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A watery, sustainable end of the line?

Posted by Jean Vernon on 10 Jul 2009 at 09:42 PM

Unless you've bought a railway cottage you wouldn't expect to have train track in your front garden. But as a reclaimed material it creates an interesting effect when used within a garden design.

'The Rain Chain' is a garden that addresses many of the issues facing today's gardeners and home owners. Garden Designer Wendy Allen told me, "In the brief, I set the garden in a flood risk zone. It's in a small railway town by the coast, so the railway track ties in with the railway and the pebbles with the coastal theme."

It's sustainable in many ways. "We were trying to use reclaimed materials in this garden. The railway lines were reclaimed. The rusted metal planters and the water butt are all made from reclaimed rusted steel. The water butt used to be an oil tank." It's an unusual choice of material and is very effective, but I questioned how achievable and affordable it would be?  "Any garden is achievable, it depends on the budget. If you want a stunning front garden that's a bit different then they are ideal to use. They are not difficult to get hold off, there's quite a lot of rail track in here; the uprights for the green roof, the supports are all made with rail track as well, and it's possible to get that for £1200. Delivery is not the most sustainable of things because if you have long lengths, it involves a lorries and a forklift. But most garden projects have big things in and you'll encounter that with any garden."


We are trying to reuse things, and be sustainable from that point of view so we are not sourcing things from abroad."

But it is the clever use and diversion of rain water that makes this garden so interesting. "Because it's In a flood risk zone, the owners have taken it on themselves to reduce the rain run-off from their property. They have a green roof car port, that green roof will absorb a lot of the water run-off from the main roof of the house, and the excess comes down the rain chain and into the water butt where it's stored and can be used for supplementary watering in dry periods. The water butt overflows into this slightly sunken area, a rain garden, that's designed to be a moist and free draining depression. If it rains and there's too much rain it will puddle in the bottom of the rain garden, but mostly that will just be pebbles, so we've got Marginal moisture loving plants but also plants that can dry out and won't keel over when it's hot."

 The RHS judges awarded this garden a Gold Medal.

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