Green-fingered father Mike Clifford has endured 25 years transforming his nursery into a tropical wilderness
He professes to have put away a great many liters of water to safeguard the outlandish plants from dry season
It comes as a huge number of Britons face a hosepipe boycott as a dry spell in England poses a potential threat
A green-fingered father who has gone through over 25 years transforming his nursery into a tropical wilderness professes to have put away a great many liters of water to safeguard his colorful plants from England’s approaching dry season – while a large number of Britons face a hosepipe boycott.
Mike Clifford’s 65ft-long plot behind his rural lodge in Poole, Dorset – where there are no proper limitations set up except for future ones have not been precluded – is loaded with unprecedented species local to South and Central America, Africa, and China, a considerable lot of which are in danger of passing on because of the lack of downpour.
The 61-year-old said expansive leafed species like the Tree Daisy, native to the cloud woods of Mexico, are ‘shrinking’ before his eyes – however that he has constructed an arrangement of water butts covered underneath ground containing north of 2,000 liters of water gathered in winter, which he expectations will be sufficient to save his nursery.
The eager nursery worker utilizes submarine siphons associated with the butts as well as two hosepipes to splash the plants. In the event that his water holds last until September, he will actually want to rescue the nursery for the following summer. He will then uncover and pack a large portion of his miniature wilderness away in an extremely difficult work to shield it from the colder time of year cold.
Mr Clifford said: ‘The sweltering weather conditions has impacted every species in an unexpected way – large numbers of the plants like the gingers have had an early bloom.
‘We would ordinarily hope to them to blossom in September only half a month prior to they should be stashed for winter, so its good to appreciate them somewhat prior. Yet, the huge leafed plants could do without the intensity. They are withering frightfully. On the off chance that you go out there at early afternoon, you can see it working out. I water them a considerable amount however I’m attempting to scale it back. I have water butts covered 4ft underneath the ground.
‘A potential hosepipe boycott is somewhat of a concern yet we’re getting to the furthest limit of the time so as long as it comes to September I’ll be cheerful’.
It comes as a great many Britons could be confronting a hosepipe boycott after a spilled record uncovered three more water organizations are arranging limitations.
Where have hosepipe bans been introduced?
- Manx Water: Isle of Man, from last Friday
- Southern Water: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, from yesterday
- South East Water: Kent and Sussex, from next Friday
- Welsh Water: Pembrokeshire and small part of Carmarthenshire, from August 19
- Thames Water: Greater London, the Thames Valley, Surrey, Gloucestershire, north Wiltshire and parts of west Kent, in the ‘coming weeks’.
What are the rules?
Once the ban is in force you will not be allowed to use a hosepipe or sprinkler to water your garden, clean your car or boat, fill up a swimming or paddling pool or an ornamental pond. Pressure washing a patio is also banned. But the use of watering cans is allowed.
Who is exempt?
Those with disabilities – who have a blue badge – are exempt for watering their garden. So are those watering an area for a national or international sports event.
People watering newly laid turf and newly bought plants may apply for exemptions.
Commercial car washes and professional window cleaners are not affected by the ban.
What happens if I break the ban?
You could be prosecuted and subject to a fine of up to £1,000 in the courts if found guilty.
This year he has seen several new additions come to fruition – including the incredibly rare St Helena Ebony, or Trochetiopsis ebenus, which is critically endangered in the wild.
The 4ft high plant with broad white flowers was once believed to be extinct until scientists found two small plants attached to a rock in Mexico. They took cuttings from the plants which were then sent to Kew Gardens, London, to grow more of its kind.
Mr Clifford began tropical gardening when he was inspired by a TV documentary on the subject in the 1990s. He and his wife Tina regularly open up their garden under National Garden Scheme and have raised thousands of pounds for charity over the years.
The couple moved into the bungalow 10 years ago and dug up most of the plants from their old address.
