Anne Diamond on the flood legacy changing the look of our gardens

PUBLISHED: 10:43 09 June 2014 | UPDATED: 13:13 09 June 2014


Ignore the thermometer, we’ve seen the sun, so it must be time for shorts and flip flops... but it’s the plants that could be putting on a brave face

Flood legacy that could change the look of our gardens

Now the sun is cheering us into summer, it’s lovely to sit back and marvel at our beautiful countryside drenched in sunny optimism. We’re certainly lucky to live in one of the most glorious parts of Britain.

But as if the recent floods weren’t bad enough, just recently listening to Gardeners’ Question Time taught me that, even if you think your garden has survived being drowned for months under inches of wintry water, you might yet get bitten in the water butt!

Apparently many of our garden plants hate having their roots permanently sodden. And though they’ll put on a brave face this season, it may well be that their weakened roots won’t survive the winter - and thus our gardens may look bleak next year. We may all be planning our borders anew this time next year - it’ll be a good year for the garden centres!

The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg was telling us all recently what he loved about being British. Like his policies or not, I absolutely agreed when he said one thing he loved about Brits was the way, even after the harshest winter, the moment we see one speck of sunshine, we’re walking about in shorts and singlets, flapping around in our flip flops in temperatures others would call cool. I find it tremendously life affirming.

Another character gone

One sad thing though about the passage of time is that inevitably as the years roll on, we’ll lose someone special, even if it’s a public figure most of us hardly knew. So I was very sad when I heard Tony Benn had died.

Now there’s a figure, often derided and divisive in his heyday, who made a huge impact on me. Not because of his politics, but because of his overwhelming humanity. I first met him when I was a junior reporter on The Bridgwater Mercury in Somerset, and he was Energy Minister in Jim Callaghan’s government. He was doing a tour of Hinkley Point nuclear power station, which was in my patch. And I was despatched to cover his visit.

When I got there, I found that he was being followed by an enormous phalanx of national news reporters from evey major newspaper and broadcaster. I really was a minnow in a sea of considerable whales (and some sharks).

But when he found out that I was indeed just that, the junior from the local paper, he brought me forward in the press conference, made a big fuss of me, addressed all his speaking to me, and reminded the entire press corps that, because I represented local people, I was actually the most important person there! He made me, and my little paper, feel very special and I have never forgotten his charm and encouragement.

Years later, when I was on breakfast TV interviewing him, I reminded him of the incident, and he told me he remembered it too, and would look up his recording of it. (He used to record, on a small cassette recorder, every single encounter with the press) and indeed he sent me a copy. Sometimes, never mind the politics, you have to see men for what they stand for as human beings. Tony Benn was a gentleman in the old fashioned sense of the word, he had integrity, charm and a strong sense of family. He loved to enable and encourage. I’m proud to have known him just a little bit. You can tell he had a similar impact on many, judging from the variety of characters (everyone from old Sinn Fein leaders, Arthur Scargill and top Tory Michael Heseltine to BBC luvvies, famous actors and even singer Peter Gabriel) who turned up to his funeral. That alone a fitting epitaph for anyone.

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