Want your garden to be, well, even greener? Try these tips for sustainable landscaping!
By Jody McCutcheon
Sustainability has transformed many of our most important and ubiquitous design realms, from fashion to architecture to transportation. So it’s good to know that landscape design has entered the sustainability fray as well. According to the American Association of Landscape Architects, more than seventy percent of American homeowners wish to incorporate some measure of sustainability into their landscaping. Considering the vast number of homes worldwide surrounded by non-eco friendly grass, this is excellent news for the planet!
Obvious tips for sustainable landscaping include:
- preserving limited resources
- reducing waste
- practising chemical-free pest control
- preventing pollutants from entering air, soil and water
In other words, you should aim to have native species protected from invasive organisms, while maintaining robust, contaminant-free soil and water supplies and limiting our use of water and other resources. Ultimately, the goal is to achieve a well-balanced ecosystem, while emphasising aesthetic and environmental considerations.
The best tips for sustainable landscaping will incorporate various strategies that address environmental concerns. Sustainable practices should be employed in every phase of the project, from design and construction to implementation and management. Landscaping could even incorporate biodegradable furniture into your garden, such as picnic tables, hammocks or deck chairs.
It’s always a good idea to consult an expert to help guide you better for the planning and execution of your sustainable landscaping projects. And that’s exactly why I’ve communicated with a couple of experts, hoping to learn some unexpected tips for sustainable landscaping. Here’s what I learned.
Tips For Sustainable Landscaping By Experts
One of the premiere landscape architects in the US, award-winning property designer Keith Williams has been a partner at Palm Beach landscape architecture firm Nievera Williams since 2007. He’s an authority in the world of sustainable gardening and landscape design.
Often, his clients are very discerning, and green designs feature heavily Williams’ body of work. While many of his clients are wealthy, Williams firmly believes sustainable landscaping isn’t just associated with million-dollar homes. If you have the dream, he has the plan. And he also has plenty of tips for sustainable landscaping!
“Gardens are always rewarding,” he says, “since they’re constantly giving back. But to design a sustainable garden is just one more layer of achievement.” He also believes sustainability is a worthwhile investment. “A well-designed sustainable landscape may have more upfront cost, but these costs will pan out and give back in the long run. In general, the savings you can expect from following tips for sustainable landscaping include cheaper maintenance, replacement costs of plants and hardscape materials, watering bills and electrical bills.”
Keith’s Top Tips
The best ideas for sustainable landscaping, according to Williams, are:
- Use local plants: “It’s important to accommodate a particular environment and temperature, as well as water needs and maintenance requirements.”
- Keep in mind that environmental conditions can differ: “Plants are broken down into categories based on hardiness zones throughout the United States [and other countries and geographic locales]. These zones indicate which plants do well in your area.”
- Choose tough guys: Select drought-tolerant, wind-tolerant and low-maintenance plants to encourage a healthy ecosystem and provide aesthetic beauty to gardens.
- Use sustainable hardscape materials: This include composite woods, recycled concrete products and turf stabilisers, for driveways and terraces. While the materials can be interchangeable, ideal selections should have longevity and require less maintenance.
- Think about water use: For better water retention on a lawn, incorporate materials that can serve as retaining walls or curbs. This could include corten steel, railroad ties and recycled concrete objects.
- Consider lighting: Use solar powered lamps in landscape lighting whenever possible. Solar lamps are great for pools, paths, fountains and highlights.
Leading Westside Los Angeles Gardenista Teryl Ciarlo of Teryl Designs has loads of great tips for sustainable landscaping! A native of southern California, Ciarlo understands the desire for privacy while enjoying the outdoors. “I tend to love gardens surrounded by manicured hedges and borders,” she admits, “defining their own Secret Garden areas.”
Ciarlo is passionate about preserving our future by practising sustainability in the present. “As we continue to learn more and more about the importance of the environment to our future, the responsibility of saving our planet and conserving water has become very personal to me. As a mother, I feel it’s my duty to do all I can to leave my children with the best Earth possible.”
Ciarlo’s landscapes and gardens have been inspired by California’s natural beauty and native plants. Symmetry and clean lines are her trademarks, while she feels that congruity of home style and landscape design is paramount. “Plant with purpose,” she proclaims with motto-like succinctness. “Make everything you design and grow functional.”
Being from a region known for frequent drought, she also knows something about durable flora. “Plants should require as little water as possible,” she says. “Think succulents, lavender, rosemary, and Little Ollie shrubs. Watch out for plants that seem eco-friendly, but are not drought-tolerant.”
“There are some universal, drought-tolerant plants that work well in just about any climate,” she continues. “Fragrant herbs like rosemary and lavender are not only beautiful, but extremely water-conscious. For fantastic border plants, Little Ollie shrubs are a compact-growing and clean shrub requiring very little attention or water.”
Ciarlo is also amenable to thoughtfully incorporating water sources into her designs. “Water features and sustainable landscaping can go together, as long as you’re smart with how you set them up. For example, one of my best tips for sustainable landscaping is to add a catch basin to your rain gutters or redirect rainwater to a storage tank, either underwater or wall-mounted [see here for ideas]. Then, attach a hose and water your yard proudly, knowing you’re doing something great for the world.”
Alternatively, route one or more of your rain gutters to drain directly into your fountains, and surround them with herbs and drought-tolerant plants. The fountains will run on the recycled water, and any excess that spills over will drain into the herbs and plants.”
Teryl’s Top Tips
Here are some of Teryl’s best tips for sustainable landscaping for any home:
- Build cisterns underground to collect and store precious rainwater.
- Be conscientious with your sprinklers. Overwatering is unnecessary, and easy to avoid. When it isn’t raining, water in the early hours of the morning to reduce evaporation.
- Catch rainwater and air conditioner condensation with stylish rain catcher planters.
- Keep a pitcher or bucket by the sink, and collect greywater to keep potted plants looking bright.
- Always check for leaks in your hose. This is one of her easiest tips for sustainable landscaping.
- Install a drip irrigation system. will save fifty percent more water than sprinklers, with little to no water loss from runoff or evaporation. They can be installed anywhere from large yards to individual planters. You have total control over the amount of water supplied to each designated area, and it works wonderfully with mulched areas, thoroughly soaking the moisture-retaining mulch without getting any runoff.
- Add mulch around trees and plants. Mulch discourages weed growth, minimises water runoff and retains moisture. Mix mulch with all of your soil to encourage moisture retention in the entire yard.
- Think about the bees and their needs. Encourage bee production by planting flowering trees and clover in your yard or in planters. Avoid chemically treating plants and flowers, since chemicals kill bees. Bees like volume in their flowers, so plant plenty of the same type of bloom together. A few they love are lilacs, lavender, sage, wisteria and verbena.
No matter what kind of environment you live in, it’s always a good idea to garden as sustainably as possible. That doesn’t just mean avoiding obvious poisons like glyphosate; there’s much more you can do, including conserving water, attracting bees and birds, and planting native species.
Do you have any sustainable landscaping tips of your own? We’d love to hear from you in the comments, below!