How green is my castle? Cutting carbon in treasured gardens GO GREEN firstname.lastname@example.org.
Byline: ANDREW FORGRAVE Rural Affairs Editor
A LUSH garden awash with colour and alive with birds and insects is usually considered an environmental bonus - yet few realise maintaining a garden can be more damaging to the environment than running a large executive car.
In fact many gardens are far from green: the production of synthetic fertilisers is a huge producer of greenhouse gases, while using peat robs the earth of a vital carbon sink.
Gardening demands a significant amount of water, fuel and energy, and produces a large amount of waste.
Simply running a hosepipe for an hour can use 1,000 litres of water. Moreover, the energy needed to treat that hour's worth of water is the same as the amount needed to keep five low energy light bulbs running for 60 minutes.
More incredibly, according to scientists at Cornell University, USA, the nitrous oxide released from synthetic fertilisers has 300 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
As the guardian of some of Wales's biggest and best gardens, the National Trust is working hard to show how gardening can be done in an environmentally responsible way.
In just two years the Trust's pioneering team has halved the charity's energy usage and CO2 emissions at its Welsh buildings.
Now it's working with the its horticultural team to do the same with the charity's gardens at properties like Plas Newydd, Penrhyn Castle, Bodnant Garden, Chirk Castle, Erddig, Powis Castle and Plas yn Rhiw.
Based on how water, energy, pests, soil and waste are managed, as well as how plants are used, they have assessed each garden to decide what needs to be done.
Already the teams at these attractions are improving their energy and water efficiencies. Mulch is being used to preserve moisture levels, while organic material is being added to soils to reduce the need for irrigation.
Composting is also being improved and drought-resistant plants introduced to lower water demands.
Now the charity is harnessing the power of nature to lend a hand.
As well as harvesting rainwater, solar panels are being deployed to provide energy for garden teams across Wales.
The gardens at Powis Castle, Welshpool, are an example of what is being done. Here, the nursery is run by heat pumps and solar panels, with water for irrigation sourced from a bore hole.
Compost run-off is treated by a reed bed, waste is recycled and specially irrigated sand beds are used in the greenhouses that are made as heat efficient as possible.
Even pests are tackled responsibly by using garlic and seaweed sprays to keep the roses free from attacks and looking their best.
The ethos behind these efforts is clear enough: if changes can be made in listed buildings, castles and mansions - places recognised as difficult to manage - then change should be possible everywhere else.
Alun Prichard is the National Trust's consultancy manager in north east Wales.
Solar PV electricity heats the greenhouses at Powis Castle
Drought-tolerant plants are being introduced at National Trust gardens such as Powis Castle