Call for gardeners to help with flood defence

Jonathan Sheppard's flooded garden
Jonathan's garden was hit by Storm Babet in October [Jonathan Sheppard]

A night-time knock on the door during Storm Babet warned Jonathan Sheppard that the flood waters were heading his way.

"Lincolnshire is flat, so the water just keeps going," he said.

It inundated his much-loved garden, which looked like a low, flowing river. His hollyhocks floated away.

But the waters never got into his home - thanks to some raised beds near the doors, sustainable growing in the garden, and good fortune.

Jonathan Sheppard's garden now
Jonathan's garden has revived since last year's flood [Jonathan Sheppard]

Now Flood Re - a scheme designed to provide affordable insurance for flood-risk homes - is urging other homeowners to be smart about their gardens.

Sensible planting, it said, would reduce the risk of damage, high costs, and the heartache of temporary homelessness caused by flooding.

Mr Sheppard, one of a handful of amateurs displaying at the Chelsea Flower Show, said he was continuing to use his garden to reduce the risk following last October's flood.

"I've planted willow, which sucks up a lot of water," he said.

There are more raised beds. Pots and planters are off the ground.

"Instead of fighting against it, you have to work with nature. We all have to think what will thrive in a changing climate," he said.

Jonathan Sheppard
Jonathan Sheppard says gardeners will need to adapt [Jonathan Sheppard]

The campaign by Flood Re comes as homeowners may be heading back out into their gardens over the bank holiday weekend.

The heavy rains of recent days and weeks could have left gardens in a state, and some people considering the risk of flooding in their area.

Bosses of the insurance scheme said people spent hundreds of pounds on their gardens, but one in eight had experienced the impact of flooding in their green spaces.

Many were oblivious to the risk, but properly managed, domestic gardens could channel, absorb and store large quantities of water, limiting the risk to property and the local area.

Environmental designer Ed Barsley said: "What's positive to note is that there are a variety of practical and cost-effective measures that garden owners can take to save themselves emotional and financial stress further down the line.”

Ideas include choosing a variety of plants such as willow, water mint and astilbe, as well as slowing the flow of water into the garden during heavy rain.

Ideas on show

Andy Bord, chief executive at Flood Re, said: "Gardens are cherished spaces that bring joy to so many of us, so why wouldn’t we want to not only protect them from harm but actively harness their power to prevent them from future damage?"

The organisation will display its own garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. Celebrity gardener Naomi Slade helped design the outside space, which aims to demonstrate how domestic gardens can recover quickly after heavy rainfall.

It is also hoped visitors will be provided with ideas for flood-proofing their own gardens.

Following a flood, Flood Re's Build Back Better scheme allows people, through participating insurers, to claim up to £10,000 for flood resilience measures over and above the cost of work to repair damage caused by a flood.