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Gardening with water

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Life depends on water and gardens depend on water. The search for water on the Moon and Mars reminds us that water is Earth's most valuable asset. Fresh water is more precious:

  • over 97 percent of the earth's water is salt water
  • over 90 percent of the fresh water is either underground or frozen.
  • only 0.2 per cent of the earth's water is fresh and of easy access.

Water deserves to be celebrated in gardens:

  • in fountains
  • in flows
  • in stasis
  • in swamps

The 'Hanging Gardens of Babylon' (now thought to have been in Nineveh *) were on a hill in a near-rainless country. This is what made them so famous. Plant growth was made possible by an ingenious screw device which pumped water up from the River Tigris. It then splashed down Kuyunjik Hill irrigating the fruit trees as it passed.

Modern gardners appear to have an easier time of it. They either accept water from the sky or turn on the tap. But:

  • tap water is likely to become more expensive, because of water pricing
  • tap water is less nutritious than rainwater
  • tap water is often too chalky - or chlorinated

The more appealing policy is to design for Zero Runoff. As much water as possible should be retained within the garden boundary:

  • on vegetated roofs (see roof gardens)
  • in tanks and tubs
  • in ponds and swamps

Then one can start thinking about fountains. But take care! Fountains are at their best on hot sunny days. On cold windy days in northern countries the splashing of a fountain can add to the gloom. The spray looks like rain and sounds like rain. The inhabitants of these lands should give serious thought to mountain streams. Bubbling and swirling have the energy to remind us that winters come to an end and summers follow.

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* Note on the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens, famed as one of the world’s Seven Wonders, no longer exist. But, in 1993, they were identified as the subject of a West Asian relief in London’s British Museum (exhibit No WA124939, displayed in Room 89). Stephanie Dalley argues that the gardens were in Nineva, not Babylon, and they belonged to Sennacherib, not Nebuchadnezzar. The BM relief shows a garden with an aqueduct, a columned pavilion, a royal stella and an alter. Sennacherib’s palace was on the south-west section of the hill at Kuyunjic, opposite modern Mosul.[Stephanie Dalley, ‘Ancient Mesopotamian gardens and the identification of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon resolved’ Garden History Summer 1993 Vol 21 No 1 pp 1-13; Dalley, Stephanie ‘Nineveh, Babylon and the Hanging Gardens: cuneiform and classical sources reconciled’ Iraq Vol LVI 1994 pp. 45-58]

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Medium roof water2  original

Medium water barca2 original

Medium water can original