Their garden is home to giant dandelions from the Canary Islands and Pararistolochia goldieana, a plant from central Africa which has only flowered once in Europe. There is also the Angel’s Trumpet, whose hallucinogenic properties were traditionally used by shamans in South and Central America to conjure visions.
Mr Clifford tends to his plants in the evenings and on weekends alongside his full-time job designing mobile homes. His son, Harry, 26, helps with the heavy lifting. Mr Clifford stores his plants in three greenhouses and a summer house over winter. Those that have to be left out and wrapped in a fleece. It can often take two to three weekends to complete the work.
Yesterday Britain’s biggest water company, Thames Water, which supplies some 15million people, said it would announce a ban in the coming weeks.
Restrictions covering nearly three million people have already been announced by Southern Water, South East Water and Welsh Water.
And an internal Environment Agency document seen by the Daily Mail reveals that the water companies discussing whether to bring in a ban are Yorkshire, with five million customers, Severn Trent with eight million and South West with up to two million. If enacted, it would bring the number of people under a hosepipe ban to around 33million.
Meanwhile, Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss has weighed on hosepipe bans after two water companies announced others warned they may need to follow suit, following the driest eight months from November to June since 1976 as well as the driest July on record for parts of southern and eastern England.
There have been dire warnings that drought conditions could last three months. The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology predicts ‘exceptionally low’ flow levels in rivers until October.
Thames Water covers parts of London, Surrey, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Kent. Its hosepipe ban comes despite the fact it lets 635million litres of water a day leak from its pipes.
Further pressure for water companies to act could come this week when the Environment Agency is expected to declare that England is in a state of drought.
The bans make it an offence to use a hosepipe to water a garden, wash a car or boat or fill up ponds, and can attract a £1,000 fine in the courts.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said:
‘On the Environment Agency’s sliding scale, we are now one stage before a drought. If this dry weather picture continues, parts of England could move into drought.’
The 61-year-old has spent decades turning the plot behind his suburban bungalow into a tropical jungle full of rare plants
The garden is home to giant dandelions from the Canary Islands and Pararistolochia goldieana, a plant from central Africa which has only flowered once in Europe
Ms Truss said: ‘My view is that we should be tougher on the water companies and that there hasn’t been enough action to deal with these leaky pipes which have been there for years.
‘I have a lot of issues with my water company in Norfolk, which is a particularly dry area of the country, and those companies need to be held to account.’
She told the Daily Express hosepipe bans
‘should be a last resort’, adding: ‘What I’m worried about is it seems to be a first resort rather than the water companies dealing with the leaks.’
Scientists warn that the likelihood of droughts occurring is becoming higher due to climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities.
Climate change is also making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely – with last month’s record temperatures made at least 10 times more likely because of global warming, and ‘virtually impossible’ without it, research shows.
Government minister Paul Scully said it is ‘always sensible’ for people to conserve water, when asked about the possibility of a hosepipe ban for London.
‘But we’ll look carefully because the whole point about London and the South East is that the more development you have and the less rainfall there is, then obviously there’s less to go around and we’ve got to be careful.’
It came as tinderbox Britain is facing ‘lethally hot’ temperatures today with the mercury set to reach 93F today in southern parts of England.
By NIGEL COLBORN for the DAILY MAIL
What William Blake would make of my garden if he were alive to see it, I dread to think. The Romantic poet, who memorably described England as ‘a green and pleasant land’, would be appalled at the way my lawn has been reduced to an expanse of parched, brown, dehydrated stalks.
This is not an easy time for gardeners. After years of planting, seed-sowing, nurturing and even grooming, our lawns have all succumbed to drought.
We’ve had heatwaves and dry spells before, not to mention floods, June frosts and ruinous gales. But this year’s blend of unusual conditions has really walloped us.
For once, it’s OK to blame the weather. Last winter was abnormally mild. Even in chilly Lincolnshire, we were almost frost-free. As a result, our first snowdrops flowered at Christmas instead of late January.
