Water to feature prominently at this year's shows

The threat of flooding has been a looming presence for the horticulture industry and that sense of water appears to have trickled into the ideas of garden designers exhibiting at the RHS shows.

From outdoor showers, sails and salt-washed timber, to hydroponic irrigation systems and glassy pools, the shows are awash with the aquatic theme.

At Tatton Park, Pippa Probert has designed a garden called Aqua Life, demonstrating the possible uses of natural water features. Included in the space will be a natural swimming pool, children's paddling pool, outdoor shower and water feature.

Sarah Eberle incorporates a tranquil water element into her design for Holiday Inn's garden at Hampton Court with a partly enclosed area featuring a glass floor over a pool.

And Chelsea sees Clare Agnew's Reflective Garden playing on the two senses of sight and hearing - three still, dark pools draw the eye to the reflections of overhanging trees, while the ear listens to running water from the wall fountain.

Reliance on the weather is one of the features shared by the gardening and sailing worlds, as Hillier Nurseries deputy managing director Andrew McIndoe found when designing his Sail for Gold garden.

Gold, silver and bronze grasses will float between the pathways, with water cascading down a glass sail sculpture created by Mehrdad Tafreshi.

He said: "It's a very interesting challenge and the sailing team are a very inspiring crowd."

Having teamed up with Skandia, sponsors of Britain's national sailing team, for a much-anticipated display in Chelsea's Great Pavilion, McIndoe was faced with creating a Sail for Gold garden.

McIndoe said there was quite a strong nautical and water theme in many of this year's gardens.

"Everyone has been showing how a water element can make a garden that bit more season-resistant," added McIndoe.

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