Eco garden Design Part 3

 

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For many the garden is their main contact with the natural world, however many gardens have evolved to be highly unnatural places.

Today, many gardens regardless of where, are lawn and borders holding plants, many which may be transported halfway across the world.  To maintain such gardens in peak condition requires constant irrigation and liberal doses of chemical insecticides, fertilisers and weedkillers.  Many people worry about chemicals inside their homes and on food that they buy, but forget about the garden which could be much more toxic than they imagine.

A beautifully manicured lawn and flower beds
A beautifully manicured lawn and flower beds
source: naturalplanet.com
source: naturalplanet.com

 

 

 

 

By choosing planting that is suited to your environment your garden will be ‘lower maintenance’ and you can get more pleasure and do less work! Eg, did you consider that a petrol mower running for an hour creates the same pollution in the atmosphere as driving an average car 560km?

Working with nature

Instead of imposing an artificial garden idea on a site regardless of the conditions – go with what mother nature would have planted there herself!  Do this by looking around at your local forests, parks and see what works well in neighbouring gardens, ask advice at a good quality garden centre. By promoting native species, you attract local wildlife and insects and you will require less water to upkeep. In addition to this, use non-toxic structures and natural organic methods for pest control (see below)… and that is pretty much and eco garden!  

Lawns do have their place and can be highly practical for children to run  around safely on. If you have a lawn try to create a space for a natural garden area too then you will still attract the right predators to keep your precious plants uneaten.

Dan Pearson's winning show garden at Chelsea 2015 - Natural
Dan Pearson’s winning show garden at Chelsea 2015 – Natural
Design your garden to fit in with your surroundings source: gardenista.com
Design your garden to fit in with your surroundings
source: gardenista.com
Urban garden/outside room source: showhome.nl
Urban garden/outside room shade tolerant and low maintenance planting for busy people                           source: showhome.nl
Olive tree, lavender and other drought resistant plants
Olive tree, lavender and other drought resistant plants that love full sun            source: nathalie pasquel
a seaside garden with plants that don't mind strong winds and salty air
a seaside garden with plants that don’t mind strong winds and salty air source: flickr

Local Conditions

  • Type of soil
  • Amount of rainfall
  • Temperature range/winds
  • Aspect – direction of sun

Type of soil…. note that sometimes you might have a mixture of soil in your garden and some will be exposed to sun and other parts in the shade.  Choose your plants according to the soil/area/blooming season and in no time you will have an abundant, all year interest garden.  You could also put anything you want in a pot with the corresponding earth mix. 

Clay is heavy, high in nutrients, wet and cold in winter and dry and hard in summer.

Anemone-Honorine-Jobert thrives on a clay soil you may need to control it.
Anemone-Honorine-Jobert thrives on a clay soil you may need to control it.
Darmera-peltata thrives on damp clay soil interest from spring to autumn
Darmera-peltata thrives on damp clay soil interest from spring to autumn
Helenium-Moerheim-Beauty and old favourite great in clay soil
Helenium-Moerheim-Beauty and old favourite great in clay soil

Sandy is light, dry warm and low in nutrients

drought resistant, slope erosion control, attracts birds, smells wonderful
Lavender drought resistant good in sand and chalk, slope erosion control, attracts birds, smells wonderful
Agastache or Hyssop part sun/shade, drought tolerant attracts birds
Agastache or Hyssop part sun/shade, drought tolerant attracts birds
Achillea or Yarrow drought tolerant and cheerful yellow flowers in late spring.
Achillea or Yarrow drought tolerant and cheerful yellow flowers in late spring.

Chalk is very alkaline may be light or heavy

Ceanothus Californian Lilac chalky soil/sun
Ceanothus Californian Lilac
chalky soil/sun
Clematis Rouge Cardinal good in chalk soil
Clematis Rouge Cardinal
good in chalk soil

Dry soil benefits from being mulched (spread and dig in) with product you can buy or make your own from old leaves and composted vegetables from the kitchen (avoid dairy/meat scraps).

Shade loving plants – if you have shade embrace these lovely plants which are full of texture – I love hostas! (note: put sharp grit or crushed egg shells around the bases as snail and slugs also love them!)

Shade lovers - wild ginger/hosta gold/boxwood
Shade lovers – wild ginger/hosta gold/boxwood
Buddleia or Butterfly Bush
Buddleia or Butterfly Bush

I couldn’t leave the Buddleia out of this post – it is a wonderful plant that thrives almost anywhere (so much so that it can be looked upon by some as a pest – shock horror!) There are over 100 varieties to choose from in pinks blues and whites…. butterflies and bees love it and it only requires hard cutting back when it gets a bit too full. 