‘The good news is that, in the hands of a canny gardener, plants will recover and lawns will green up again because, by following a few simple rules, we can make our gardens bloom whatever the weather’
Dahlia Teesbrooke Audrey
A parched lawn in a home owner’s garden
Later, abnormally mild weather was combined with heavy rainfall. So everything grew like Topsy until May, which was unseasonably cold. Since then, my garden has had no appreciable rain. And in July, it roasted at 40c (104f).
Despite everything, however, I’m not distressed. Record high temperatures may mean that we will have to adapt the traditional British garden to cope with harsher extremes of weather — but the good news is that, in the hands of a canny gardener, plants will recover and lawns will green up again because, by following a few simple rules, we can make our gardens bloom whatever the weather.
PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE
Everything we have looked at so far is a sort of first aid. But, with extreme weather events likely to become more frequent in the decades to come, we will have to change our ways.
However much we love plants that need frequent watering, we will have to cut down the number of them we have in our gardens or abandon them.
This prospect isn’t as depressing as it might sound. Britain has more than 80,000 different ornamental plant varieties in cultivation, so we have plenty of species to choose from.
We may have to say goodbye to delphiniums, border phloxes, candelabra primulas, Himalayan blue poppies and many much-loved perennials. But other plants, once too tender to live outside in this country, could flourish. I have even a Fascicularia — a bromeliad related to pineapples — which has lived and flowered in my garden for a decade.
Plants like that, which resist drought and withstand violent storms or excessive rain, will soon be part of our new garden flora.
I grow several pelargonium species now as ordinary garden perennials. I will be trying more with the same treatment this winter and bet they too will come through unscathed.
Among shrubs, oleanders, Australian hibiscus and Abutilon have grown as readily outside as Michaelmas daisies or border lupins. Dahlias, which had to be lifted for winter, sprout every spring.
That said, there is no reason why we shouldn’t make every effort to ensure we have as much water as possible to hand in case of a (non-)rainy day.
It’s a good idea to fill a tub or, perhaps, a children’s paddling pool in advance of any hosepipe ban.
Though far too late to do much good, I recently installed three new water butts in my garden. What surprised me was the amount of water they collected from even the briefest shower. I now wish I had installed six.
Deep frosts and cold spells will still come. But they are scarcer now and tend to be short-lived. A tough winter could kill my exotics and turn my collection of succulent plants into a stinking mush.
But my instinct tells me they will thrive for years yet. It may even be likely that the rising sea engulfs my fenland garden before Jack Frost bumps off the African aloes.
Road signs in our region bear the letters E.R. and nothing else. Those mark designated Evacuation Routes, in case of a major tidal surge. Makes you think a b it, doesn’t it?
And here’s how…
Way to water
Sod’s Law dictates that just when water becomes the gardener’s most vital commodity, hosepipe use is forbidden.
One water company has already announced a ban and more are due to introduce one soon.
If you are unfortunate enough to live in one of the areas where restrictions are in place, you may well find yourself lugging hefty watering cans around or working out ways to recycle so-called ‘grey water’ from baths, showers or the kitchen.
Dishwater, even if it contains detergents, is usually harmless to plants. Water from a bath or shower, if you have the means of saving it, will also be fine.
The truth is plants don’t seem to mind dirty water. It’s impossible to water everything in a garden — even a small one — so we have to prioritize.
As we have seen, lawns are so resilient you can put their hydrating needs towards the bottom of your list.
Water for newly planted shrubs or trees and young, herbaceous, perennial plants should take precedence because it takes at least one growing season for them to become established.
Generous soakings are essential. In the normal course of events they are sustained by rainfall but, in a year’s like this, a thorough watering — even just once — can save the life of a valuable shrub.
In much of Britain, dahlias, penstemons, tall daisies and most other perennials also need regular watering.
