But they are unsympathetic. "Alan Titchmarsh says it doesn't matter if your garden goes brown, it will soon perk up when it rains," says a spokeswoman. But since the hosepipe ban has been introduced because of a shortage of rain, this argument seems a little circuitous. The brown-is-beautiful spokeswoman also refers me to the advice section of Thames Water's website, which is full of warnings on the evil of power showers but of less value to distressed gardeners.
Adam Pasco, editor of BBC Gardeners' World magazine, is of more help. He says gardeners shouldn't panic - their gardens need not be Saharan wastelands. His call to arms is a decisive one, with no ifs but plenty of butts. "Lots of rain falls," he explains, "but we just give it back to water companies through our drains and then pay for them to send it back to us. We should collect it instead." He says consumers fail to value water and the current drought is a "wake-up call" that will lead us to adopt a more conservationist approach, with metering, recycling and under-patio reservoirs all on the agenda.
As we probably can't build an under-patio reservoir by July, he offers a few short-term expedients. Use "grey" water - bathwater and washing up water - on the garden, as long as it doesn't contain large quantities of detergents. Mulch your flowerbeds by covering the soil with compost to lock in the moisture. Don't mow lawns too short - if you try to "sculpt" them, they won't withstand drought. Avoid growing bedding plans such as petunias, marigolds and busy lizzies that demand daily watering. Better are geraniums, which will survive with lower-level watering, but rethinking your garden to incorporate succulent plants and cacti which need much less water is best of all. "They will look green and many of them flower," he says. "There are plenty of beautiful things that don't need daily watering."
And if all that sounds like too much work, you could take a leaf out of Ken Livingstone's book and dye your lawn. The neighbours will be green with envy.
Gunther. P (1997). The Secret of Green Grass. Hardcore. London
Thompson. S (1996). My garden is better than yours, nah, nah, nah. Stoughton Press. Guildford View More »