The Royal Horticultural Society has a plant finder search where you can list your soil/sun/rainfall and the search engine will advise you.             click to find plants here

Weeds 

Not all weeds are created equal – I have some in my garden (not a clue what they are) but they are pretty so I leave them! I do however like to tidy weeds, stray grass etc away from the driveway and paths… just pull them up when I see them or you could try my recipe below – the toughest will wilt and it is all natural…… be careful not to spray on plants you want to keep!

natural weed killer
natural weed killer

It is completely unnecessary to use chemicals in your garden just another multi-billion dollar industry we have been programmed to “think” we need. 

 

Insects friend or foe? 

Many insects are highly beneficial to our gardens as they prey on others that eat our pretty plants! Ladybirds (or American Ladybugs) are not called the gardner’s best friend for nothing! They eat aphids, whitefly, greenfly and mites.  Some people even buy them and put them in their gardens!

source: ladybug-life-cycle.com
source: ladybug-life-cycle.com

One of the best tactics is to attract the correct insects to your garden, for a complete list of making your own mini insect army to fight the war for you  click here

If you do have a persistent problem this natural insecticide is safe to use on affected plants only.

my recipe for natural insecticide
my recipe for natural insecticide

If you are too squeamish to collect the slugs and snails (my kids love doing this) and take them to the local forest to set them free…. then get a few small glass jars (baby food or jam) and fill 1/3 with beer. Leave them sheltered from rain under the leaves they like to eat.  Once they have been removed you could lay crushed eggshells or sharp grit to deter others. 

Would like to end this post with a pic from my garden of my favourite tree Magnolia Grandiflora – spring has defiantly arrived here in Switzerland. 

My magnolia tree
My magnolia tree

Thanks for reading 

Amanda x 

Eco Garden Design Part 2

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In part one I gave some stylish ideas that I will be using in my garden to save, better use and collect water … 

In this post I wanted to shed some light on how easy it is to use recycled, eco and chemical-free building products to build the hard landscaping, i.e. fences, steps, flowerbeds, pathways and garden structures.

STONE  is unique and highly prized for the patina it gathers over time…

Reclaimed Yorkstone Paving
Reclaimed Yorkstone Paving

Get to know where your local builder’s salvage yards are (see Resources on the top menu bar for some ideas) and look online at eBay/craigslist/gumtree sites.  All types of stone, gravel, rocks taken from old churches, schools, factories etc… can be found – there is a  multitude of fabulous product out there and not only will you have a unique look but the satisfaction of seeing it in a new home (together with a quirky backstory) is not to be underestimated! 

Reclaimed Brick Driveway
Reclaimed Brick Driveway

I am often asked why is using new stone bad for the environment it’s natural?  The problem is that to produce use new stone it must be cut from quarries. This requires huge amounts of water in the cutting and extraction process, together with general the manufacturing and transportation causing air pollution all adds up to an un-eco product.  Especially when there is so much beautiful stone around just waiting for someone with a bit of imagination to come along and reuse it! Perhaps we could also start to think of natural resources as finite, i.e. once they are gone that is it … and surely we need to consider to leave some for future generations. The other big advantage of using reclaimed stone is that it has a patina which gives your garden instant gravitas and blends better with nature….

Small courtyard garden by isabellalopezquesada.com
Small courtyard garden in Madrid by isabellalopezquesada.com

Concrete is a highly debated subject in the eco world.  However it can tick a lot of eco boxes; be locally produced, needs no maintenance,  is highly functional, lasts a very long time and can be recycled again.

 As with many eco decisions it is about weighing up the pros and cons!

The most damaging component in concrete is the use of portland cement in the mix which causes vast amounts of CO2 emissions when produced.  The good news is that this component is no longer necessary (unless you are building skyscrapers) and can be replaced by other things including fly ash from steel production waste instead. So investigate that you are getting a greener concrete and you should not feel un-eco to use it. 

Swiss concrete production
Swiss concrete production
Recycled broken concrete pavers source: greenposting.org
Recycled broken concrete pavers source: greenposting.org

It is fair to say that here in Switzerland they do like the modern look. The terrain is quite hilly and they love concrete. I managed to find some concrete walls that I don’t find hideous!  

images of concrete below from creabeton.chScreen Shot 2016-04-12 at 12.35.06Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 13.12.03

If you do decide that you will go with an ‘eco’ concrete (as outlined above) there is a big variety and concrete can be customised by colour, moulding and texture…… e.g.the wood profile below is quite a good way of having a maintenance free decking/path and I like the ‘trunks’ to sit on or make stepping stones with…

Wood effect concrete
Wood effect concrete
Concrete tree trunks
Concrete tree trunks

Concrete can be coloured and textured to look like stone..

concrete steps look like stone
concrete steps look like stone

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Wood is versatile, and sits in nature without even trying. Here in Switzerland it is no longer allowed to use railway sleepers in your gardens because of the diesel/ chemicals which leach into the soil even after many years.  As a removal incentive the local council even allows you to deduct the replacement of these with something non-toxic from your tax return!

fsc-certified-wood-teaserboxThe best rule of thumb is to use FSC registered wood products (now widely available at your local DIY depot) or repurposed wood (from salvage) which is untreated and free from toxic paints/stains.