For those of us who are not subject to a hosepipe ban, life is slightly easier.
I’ve been treating the most needy among my plants with a handheld hose. When watering that way, the key is to have the tap only halfway open, so that the gentle flow penetrates the soil more thoroughly, reaching the plants’ roots where it is most needed.
The timing of your watering is also important. Early morning or late evening is best, giving each individual plant a good, steady soak. Water sprinkled over the leaves evaporates rapidly and most is wasted.
The Scots have a saying — ‘Mony a mickle maks a muckle’ — which basically means many little things make a big thing. But when it comes to plant-watering this rule doesn’t apply.
A thorough drenching once a week is more effective than a series of modest daily waterings.
Even in hot weather, thoroughly watered plants will look perky for several days longer.
Sprinklers are fine in cool weather. But they can be wasteful, needing the tap to run for a long time before the soil is thoroughly watered.
Trickle irrigation kits are better for food crops grown in rows, or for container plants which won’t be moved during summer.
That said, moving containers to more sheltered or shady places may help.
If a hosepipe ban is imposed in my area, many of the plants in my summer containers will have to die. I will save only those plants which I know will be difficult to replace, or which have special or sentimental value.
Those will become stock plants for next year. I propagate all my summer container displays from cuttings taken from the stock plants that spend their winter in my heated greenhouse. Those are rooted from October, for planting outside the next May. Finally, if a hosepipe ban is coming your way and you have a garden pond, make sure that it’s topped up before the ban is imposed.
Taking care of your borders
One good point about the drought is being relieved of tedious summer chores.
My soil is so hard in places that I can barely pierce it with a garden fork.
All I’m doing, currently, is pulling out thistles, dandelions and other invasive weeds wherever I see them. Weeds compete with cultivated plants for moisture, light and nutrients and so be ruthless with the blighters.
One boon of a drought is that most weeds are as vulnerable to water shortages as the plants which you want to prosper. Only pernicious weeds such as bindweed and couch grass have deep, almost indestructible roots.
Normal summer pruning of fruit trees, wisterias and shrubs can continue as usual. I’ve given our roses a light prune, too, removing faded or roasted blooms, always cutting just above an outward-facing bud.
Another benefit of the drought is that we forget nagging obligations and can relax a bit more. The evenings, after all, are rather delightful — especially after a sweltering day
My lawn looks brown and dead — and yours probably does, too. But fear not, the grass roots are almost certainly still alive. Of all plant families, grasses are by far the most resilient.
In some regions of Africa and Australia, rain falls for only a small part of the year. Even so, grass which is dust-dry and looks dead is transformed to a verdant green after the first shower.
So leave your lawn to recover. Avoid wear and tear by keeping off the grass as much as possible. Don’t apply feeds or fertilisers — they won’t help at all and would be a waste of money. I never fertilise my lawns — never have and never will. They’re normally green enough for me without feed.
‘Living grass lawns help to sustain soil health and retain moisture. For wildlife, especially song birds, butterflies, hedgehogs, and more, grass is essential’
When the grass has begun to recover, mow with the blades set a little higher than usual for the first two cuts.
If you planned to lay turf or seed a new lawn this summer, leave that until significant rains have fallen.
I was appalled to read the other day that one in ten respondents to a survey by the insurance company Aviva had replaced their natural lawn with fake ‘grass’ made out of plastic. Not only that, but some manufacturers of this vile scourge have estimated that around eight million square metres of artificial grass are sold in the UK each year — the equivalent of about 2,000 football pitches.
Your dead-looking lawn may tempt you to have an artificial turf carpet laid but this is a really bad idea.
Living grass lawns help to sustain soil health and retain moisture. For wildlife, especially song birds, butterflies, hedgehogs, and more, grass is essential.
Lawns and the soil beneath them are rich with valuable invertebrates, too. These sustain other wildlife.
If I had my way, fake lawns would be outlawed!