RHS Tatton Show garden celebrates resilience in today's climate

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• United Utilities sponsors Garden of Resilience
• Designer Leon Davis creates a space that can adapt to climate extremes while celebrating benefits of gardening for mental and physical well-being
• Show garden will be moved to permanent home at RHS Bridgewater Garden, Salford


The extremes of changing weather patterns and the stresses and strains of the pandemic are two challenges that have been tackled head on with an innovative Gold Award-winning garden design at this year’s RHS Tatton Flower Show.

United Utilities has sponsored a garden to give visitors some ideas for making outdoor spaces better able to cope with too much or too little rain.

The Garden of Resilience, by award-winning designer Leon Davis, also incorporates ideas to encourage the visitor to take time out and contemplate their own personal resilience following the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic.

The water company, which serves 7 million people across North West England, wants people to see that, besides being beautiful places to unwind, their gardens can also provide a buffer to ease the pressure on water supplies as well as local drains and sewers.

Leon Davies describes his design as having a playful character which celebrates water whatever the weather: “The garden really comes alive when it rains. We’ve made the water into a feature which you can watch as it moves through the garden, re-using it to create a resilient, soft landscape to improve biodiversity, air quality and well-being. Ultimately the garden celebrates water, respecting it and conserving it for times of need.”

The garden features a shelter with a living roof, rill and water chain, a rainwater planter, a slimline water butt disguised as a bench, permeable sandstone paving and a sunken rain garden.

Plants have been chosen for their resilience to extremes and prolonged spells of dry and wet weather, while their colours complement the hard landscaping materials.

Jo Harrison, Director of Environmental Planning and Innovation at United Utilities, explained why the water company had sponsored the garden: “Climate resilience is one of the biggest challenges facing all of us and water availability is a key area where we need to adapt. Here in the North West of England we are increasingly seeing extreme weather patterns. There can be prolonged dry spells and then we get sudden heavy downpours. It can be a real challenge, not just for the plants in our gardens but also for water supplies and drainage systems.

“That’s why we have teamed up with the RHS this year - we are both committed to environmental sustainability and engagement with local communities. Leon’s garden demonstrates how surface water management and sustainable drainage techniques can support water efficiency while being fun and really stylish.

“After the year we have just had, our gardens have been a real source of inspiration and well-being, and we know how much visitors are thrilled that the Tatton Park Flower Show will go ahead once more this year. We hope they get some great ideas for their own green spaces, and when the show is over, the Garden of Resilience will be relocated to RHS Bridgewater so that the wider community can enjoy it and take home some of its messages.”

United Utilities has entered into a three-year partnership with the RHS at the new RHS Bridgewater garden in Salford. The partnership includes a research project at the site to monitor the effectiveness of rainwater harvesting and sustainable urban drainage, plus education and outreach through site signage and school visit programmes.