Man with tropical jungle in garden stores GALLONS of rainwater in face of drought
A green-fingered man has stored thousands of litres of rainwater, to protect his 25-year-old exotic garden from the looming drought.
Mike Clifford, 61, has spent decades turning the plot behind his suburban bungalow into a tropical jungle full of rare plants.
Despite being only 65ft long and 35ft wide, the garden is packed with extraordinary species native to South and Central America, Africa, and China.
Many of his plants have bloomed months earlier than expected due to the record-breaking heat.
But others, which are used to warm and moist climates, are at risk of dying due to the shortage of rain.
Parts of the UK have been hit by water shortages ahead of a Met Office amber warning for extreme heat coming into force this week, while Thames Water on Tuesday announced it would bring in a temporary hosepipe ban.
The ban was likely to affect parts of London, Surrey, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, and Kent.
Mike, from Poole, Dorset, said broad-leafed species like the Tree Daisy – or cylindrocline lorencei – which is indigenous to the cloud forest of Mexico, are ‘withering’ in front of his eyes.
The plants drink up a constant flow of water for half an hour each day – but soon Mike may have to turn off the taps as hosepipe bans come into force across southern England.
Luckily he has a system of water butts buried beneath ground containing over 2,000 litres of rainwater collected in winter which he hopes will be enough to save his garden.
The avid gardener uses submersible pumps connected to the butts as well as two hosepipes to soak the plants.
If his water reserves last until September, then he will be able to salvage the garden for next summer.
He will then dig up and pack most of his micro-jungle away in a back-breaking effort to protect it from the winter cold.
Mike replants the species in the spring and the extraordinary flora grows up to 12ft in height in the summer months.
This year he has seen several new additions come to fruition – including the incredibly rare St Helena Ebony, or Trochetiopsis ebenus, which is critically endangered in the wild.
The 4ft high plant with broad white flowers was once believed to be extinct until scientists found two small plants attached to a rock in Mexico.
They took cuttings from the plants which were then sent to Kew Gardens, London, to grow more of its kind.
The father-of-one said: “The hot weather has affected each species differently – many of the plants like the gingers have had an early blossom.
“We would normally expect to them to flower in September just a few weeks before they need to be packed away for winter, so it’s nice to enjoy them a little earlier.
“But the big leafed plants don’t like the heat. They are wilting terribly. If you go out there at midday, you can see it happening.
“I water them quite a lot but I’m trying to cut it back. I’ve got water butts buried 4ft beneath the ground.
“A potential hosepipe ban is a bit of a worry but we’re getting to the end of the season so as long as it makes it to September I’ll be happy”.
Mike began tropical gardening when he was inspired by a TV documentary on the subject in the 1990s.
He and his wife regularly open up their garden under National Garden Scheme and have raised thousands of pounds for charity over the years.
The couple moved into the bungalow 10 years ago and dug up most of the plants from their old address.
Their garden is home to giant dandelions from the Canary Islands and Pararistolochia goldieana, a plant from central Africa which has only flowered once in Europe.
There is also the Angel’s Trumpet, whose hallucinogenic properties were traditionally used by shamans in South and Central America to conjure visions.
Mike tends to his plants in the evenings and on weekends alongside his full-time job designing mobile homes.
His son, Harry, 26, helps with the heavy lifting.
Mike stores his plants in three greenhouses and a summer house over winter. Those that have to be left out and wrapped in a fleece.
It can often take two to three weekends to complete the work.