In addition to creating inspiring outdoor spaces and dream-worthy gardens, landscape designers and architects also make our yards more sustainable and earth-friendly. Writer Lauren Dunec Hoang from Houzz spoke with 12 landscape designers around the world – and looked at gardens they’ve designed – who describe how installing rain gardens, converting lawns to native landscapes, planting low-water gardens and utilising other practices can result in beautiful gardens with environmental benefits. Which ones could you adopt for a greener gardening approach at home?
1. Use Permeable Hardscape Surfaces
Choosing hardscape materials that allow for water to run through them is another way to keep rainwater on-site. In this recent build in Wagga our landscapers used gravel to cover the side of the house acting as a pathway and future fire pit area. This acts as a filter for rainwater to percolate back into the soil.
2. Turn A Lawn Into A Naturalistic Landscape
If you’re considering eliminating a traditional lawn or reducing its size, look into naturalistic meadow-inspired garden. This type of design incorporates native plants, including pollinator-friendly plants, and keeps rainwater on-site, reducing the need for supplemental water and maintenance – for a beautiful backyard.
3. Use Local Native Plants
Using plants native to your geographical region connects your landscape to larger ecosystems, invites wildlife to your garden and decreases the need for supplemental water and fertiliser, as regionally native plants are adapted to native soils and climates. Plus, they also make for beautiful, dynamic gardens. If you’re new to planting natives and looking for inspiration, landscape designer and sustainable gardening expert Benjamin Vogt recommends checking out local nurseries, reserves and arboretums. “This will give you an idea of what plants work well with each other aesthetically and ecologically,” he says.
4. Add Pollinator-friendly Plants
Even if you don’t have an entirely native garden, include some plants that are friendly to birds, butterflies and bees for a planting scheme that supports local wildlife. When planting pollinator-friendly blooms, mass them in clumps or bands so they can be spotted from a distance.
5. Include A Water Source
Water features of any kind – fountains, birdbaths or backyard ponds – can be places that attract wild creatures for bathing and drinking. This is particularly important in cities and suburbs, where natural water sources have been all but eliminated.
6. Use Local and Reusable Materials
If you’re investing in new building and hardscape materials for a landscape project, try to choose long-lasting ones that have been sustainably obtained and locally sourced. Locally sourced materials will have had to travel shorter distances than exotic ones, reducing the material’s carbon footprint and potentially reducing its cost to the homeowner. USA-based landscape architect Falon Mihalic advocates using local stone in landscape projects. “Like locally sourced wood, stone is a sustainable building choice for the landscape when it is purchased from a nearby source,” says Mihalic. “Local stone lasts a lifetime. You will not have to send it to a landfill ever, because it can be reused again and again.”
7. Reclaim Spaces, Rather Than Tear Them Down
If you’re starting a garden renovation, it’s tempting to want to tear everything out and start with a clean slate. However, replacing all plants, hardscape and structures can lead to added costs and unnecessary waste. If possible, look for ways to reimagine spaces and reuse existing materials.
8. Harvest Rainwater
Capturing rainwater can help save water on a small scale. A rainwater tank or vessel connected to a home’s downpipes or guttering system allows one to capture the run-off from the roof for use in drier months.
9. Plant A Rain Garden
Rain gardens channel stormwater into a sunken, planted garden area, where it can slowly soak into the ground, as opposed to stormwater drains that send the water off-site. Adding a rain garden leads to a cascade of environmental benefits. “Rain gardens help purify surface water and recharge groundwater,” says landscape designer Amy Whitworth. The gravel and soil of a rain garden act as a filter, helping purify run-off of harmful pollutants, such as hydrocarbons, heavy metals, fertiliser, pesticides and more.” Rain gardens do more than reduce stormwater run-off. “Amended soils of a rain garden help to create a living sponge that absorbs and holds water longer for plants,” says Whitworth, which leads to healthier soils and gardens that need less supplemental water.”
10. Eliminate Pesticide Use
Boost the health of your garden – and surrounding environment – by vowing to ditch pesticides. “The use of pesticides in the landscape affects not only damaging insects but beneficial insects as well, such as bees and butterflies that we rely on for pollination,” says landscape consultant Noelle Johnson. Instead of spraying plants with chemicals, Johnson recommends a more hands-off approach to pest control. “The majority of plants can easily handle some damage from insects without seriously affecting the health of the plant,” she says. “When you first spot damaging insects in your garden, usually within a couple of weeks beneficial insects will show that will eat those bad bugs.” For example, when aphids appear, lacewings and ladybugs will soon follow and feast upon them.
11. Put Green Waste To Good Use
Instead of tossing grass and garden clippings in your greens bin, set up a home compost station. “Compost provides critical organic matter for soil texture and food for soil organisms,” says landscape designer Patricia Larenas. After all, healthy soil leads to healthy gardens.
12. Leave An Area Wild
Resist the urge to landscape all areas of your yard, particularly if you are lucky enough to live on a larger lot. Leaving margins wild helps provide wildlife corridors for animals to move through urban and suburban spaces with places to rest, feed and find shelter.
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For mor tips from the Houzz experts visit Houzz.com.au