Reclaimed rocks/wood planks make a modern entrance
Reclaimed rocks/wood planks make a modern entrance

When painting/staining garden structures use zero VOC products. Look at resources above and check out Sansin Wood stain.

You can also choose to leave wood untreated, allowing it to weather to a lovely silver grey

Weathered wood fence and gate Source: Gardenista
Weathered wood fence and gate Source: Gardenista

The versatility of wood means that you can create just about anything you want, from fencing, pergolas, glass houses etc to suit modern or natural gardens and the colour can blend with your interior or disappear into nature….

Painted wood cladding gives a sense of indoors/out to a small garden by Leopoldina Hayes
Painted wood cladding gives a sense of indoors/out to a small garden by Leopoldina Hayes
Black vertical timber wall source: deavita.fr
Black vertical timber wall gives a contemporary twist source: deavita.fr
Recycled Timber Fence
Recycled Timber Fence

I will be making a shady corner in my garden and am very inspired by this…..

Eco Pergola Idea source: Elle Decor
Eco Pergola Idea
source: Elle Decor

… and I would love one of these to help my non hardy plants in pots survive a Swiss winter – FSC of course! 

Forest Garden FSC Glass House
Forest Garden FSC Glass House
Forest Garden FSC Glass House from greenfingers.com
Forest Garden FSC Glass House from greenfingers.com

Willow and wicker is a great natural and sustainable option (grows quickly and locally found) and gives a lovely texture to your garden, it also allows the light to filter casting interesting shadows. It is hardwearing and requires no maintenance. 

Willow Fence by flechtart.ch
Willow Fence by flechtart.ch
Willow support structure for climbers
Willow support structure for climbers
Terra Willow Panels from greenfingers.com
Terra Willow Panels from greenfingers.com
Wicker raised vegetable beds by Daylesford Organics/The Chelsea Flower Show 2009
Wicker raised vegetable beds by Daylesford Organics/The Chelsea Flower Show 2009

Containers of all sorts can be repurposed, the trick is to keep it simple and not mix too much otherwise you might end up feeling like you are sitting in a junk yard! 

Old zinc tub used as large planter at Petersham Nurseries in Surrey, England
Old zinc tub used as large planter at Petersham Nurseries in Surrey, England
Recycled crate source: petershamnurseries.com
Recycled crate source: petershamnurseries.com
vintage french mushroom baskets from petershamnurseries.com
vintage french mushroom baskets from petershamnurseries.com
Old birdcage used as planter for flowers. source:decorating mamma.com
Old birdcage used as planter for flowers. source:decorating mamma.com

Garden furniture is widely available in FSC woods and can also be reclaimed. Once you start looking you can find…… the wood is likely to be better quality also and last a lot longer so justifies a slight premium on price….

FSC Arbour from greenfingers.com
FSC Arbour from greenfingers.com
FSC Acacia Garden Bench from greenfingers.com
FSC Acacia Garden Bench from greenfingers.com
Reclaimed Garden Furniture from rikstorms.com
Reclaimed Garden Furniture from rikstorms.com

Gates and railings can be found in salvage yards.

Reclaimed Garden Fencing/Gates from burbri.nl
Reclaimed Garden Fencing/Gates from burbri.nl

You might find some interesting ways to recycle – just use your imagination! 

Old Iron Headboard used as garden gate
Old Iron Headboard used as garden gate

Antique terracotta chimney pots look wonderful as plant pots, bird baths or just sculptures in their own right! 

Antique chimney pot
Antique chimney pot

I hope I might have inspired you to look for some interesting ways to make your outside space beautiful and tap into the wonderful eco resources all around us!

Thanks for reading and feel free to share!

Amanda x 

Eco Garden Design Part 1

Hello all, sorry for the delay in this post, I have been busy on new projects  I look forward to sharing with you soon…. in the meantime all of a sudden it seems like spring has sprung and thoughts are turning towards our outside spaces…….. now, how can we make those eco?

