Man protects his tropical garden from drought by storing thousands of litres of rainwater

Andy Wells

·Freelance Writer

Wed, 10 August 2022 at 2:13 pm

Mike Clifford's stunning tropically-themed garden in Poole, Dorset. (BNPS/Solent)
Mike Clifford’s stunning tropically-themed garden in Poole, Dorset. (BNPS/Solent)

A green-fingered father says a looming drought in England is of little concern to him as he has stored up thousands of litres of rainwater in his back garden.

Mike Clifford has spent more than 25 years turning the 65ft garden at his bungalow in Poole, Dorset, into a tropical jungle.

With species native to places like South and Central America, Africa and China, the plants would be at risk of dying out as the current heatwave in England continues.

However, Clifford, whose home is not currently under any water restrictions, says he has built a complex system of water butts underneath the ground which contains 2,000 litres of rainwater collected over the winter.

The submersible pumps are connected to the butts as well as two hosepipes to soak the plants.

Green-fingered Mike Clifford has stored thousands of litres of rainwater to protect his 25-year old exotic garden from the looming drought. (BNPS/Solent)
Green-fingered Mike Clifford has stored thousands of litres of rainwater to protect his 25-year old exotic garden from the looming drought. (BNPS/Solent)

With a hosepipe ban already in place for parts of England, and warnings that more are planned, Clifford believes his rainwater stash will help save his myriad of plantlife – that can grow up to 12ft in the summer months.

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.

There is also the Angel’s Trumpet, whose hallucinogenic properties were traditionally used by shamans in South and Central America to conjure visions.

Speaking of how the extreme heat has already affected his plants, Clifford said: “The hot weather has affected each species differently – many of the plants like the gingers have had an early blossom.

“We would normally expect to them to flower in September just a few weeks before they need to be packed away for winter, so its nice to enjoy them a little earlier.

“But the big leafed plants don’t like the heat. They are wilting terribly. If you go out there at midday, you can see it happening.

“I water them quite a lot but I’m trying to cut it back. I’ve got water butts buried 4ft beneath the ground.

“A potential hosepipe ban is a bit of a worry but we’re getting to the end of the season so as long as it makes it to September I’ll be happy.”

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. (Solent)
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. (Solent)

Aerial photos of Clifford’s garden show how his water reserves have kept it luscious and green – a stark contrast to the yellowing and parched garden of his neighbours.

Parts of the UK have already been hit by water shortages ahead of a Met Office amber warning for extreme heat coming into force later this week.

The weather warning will come into force for parts of England and Wales from Thursday to Sunday, with temperatures set to climb up to 36C in some places.

Thames Water, which supplies water to 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley, became the latest water company to signal it will bring in a hosepipe ban in the face of the hot, dry summer.

South East Water and Southern Water have already announced hosepipe bans – after the driest first half of the year since 1976 saw south east England clocking up 144 days with little or no rain so far in 2022.

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