Winning Hampton Court design heavy on flood-friendly plants

Eighty-five plant species and a series of water features manage rainwater in the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust's "Working Wetlands Garden", designed by Jeni Cairns.

Jeni Cairns, Best Show Garden winner at Hampton Court. Image: Supplied
Jeni Cairns, Best Show Garden winner at Hampton Court. Image: Supplied

The garden, which aims to show people how they can help solve local flooding through gardening, won a Gold Award and Best Show Garden award at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, which runs this week.

Instead of pouring down drains, the water filters through gravel beds, runs down channels into flowerbeds, through permeable paving, into a pond and soakaway hollows, and feeds and nurtures a variety of marsh plants that help to keep the water clean.

Image: Supplied

Most of the plants used (see below) are British natives. Summer flowering plants have been selected for colour including loosestrife, flowering rush and greater spearwort – providing a predominant purple mixed with cream and yellow.

Several features are recycled. The pagoda roof is the inverted roof of a grain silo; bench supports are made from the curved girders from the same silo; the cascade was an air duct from a warehouse; the chain cascade is made from the chains of an old harrow; old sheets of metal have been intricately carved to make relief water scenes of dragonflies and kingfishers.

The garden pavilion is built on a wooden platform weighing six tonnes, which spreads the weight of the structure across the Hampton Court ground underneath.

Cairns has created the garden with WWT so that it can be transported to WWT's Washington Wetland Centre when the show is over, to become a permanent outdoor classroom as part of HSBC's Water Programme.

Judges said they found the garden "really easy to judge". They liked the story behind the garden; they appreciated how delicate many of the wildflowers were to transport and plant; and they loved how Cairns had juxtaposed one of the wildest-feeling gardens at the show with some creative use of recycled industrial materials to recycle water.

Image: Supplied

Cairns said she was "amazed and delighted" at the accolades.

"The garden demonstrates it's relatively easy for anyone to recycle water by getting creative with recycled objects. It's more difficult to do this for a show where you're using mature native plants that are so fragile and can easily snap, but it was worth it because the effect is beautiful. I'm really pleased that all the hard work crafting metal and wood and making the water system work has been recognised.

"It's all about spreading the message that water is important and you can use it creatively rather than waste it."


Achillea millefolium

Acorus calamus

Alisma plantago aquaticum

Anagallis tenella

Aruncus sylvester

Baldellia ranunculoides

Butomus umbellatus

Callitriche stagnalis

Caltha palustris

Caltha palustris alba

Cardamine pratensis

Carex acuta

Carex acutiformis

Carex flacca

Carex panicea

Carex pendula

Carex pseudocyperus

Carex spicata

Dianthus armeria

Dipsacus fullonum

Dryopteris filix-mas

Eleocharis palustris

Epilobium hirsutum

Eriophorum angustifolium

Eupatorium cannabinum

Filipendula ulmaria

Geranium sylvaticum

Glyceria maxima

Gratiola officinalis

Hydrocharis morsus ranae

Iris pseudocorus

Juncus effusus

Juncus inflexus

Knautia arvensis

Leucanthemum vulgare

Linaria vulgaris

Lychnis flos-cuculi

Lycopus europaeus

Lysimachia nummularia

Lysimachia vulgaris

Lythrum salicaria

Mentha aquatica

Menyanthes trifoliata

Myosotis scorpioides

Myriophyllum spicatum

Myrrhis odorata

Nasturtium aquaticum

Nasturtium officinale

Nymphaea alba

Phalaris arundinacea

Potamogeton crispus

Potamogeton natans

Potentilla palustris

Ranunculus aquatilis

Ranunculus hederaceus

Ranunculus lingua

Ranunculus lingua grandiflorus

Sagittaria latifolia

Sagittaria sagitifolia

Sanguisorba officinalis

Scabiosa columbaria

Scirpus cernuus

Silene dioica

Sparganium erectum

Stachys palustris

Tanacetum vulgare

Thalictrum delavayi

Thalictrum flavum

Verbascum nigrum

Verbascum thapsis

Veronica beccabunga

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