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…
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!
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….
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.
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.ch
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…
Concrete can be coloured and textured to look like stone..
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!
The 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.
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
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….
I will be making a shady corner in my garden and am very inspired by this…..
… and I would love one of these to help my non hardy plants in pots survive a Swiss winter – FSC of course!
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.
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!
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….
Gates and railings can be found in salvage yards.
You might find some interesting ways to recycle – just use your imagination!
Antique terracotta chimney pots look wonderful as plant pots, bird baths or just sculptures in their own right!
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!