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Building a Climate-Resilient Garden

Susan Dunstall


We need to design our gardens so they are resilient to the predicted effects of climate change with warmer wetter winters, and hotter drier summers.

Climate change is an undeniable reality, impacting our planet in unprecedented ways. As individuals, we may feel helpless in the face of such a colossal challenge, but there are steps we can take to contribute to the fight against climate change. One such approach is to transform our gardens into climate-resilient spaces that promote biodiversity, conserve resources, and sequester carbon. So, what can we do?

Add Biodiversity

A diverse garden with various plant species fosters a resilient ecosystem that can better adapt to changing climate conditions. It is essential to create habitats for pollinators, birds, and beneficial insects, as they play a significant role in maintaining the balance of nature.

  • Say no to toxic chemicals such as pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and weedkillers which contribute to environmental problems. Organic gardening avoids the use of harmful chemicals, relying instead on natural alternatives like seaweed feed and organic manure.
  • Include natural water in the garden; natural ponds should be free from chemicals such as chlorine – added planting and shelter for wildlife are ideal.
  • Conserve Water as scarcity is a pressing concern in the context of climate change. Implementing water-saving techniques in your garden such as waterbutts or rainwater harvesting systems can make a significant difference.
  • Consider alternatives to mown lawns – mow less to allow flowering species to provide food for pollinators; meadow planting is a great alternative and less maintenance.
  • Produce compost by managing organic waste effectively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enrich the soil in your garden. Composting kitchen scraps, garden trimmings, and leaves creates nutrient-rich humus that enhances soil health.
  • Reduce hard landscaping; be cautious with the amount of hard landscaping when building any new garden, opting for sustainable materials and methods. Use permeable paving instead of concrete to allow rainwater to infiltrate the soil and recharge groundwater.

Choose the Right Plants

  • Analyse your garden before you start anything, look carefully to note the areas of hot sun throughout the day, along with any deeply shaded spaces. Check the quality of your soil – does it have enough depth; do you know whether it is acidic, alkaline or just neutral?
  • Plant trees as they absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and store it in their roots, stems, and leaves. Planting trees not only helps mitigate climate change but also provides shade, reduces urban heat island effects, and supports wildlife. A recent RHS study showed if every UK gardener planted a medium sized tree such as a cherry or crab apple then these trees would store carbon the equivalent of driving 11.4 million times around the earth.
  • Consider a design which will encompass several areas, each with different characteristics such as a gravel garden with plants resistant to drought and wind, or swales with plants tolerating both wet and dry conditions.
  • Plant the right plant in the right space for both today’s conditions and future predictions. Well designed planting schemes can adapt to events such as flooding or drought.

Suggested plants:

Gravel planting for drought and wind tolerant

  • Euphorbia rigida – spreading evergreen with blue, green leaves
  • Thymus vulgaris - scented and used in cooking
  • Stachys byzantina – evergreen with white woolly leaves
  • Stipa tenuissima – a soft deciduous grass
  • Lavandula ‘Hidcote’– aromatic scented shrub
  • Pinus mugo – an evergreen conifer, bushy and rounded
  • Nepeta racemosa – perfect edging plant with blue flowers
  • Salvia nemorosa – great with pollinators
  • Erigeron karvinskianus – white daisies turning pink
  • Centranthus ruber – red, pink or white valerian
  • Helichrysum italicum – Curry plant

Swale planting for wet and dry tolerant of flooding

  • Lythrum salicaria – purple loosestrife
  • Carex divulsa – sedge
  • Osmunda regalis – Royal fern
  • Iris pseudacorus – yellow iris
  • Angelica archangelica – tall perennial with light yellow umbels

The choice of species is key but soil must be well prepared; planting in autumn before the rainfall will give the best start then mulch with organic compost to preserve moisture and reduce week growth.

Susan Dunstall Limited: gardens and landscape design /


New build houses
Thu 18 Jul 2024

Congratulations! Buying a new home is such an exciting moment. Whether it is your very first home or you are upgrading your current property for something a bit nicer, there is no feeling like it. New build homes are such a great investment. Not only are they brand new for your family but you can feel confident that they have been designed with the future in mind. Many properties come with eco-friendly features which are great for safeguarding your family. Financing a new home can be a bit of a minefield. Let’s take a look at how you could buy your new home as well as some things to look out for along the way. Mortgage Mortgages are the most common financing option when buying a home. Buyers of new builds can benefit from mortgages designed for the intricacies of the new build process. Lenders may be a lot more critical when looking at your application as there is less security for them with a new build. As construction timelines can be subject to delays and issues, be sure to keep in touch with your lender and see if you can extend your mortgage in principal agreement. You may be able to get some help with buying a new build home. If you are a first-time buyer, look into whether you are eligible for a discount under the First Homes Scheme. Incentives from builders It is in the best interest of building developers to sell their new homes, so some may offer you incentives. You may be offered cash towards your deposit which will be transferred to your solicitor on completion. If you do take advantage of this, remember to inform your mortgage lender. For people who have already purchased a home, developers may be able to help you sell your old house. A developer-assisted sale is one where they will aid you with independent valuations, appropriate deals or the actual sale. This is often free, and they may pay for your estate agency fees. Hidden costs Buying a house can come with hidden costs such as stamp duty and moving costs. Delays in the construction of your new build can often be costly too. When thinking about your moving budget, it is wise to incorporate a buffer zone for additional expenses. Advice The home-buying process is not a straightforward one, so seeking help from professionals is prudent. A lot of the process includes legal intricacies which will be beyond your capabilities. Mortgage brokers, for example, will be invaluable when it comes to getting you a mortgage in principle that works for your situation. Not only will you be able to get the best deal and save money, but a broker will save you so much time. Instructing a firm of solicitors will also be worth the expense. They can do land searches, deed transfers and keep everything above board for you going forward.

Endellion Lycett Green - you drifted by
Mon 15 Jul 2024

This summer the Laura Lopes Gallery presents works by botanical artist Endellion Lycett Green in the Tithe Barn at Thyme. Through her art, Lycett Green pays testament to the inspiration she finds in the natural world.

Lydia Millen
Mon 15 Jul 2024

For anyone who hasn’t come across Lydia Millen, she is an influencer-turned-writer who has embraced a life of bucolic bliss. Her debut book, Evergreen: Discover the Joy in Every Season, came out last autumn and encourage readers to be inspired and soothed by connecting with the natural world.

Urban winner   Danny Kidby Hunter
Mon 15 Jul 2024

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) has opened its annual nature photography competition for 2024 with new categories and prizes.