Britain’s rich horticultural history is being lost as more and more front and back gardens are paved over – for development and for parking spaces – or often because families don’t have the time or inclination to manage these spaces. The trend for easy-to-maintain lawns, patios and paving has led to a decline in traditional gardens full of flowers, plants and trees to the extent that some of our most iconic flora and fauna have all but disappeared.
Step forward the BBC’s most-loved gardening experts, who are determined to turn us back into a green-fingered nation once again. In Great British Garden Revival, fourteen of Britain’s top television gardeners – Monty Don, Carol Klein, Joe Swift, Rachel de Thame, James Wong, Tom Hart Dyke, Chris Beardshaw, Alys Fowler, Charlie Dimmock, Diarmuid Gavin, Christine Walkden, Toby Buckland, Sarah Raven and Matt James – have come together on a joint mission to switch us back to being a population that’s proud of its roses and rockeries, hedgerows and herb gardens, water features and wildflowers.
In each episode, two presenters will focus on an endangered aspect of gardens about which they feel passionately about and offer hands-on, practical advice to viewers on how they can restore and look after their gardens. The series will feature episodes on cottage gardens, herbaceous borders, cut flowers, roof gardens, topiary, ornamental bedding, ponds and water features, fruit trees and kitchen gardens.
Nationwide, more people now have paved patios in their gardens than those who have trees. It all adds up to a crisis unparalleled in our history – massively increasing the risk of flooding. With five million homes in this country already at risk and uninsurable in many places, paving over our gardens will only make things worse. Only 5% of rainwater in paved, urban spaces is soaked up – the other 95% of the water is run-off, which overwhelms our drains and gutters.
This rapid and sustained loss of our private green spaces is also having a dramatic effect on our wildlife – particularly on garden birds and butterflies. Starling numbers have fallen from an average of 15 per garden in 1979 to just three in 2012, Mistle thrush has declined by an alarming 28% and House sparrow numbers have fallen by an even more alarming two-thirds in the same period. Whilst there are many reasons for their dramatic decline, paving over their habitats is hardly helping.
So what went wrong? And what can be done to reverse the decline? Can Britain once again embrace the iconic garden features and plants that once made our outdoor spaces the envy of the world?