WaterAid Garden designed by Tom Massey and Je Ahn

Addressing the challenges of variable climates, the garden highlights the importance of sustainable water management and harnessing the power of rainwater.

sketch of the WaterAid Garden designed by Tom Massey and Je Ahn
Credit: WaterAid &Tom Massey

Supported by Project Giving Back, the WaterAid garden is a collaboration between celebrated architect Je Ahn and award-winning landscape designer Tom Massey. The first time for Ahn to exhibit at Chelsea Flower Show, and fourth for Massey, having previously won gold and silver-gilt medals.

The climate crisis is a water crisis, and a staggering 90% of all natural disasters are water-related, with more frequent and extreme floods polluting water sources and droughts drying up springs. The garden features a colourful array of plant species designed to deal with varying amounts of rainfall, and materials that are reclaimed and repurposed for a lighter carbon footprint.

“In recent years, British horticulture has felt the effects of extreme weather – including heatwaves, drought and flooding. As our climate changes, water scarcity and insecurity will become more commonplace – here in the UK and around the world. We can all do things to help mitigate climate change, such as improving soil health, planting greenery to provide shade, and, most importantly, managing water sustainably. The WaterAid Garden demonstrates how a resilient and beautiful garden could be achieved whatever the future holds, explains Massey”

The centrepiece of the garden is a rainwater-harvesting pavilion inspired by WaterAid’s work with communities around the world to develop sustainable water solutions. This structure efficiently harvests rainfall, filtering and storing this precious resource for drinking and irrigating whilst also slowing flow and providing shade.

All the plants have been chosen to cope with varying amounts of water. They include water violet (Hottonia palustris), which can indicate whether a water source is clean or polluted, and alder tree (Alnus glutinosa), which has nodules on its roots that can absorb nitrogen and toxic heavy metals from the ground, improving soil health and fertility.

“The message of our garden is one of hope, showing how resilience and innovation can help us all to adapt and flourish in the face of the climate crisis. We would like the WaterAid garden to encourage visitors to think about ways to conserve water and incorporate elements of rainwater harvesting into their own gardens”, adds Je Ahn.

After the show, the garden which will be built by Landscape Associates is to be relocated to a permanent home with the intention to educate future generations of gardeners about effective rainwater collection and efficient water usage in gardens.