to get advice on how to make their own gardens more resilient to extreme weather at the Flourishing Future Garden.

The garden will provide a contrast between those plants suited to today’s climate with those that can tolerate very wet and very dry weather and aims to inspire visitors to encourage biodiversity when choosing plants and flowers.

Richard Aylard, sustainability director at Thames Water, said: “Climate change is already presenting us with big challenges and they’re ones we need to face head-on to protect water supplies for future generations. We’ve only received average or above average rainfall in three of the last 12 months, meaning the amount of water available is less than normal for this time of year.

“We hope our garden will inspire visitors to be water smart by showing them which plants need very little watering and also those which can survive wetter weather, so they can choose the right ones for their own gardens.”

Features of the Flourishing Future Garden will include a bespoke rainfall pavilion and pond to represent the water cycle, a drought desert, a wildflower meadow and innovative examples of sustainable drainage solutions which, through the use of plants, slow the flow of rainwater into sewers, helping to prevent flooding in urban areas while providing green space for nature.

Garden designer Tony Woods, from Garden Club London, won a gold medal at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show for his Thames Water garden, Urban Flow. Speaking about his latest project with the water company, he said: “I am delighted to be working again with Thames Water to create a stunning garden to help their customers be inspired to incorporate biodiversity and sustainability into their gardens and community spaces. We will be displaying contrasting growing conditions bourn as a result of climate change, in a fully accessible show garden which we encourage visitors to come and walk through to experience everything it has to offer close up.” 

It’s estimated an extra 2.1 million people are due to move into the Thames Water region over the next 25 years. This, combined with climate change, means the company has predicted, without the actions spelled out in its plans, there will be a shortfall of 380 million litres of water a day between the amount available and the amount needed by 2045. By 2100, this is predicted to increase to over 680 million litres a day - roughly 25 per cent of the volume of water that is currently put into supply for all Thames Water customers in London and the Thames Valley.

In its business plan for 2020-2025 the company has committed to reducing leakage by 15 per cent and helping its customers reduce their water use by four per cent by installing around 700,000 more smart meters.  The company will also be offering its award-winning smarter home and business visits, where experts give free water efficiency advice and water saving gadgets, to more than 400,000 customers.  In the longer term there are plans for additional water resources, including a major new reservoir to serve London and the South East.