A high ratio of planting to hardscape with decking from locally procured green oak
Sustainability has been a keystone in all my work as a landscape designer; it is a subject I have practiced, theorised and given workshops and seminars on, yet it remains relatively undefined and misunderstood. I have tried to weigh up the pros and cons of materials, carbon footprint, distance, working conditions etc. and find it is difficult to state that one material is better than another. Now I work with a holistic approach to the subject and find that gives the best results.
Firstly, let's get the ratio of hard to soft right. Modern design leans towards a preponderance of hard landscape, crisply executed to give clean straight lines; this often dominates with the planting as a secondary element. Yet it is clear that a softer approach, with the right amount of hard landscape, can and should frame and be backdrop to the planting. This simple philosophy alone will moderate the material input into a site and so reduce its carbon footprint. We then still must be aware of our material choices and my philosophy here is not to enhance one environment (the garden or landscape) at the expense of another (the source of supply). So I find it hard to justify any use of tropical timber (unless recycled), even if it carries the FSC mark; I am deeply sceptical about using timber that comes from our beleaguered rainforests, no matter how well it is apparently managed. Materials of local provenance and/or recycled/reused should be chosen wherever possible.
A sustainable landscape I designed for Grand Designs Live in 2007
Once we have constructed a garden, we have to think about the maintenance, for this makes a perpetual contribution to the garden's sustainability. First off is irrigation; to me this is a no-no; there should be no need to irrigate a garden in a temperate climate, outside of the establishment period. Planting just needs to be chosen to suit the conditions. Lawns should also be lessened in area, cut higher and less frequently than is the habit, and definitely not irrigated. My lawn is prone to brown off in places in period of drought but it soon greens up again. Larger areas can be turned into meadows or meadow-like plantings.
This is a complex subject and one that pervades the background choices and philosophy, whilst not being necessarily apparent in the finished design.
Please contact me to discuss your sustainable landscape needs.