How green is your garden?

Hampton_Court_GardenLast week green issues were making headline news. The nations of the world  put their heads together at the climate change summit in Paris. They were attempting to come up with green initiatives for curbing carbon emissions and tackling global warming. Closer to home, we witnessed some of the effects of climate change. Storm Desmond dumped record levels of rainfall on us, resulting in severe flooding in Cumbria and the Scottish Borders. Although climate change is a global issue, well thought out gardens can play a part in reducing greenhouse emissions. They can also reduce local flooding. Gardens can allow surface water runoff after periods of heavy rainfall to be soaked up naturally in to the ground.

Permeable surfaces

front garden with permeable surface
Hampton Court 2016

Paving over front gardens in recent years has made a huge difference to the volume of water running off in to drains. Since the widespread flooding in 2007, new legislation has been introduced in Scotland and England. This means that planning permission may be required to install impermeable paving in front gardens. More permeable alternatives worth considering are gravel, permeable resin bound surfaces, permeable paving and ground reinforcement cellular systems.


Wildflower_meadowLawns are green in that they are living and breathing (unlike astroturf). However, they are not such a green option when you consider the amount of petrol or electricity required for mowing them regularly. Chemicals and water often need to be applied to keep them in a pristine state. Better alternatives may be to plant a wildflower meadow or to replace a lawn with gravel paths between borders of grasses and perennials. These options make better habitats for wildlife and have the extra bonus that they are often easier to maintain.


Planting trees in your garden is also a great way to soak up storm water as well as absorbing CO2 and pollutants. Trees also provide privacy from neighbours, add value to your property and are a great habitat for wildlife.

Water Butts

Collect your own rainwater from the roof when there is a deluge and this can be used for watering the garden in dry periods. There are quite a few more discreet or attractive water butts on the market these days made from galvanised steel or in slimline shapes. Or why not make your own water butt from a recycled barrel? It is worth planting plants that are suited to the conditions in your garden. By watering your borders in the evening when it is cooler, the surface water can be absorbed in to the soil, rather than evaporating off.

Rain Gardens

Nigel_Dunnett_Rain_GardenIf you live in an area where flooding is a problem, rain gardens are designed to retain water during periods of heavy rainfall allowing it to be absorbed slowly. They also filter and purify the runoff rainwater, removing pollutants.

Green RoofsGreen_Roof

Green roofs can also retain water after periods of heavy rainfall and absorb CO2 emissions. They are great for insulating a building, but can also look fabulous on a garden shed, bicycle or bin store. There are many options for green roofs. Grass roofs are widespread in Norway and sedum roofs can be installed in even the smallest of spaces.

These are just a few ‘green’ ideas for creating a garden that is able to retain water after heavy rainfall and that can absorb rather than expend carbon emissions. These green gardens often require less maintenance and look more attractive. Rather than compromising on your design you can actually enhance your garden by implementing a few of these ideas. What’s not to love!