My garden's a tropical jungle…I'm stockpiling water to keep it lush while neighbours' lawns turn brown amid hosepipe ban | The Sun
A GREEN-fingered father is stockpiling water to keep his tropical front garden lush while his neighbours' lawns turn brown.
Mike Clifford has stored thousands of litres of rainwater to protect his 25-year-old jungle from the looming drought – as millions of Brits face a hosepipe ban.
The 61-year-old has spent decades turning the plot behind his suburban bungalow into a tropical paradise full of rare plants.
The patch is only 65ft long and 35ft wide, yet it 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.
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Mike, from Poole, Dorset, said broad-leafed species like the Tree Daisy, which is indigenous to the cloud forest of Mexico, were "withering" in front of his eyes so he installed a system of underground water butts.
They contain more than 2,000 litres of rainwater collected over winter – and he hopes it will be enough to save his garden.
Some of his plants drink up a constant flow for half an hour each day – but Mike may soon be forced to turn off the taps as hosepipe bans come into force across southern England.
The dad-of-one, whose neighbours' front gardens appear to be brown and dry, said: "The hot weather has affected each species differently – many of the plants like the gingers have had an early blossom.
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"We would normally expect to them to flower in September just a few weeks before they need to be packed away for winter, so its 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."
Hosepipe bans are already in place across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man, and they will come into force in Kent and Sussex from August 12 amid a prolonged dry spell and "record demand".
Welsh Water has also announced those living in Pembrokeshire can no longer use hosepipes or sprinklers from August 19, and Thames Water has warned restrictions could cover Greater London, Thames Valley, Surrey, Gloucestershire and northern Wiltshire in the "coming weeks" following heatwave temperatures.
Mike currently uses submersible pumps connected to the butts as well as two hosepipes to soak his plants.
If his reserves last until September, 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, 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.
HOSEPIPE BAN IS 'A BIT OF A WORRY'
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.
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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.
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