London Fire Brigade at Chelsea Flower Show to show impact of climate change and flooding

Image above: Mylene Klass with firemen at Chelsea Flower Show; photograph LFB

Protect against flooding by improving your outside space

London Fire Brigade has been at the Chelsea Flower Show with a garden showing what a difference a garden can make to flooding. The Fire Brigade took part in the event for the first time and won a silver award for their display on sustainable solutions through ‘planet friendly’ gardening. They also had quite a bit of attention from celebrity visitors.

The Brigade’s spectacular ‘Act on Flooding’ stand, in the Great Pavilion Discovery Zone, was designed to highlight the issues of flooding in urban areas and featured a tank with a fully submerged car to show the worst-case scenario flooding incidents firefighters could be faced with.

It showed how permeable paving and extra planting can reduce the risk of flooding in people’s homes and what people should do if they are affected by flooding as well as how to prepare for it.

Image above: London Fire Brigade ‘Act on Flooding’ stand at Chelsea Flower Show; graphic LFB

Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Operational Policy, David O’Neill, said:

“Climate change means flooding is getting worse. As a result we are increasingly facing flash floods caused by heavy rain. It’s a problem made worse by poor drainage and the ongoing urbanisation of our environment.”

Paving over gardens and using plastic grass both contribute to the problem.

Image above: Joan Collins with firemen at Chelsea Flower Show; photograph LFB


The Fire Brigade had advice to give on planting:

“Planting plays an important role in managing rainfall, helping us ‘slow it down, spread it out, and soak it in’.”

  • It helps water to filter into the ground, rather than sit on the surface
  • It temporarily stores rainwater in leafy canopies
  • It allows some water to evaporate from the plant before it even reaches the ground

Guided by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), they advocate putting in plants with large, dense canopies, and rough and hairy leaves allow rainfall to be stored within the foliage, such as Yew and  Cotoneaster franchetii. They also suggest plants with higher rates of evapotranspiration (how water is consumed by a plant) such as Forsythia, Hawthorn and Privet.

For more detail, see the RHS report:  Improving the environmental resilience of UK gardens

Among the recommendations were ideas for rain gardens, which manage rainwater runoff from hard surfaces after downpours, and green roofs, which offer another surface for absorbing water.

‘A rain garden is a shallow area of ground or dip which receives run-off from roofs and other hard surfaces. It is planted with plants that can stand waterlogging for up to 48 hours at a time… Storm water fills the depression and then drains.’ RHS

See RHS ideas for rain gardens: Rain gardens

See RHS information on green roofs: Green roofs

Image above: London Fire Brigade stand at Chelsea Flower Show; photograph LFB

Alternatives to paved front gardens for parking the car

Acknowledging the need for off-street parking, London Fire Brigade suggest gravel, porous asphalt or concrete blocks and grass as alternatives to non-permeable paving, which contributes to flooding.

See LFB advice on alternatives to paving: The problem with paved front gardens

Flooding increased by 12% last year

Flooding incidents increased by 12% in London last year compared to 2020, with more than 7,000 flooding-related calls in total throughout 2021, There were several incidents of flash flooding across the city last summer, with Control Officers taking more than 1,000 calls on two separate occasions.

Images above: Ainsley Harriott and Mary Beard with firefighters at Chelsea Flower Show; photographs LFB

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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