Creating a garden is like creating a room, where we use plants and trees and shrubs to create the form, balance, texture and colour that we would achieve using space planning, furniture, fabrics and accessories with interior design. The garden is a natural extension of the house and there are many eco ideas we can implement to ensure that we can do our bit for the environment on the outside as well as the inside of our homes.

I would say that Eco garden design is when we use techniques and products that improve the environment and the overall look of the garden.

Creating such an outside space is easy when you know how.  Between now and summer I will share with you this 5 part series Eco Garden Design.  I have tips for you to design your own eco garden including how to preserve water, use clever design tricks and recycled and/or natural building materials and plant maintenance without harmful chemicals, how to select the correct plants for your actual garden, use the best plants to attract the insects and birds we need to maintain things and support the local eco system and lastly all of this of course will be stunningly beautiful to look at!!

Part one is all about preserving and managing H2O

water

Without water we would not have life on earth never mind gardens.  In a world where there can be drought at one end of the spectrum and catastrophic flooding at the other, we can no longer deny our planet is changing so by acting now we become part of the solution and not part of the problem … right??

Gardens for pleasure first originated in the Middle East, the biblical Garden of Eden represented a lush green oasis in a time when water was a precious resource.  Fast forward a few millennia and we have come full circle with water once again viewed as a finite resource. One day it will be worth more than gold… I have this from a very respected source! 😉

Shady urban garden source Pinterest
Shady small urban garden
source Pinterest

When planning an Eco garden we should think how to capture rainwater and slow down the rate at which it is lost to the public drainage system.  We need to do this because not only is rainwater is far better for our gardens that treated drinking water but also we need to reduce the amount of flash flooding that is happening because there is too much hard landscaping in our towns and cities.  Rainwater is also free!!

 

In the garden above the pea gravel allows water to seep into the garden instead of running off into drains and the variety of trees and plants provide a shady cool spot in the summer plus great diversity for the local wildlife.

Rainwater can be easily collected from your drainpipes leading down from the roof in a wide variety of butts….

Rain water collection butt source waterbuttsdirect.co.uk
Rain water collection butt
source waterbuttsdirect.co.uk
recycled barrel water butt source periodliving.co.uk
recycled barrel water butt
source periodliving.co.uk

more practical when hidden from view could be …

Slimline water butt 235 L source freeflush.co.uk
Slimline water butt 235 L
source freeflush.co.uk

If you are very handy or know someone who likes a challenge….. you could build your own and hide it behind some wicker panels….

 

DIY Rainwater Butt source The Family Handyman
DIY Rainwater Butt
source The Family Handyman

You could even consider to make an underground tank if you have a lot of garden to water, however chemicals may be required to keep the water pure so perhaps it is a false economy?

For assessing the size of water butt you require depends on the size of roof you have and the average rainfall in your area.  Consult your local environment agency for guidelines on Rain Water Harvesting (RWH)  for the UK Govt.  RWH source here

Collecting rainwater is a great way to have a free source to water your garden, however, if you get a lot or rain that can also be a problem…  flash flooding can occur because there is too much hard landscaping with many people choosing to concrete over of front gardens for parking and inadequate drains on roads etc.. a good way to control the rainwater if you have some space is to build a swale.  This also keeps the boggy part of your garden in one place allowing the other areas to remain dry.

swale allows run off rainwater to collect and enjoyed by water loving plants source houzz.com
swale allows run off rainwater to collect and enjoyed by water loving plants
source houzz.com
plant selection for swale source pinterest
plant selection for swale source pinterest
swale build to use run off rainwater
swale build to use run off rainwater source pinterest

when considering a parking area for your car these are a good option…

parking pavers photo houzz.com
parking pavers photo houzz.com

 

Hard landscaping is really a no-no these days as there are so many ways to provide drainage for rainwater…. In fact many local councils are bringing in planning conditions that stipulates drainage between pavers.

Using gravel and pavers with gaps and permeable membranes beneath to prevent weeds you can make lovely pathways through your garden whether you opt for traditional or modern styling.  It can also prove to be cost effective especially if you use recycled materials.  Always ensure there are gaps and this will prevent flooding and aid the melting to snow/ice in winter.  You can create gorgeous bespoke original designs for your garden!

gravel and pavers photos courtesy Giardina
gravel and pavers
photo courtesy Giardina
broken paver pathway with gravel photo courtesy Giardina
broken paver pathway with gravel photo courtesy Giardina
photo houzz.com
photo houzz.com
photo houzz.com
photo houzz.com

I hope this has sparked your interest in how you can save/use rainwater in your garden this summer, and perhaps pull up some of the grass which is a mud maker in the winter and needs constant watering in the summer and replace with some lovely pea gravel and pavers!

Thanks for reading.

Amanda x