The subject of sustainability and helping to reduce climate change is obviously a diverse one but, with the planet in crisis, we all have a part to play. Thinking about ways to support our natural world does not mean compromising on garden design.
Here are 5 ways in which you can help the environment when designing a garden. These can either be incorporated from the start of a new garden design, or added retrospectively to an existing garden.
1. Use Recycled Materials Wherever Possible
Before buying something new for the garden, have a think about whether it could be sourced second hand or recycled – and preferably locally – before purchasing something new. A whisky barrel, for example, looks great when planted up, or an agricultural trough can make a striking water feature.
Use materials which tie in with existing surroundings, so if putting in a new path or wall, for example, try finding reclaimed bricks or stone that are a close match to your house rather than buying new. The patina and character that an aged product naturally has adds so much character to established spaces.
2. Design for Wildlife and Not Just Yourself
A garden which is rich in wildlife is so beneficial on every level. It provides a habitat for the natural world, it gives great enjoyment watching the different species set up residence in the garden, and it also ensures a healthy ecosystem which will in turn help the plants. Avoid any chemical sprays and let the birds and frogs eat the slugs and snails, or the ladybirds eat the aphids. And yes, the hostas may be eaten a bit more by slugs some years, but in the grand scheme of things is this really such a problem?
Think also about our pollinators when choosing your plants so that the bees, butterflies, and moths are all well-fed through the seasons. Flowers which are open in structure so that the pollen and nectar are easily accessed are very good for bees – cosmos, lavender, alliums, and buddleja are all wise choices.
Having water in the garden – whatever the scale – is always going to benefit wildlife and can be a real focal point in a garden design. It could be a bird bath, a small container submerged in the ground to make a mini pond, or a more formal or larger structure.
3. Consider Your Planting
There is also the vital issue of absorbing carbon, with trees being the most effective way to do this in your garden. Even small gardens can usually fit in at least one tree in the design – smaller varieties of Crab Apple, Malus sylvestris, Acerand Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, are all good choices for smaller gardens in Scotland. Similarly, choose to grow a hedge rather than build a wall or install a fence.
Making new plants at home cuts down our carbon footprint as well as saving money. You can split your perennials, sow from seed, or take cuttings to produce new stock. This ensures repeat planting in your flowerbeds, which works much better from a design perspective, rather than having one of everything, which can can look disjointed. People are often intimidated by propagation but do give it a go.
4. Reduce Your Food Miles
Not only do home grown fruit and vegetables taste amazing and bring much satisfaction as a gardener but they are an excellent way of reducing your food miles. The size of your garden will determine to what extent you can do this but even a balcony can have tomatoes and herbs growing successfully.
Cordoned or espaliered fruit trees or bushes are another fantastic way of maximising space in a small garden – and on a design level they look really effective – either against a wall or as a way of dividing a space in place of a standard fence.
5. Conserve Your Resources
Perhaps the simplest way to help the environment in your garden is to conserve what you already have. As droughts are even affecting our Scottish climate now, capturing the rain from your shed or house roof by means of a water butt is a must – ideally have more than one so that you do not need to use your outdoor tap or hose nearly as much.
And of course conserving your own resources is probably best practised by making your own compost. Using your own garden waste to break down and provide a rich mulch or compost for your plants is the very definition of recycling and ensuring the plants you have incorporated into your garden design are well looked after. This also has the knock-on effect of using less bought compost and the plastic bags it comes in. Remember if you do buy compost, to make sure it is peat-free.
These are just 5 ways to help the environment in your garden design. Of course, there are many more but use this as a starting point to make positive changes in your own garden to help protect our planet.
Katie runs Katie Reynolds Design which offers garden and interior design services across Aberdeenshire and the North East of Scotland. She is qualified in both sectors, having trained at KLC School of Design in London and the National Design Academy. Follow Katie for more inspiration on Instagram and Facebook.