All our gardens together are an essential part of our ecosystem. There are 15 million private gardens in the UK occupying over a million acres of land. Over 85% of us live in towns and cities and gardens take up about 25% of urban space. They are a rich source of biodiversity, assist water conservation, provide urban cooling and insulation and connect us with the world we share, because without living things there would be nothing.
OUR GARDENS PROTECT OUR WILDLIFE
Gardens are a refuge for endangered British wildlife. Wildflower meadows have been cleared, marshes and ponds drained, hedgerows obliterated and woodlands destroyed to make way for fertilised farmland, conifer covered moorlands, roads and buildings. Our diverse gardens have stepped into the breech and provided a rich and varied source of food and shelter for the our depleted population of frogs, newts, bats, hedgehogs, indigenous and visiting birds as well as crucial pollinators such as butterflies, bees, moths and hoverflies.
OUR GARDENS PROTECT US
Drought or deluge, the trees and plants in our gardens are vital. When it pours, they absorb rainwater and slow water run off, reducing pressure on drains and the risk of flooding. Permeable and planted surfaces allow water to penetrate to the water table instead of being lost down the drain.
Pavements, roads and walls absorb heat and reflect far less than planted surfaces. Plants, particularly trees and climbers provide aerial cooling by giving shade and through evapotranspiration – the process by which water is lost through leaf pores. Vegetative 'air conditioning' in urban areas reduces the impact of increased temperatures due to climate change and cools buildings, reducing air conditioning requirements. Trees, hedges, climbers and shrubs can act as windbreaks and green walls, green roofs and climbers help insulate buildings to cut energy consumption.
Whether we garden, play games with the kids, entertain or just look out of our back windows on a rainy day, our gardens ease our stress, improve our wellbeing, evoke memories, encourage exercise and remind us daily that we are part of something bigger.
OUR 'ROOM OUTSIDE' HAS GREEN WALLS
We all need space in our gardens for ourselves. Whatever style of garden we choose, we can contribute to our environment and the design and selection of materials and plants for each project can be undertaken with attention to conservation, biodiversity, water conservation/penetration and sustainability. Elements and features to include might be:
Permeable hard surfaces
Drip irrigation system for efficient use of water, on timers to come on at night and maximise plant growth
Rainwater/grey water harvesting and recycling systems/bore hole
Water butts and composting systems
Green roofs, such as Sedum and green walls for buildings and garden structures
Drought tolerant planting schemes
Planting schemes to attract wildlife and creation of wildlife habitats
Ponds, rills and other water sources
Bird baths and feeders