Mindfullness in the approach of unprecedented environmental challenges has become not only feasible, but utterly imperative in the design of our living spaces. The French environmental agency ADEME, for example, has recently decreed that all new commercial structures must be outfitted with either green rooves or solar panels in order to mitigate respectively the primary cause (fossil fuel demand), and symptom (greenhouse emissions) of climate change.
Our own wellbeing is dependant on that of our world, and the responsible garden designer should reflect this.
Previously we discussed the structural aspects of sustainable garden design and particularly which materials we might substitute in order to dampen the carbon footprint of our build or, in the case of resin bound surfacing, remove dampness all together! In this piece we will explore the organic opportunities that await in our pursuit of a green garden, including which plants will most benefit surrounding ecology and how to grow your own produce.
The pollination carried out by bees is instrumental in over one third of the world’s food supply and with their populations in decline and ours set to reach ten billion by 2050, there is no room in the garden for apathy. Green corridors are essential to the maintenance of healthy insect populations and their dissapearance in the wake of urbanization has affected the bees severely, limiting their ability to migrate across large cities. Now any garden with ample biodiversity can serve as a green corridor but a good garden designer can recommend a few cultivars specifically for this purpose. These are a few of my favourites:
These bulbous perennials often form large globular flower heads in vivid purples and blue and are extremely attractive to both bees and butterflies.
Lupins are short-lived herbaceous perennials that form a tall column of multi-colour blooms at the apex of their stem.
Wisteria is a woody-stemmed climbing plant that may be trained along walls and pergolas and will produce mountainous cascades of scented, purple or white blooms in the spring.
Try to include plants which flower at both ends of the year too to give insects the longest season possible for sources of food.
Alongside this ornamental approach to biodiversity, you might ask your garden designer to include a dose of home agriculture – growing your own herbs, fruits and vegetables is not only sustainable, but wonderfully empowering as well. Raised beds are a low-maintenance way of growing veg and can be easily constructed using recycled timber and a little compost and fertilizer. Aim for no more than 120cm in width to afford easy access to all sides of the bed; ideally the soil should be around six inches deep and weeded regularly to minimize competition for nutrition and water. You might consider a second bed to house your favourite culinary and medicinal herbs and let me offer a tip for mint lovers: plant the mint in a pot in the bed to prevent the invasive roots from strangling its neighbours.
The next chapter of this journey to sustainability will focus on gardening with the future mind, how to source the resources necessary to maintain projects and practices previously discussed and how to heal the damage done before these ideals were adopted.