How to design an environmentally friendly garden

Environmentally friendly garden design thyme in studio garden border, Clay Hill, Sussex

September 23, 2019

How to design an environmentally friendly garden

The future of our planet is high up the news agenda – and rightly so. But what can you do to make a positive change? Designing your garden in a sustainable way and including features that give back to the environment can be a great way to support natural species in Kent and Sussex, and it’s something we at Dewlands Garden Design are keen to help you accomplish.

Sourcing building materials

When designing an eco-friendly garden, it’s great to start by using recycled and repurposed materials, particularly for your hard landscaping, such as paving, retaining walls and gravel.

Indian sandstone is quite commonly used by garden designers as it’s inexpensive and gives you a good quality patio for a small amount of money. But the carbon footprint is severe; great big diesel machines hew the rocks out the ground, which are then shipped around the world and then transported along roads by diesel vehicles to Kent and Sussex. At Dewlands Garden Design, we recommend going for more locally sourced materials which have come from Kent and Sussex quarries and not shipped from so far; we often use a commercial quarry in West Hoathly in Sussex for our building-grade sandstone and other UK quarries for paving.

Hard landscaping options

Crazy paving is an alternative option which can be acquired quite cheaply from local sources or as repurposed slabs; to create a greener option, you can leave the joints without concrete infill, instead planting grass, thyme or camomile to bring a pattern into the ground and let nature back into the joints.

In recent years, with the development of diamond-edged cutting blades, there’s been a move towards thinner paving stones. This is problematic because the thinner you cut the stone, the more cement infill needs to be placed underneath. Cement releases a huge amount of carbon; by limiting the amount of cement you use in your garden, you can reduce the environmental impact of your building materials. Using thicker stones and more traditional laying methods, such as crushed rock or sand – or even laying thicker slabs on the bare earth – minimises the consumption of resources to produce your hard landscaping.

Encouraging natural tranquillity

We believe that the most restorative environment for people is in the wild, surrounded by native tranquillity: that woodland clearing with the grass nibbled short by the rabbits, with deer grazing at the woodland edge, the chatter of birds, a pond of water with the sun glinting off it. Such natural tranquillity enhances our sense of calm and comfort. In our designs we aim to transfer that feeling to a garden to create a place that you love to relax in – and in which plants and animals also thrive.

Generally, our clients have city type gardens with cooking areas and outdoor living rooms, but it’s our job to meld that to the edges and bring that woodland glade feeling back into the garden. Here are some simple ways to achieve this:

  • Create a green roof– excellent for increasing biodiversity, providing superb insulation, improving air quality, and they look fantastic.
  • Conserve water by collecting rainfall in butts to water your plants. You can even go one step further and create simple irrigations systems. For example, one of our clients in Tunbridge Wells kept his water butt at the bottom of his garden and asked us to create a system that could pump the water to his flower beds (which would have consumed energy). Instead, we moved the butt to the top of the garden and gravity did the rest.
  • Planting local speciesis a great way to give back to the environment. Local flora and fauna can be used to create beautiful ornamental gardens; British species such as yew, box, hornbeam and honeysuckle not only bring us closer to our natural habitat, but encourage local insect species and reduce the prevalence of alien and foreign species. We’re always going to have exotics in our gardens, but switching them from 80 or 90 percent to a showpiece of just 20 or even ten percent – making the majority of the garden comprised of local plants – can really help to make wild Britain come to life in our gardens. To find out how invasive plant species negatively impact our environment and the benefits local plants can bring, encouraging pollinators and synchronising with native insect lifecycles, read our earlier blog.

Garden design case study: simple changes to make a difference

“We’re always eager to try and give back to the environment.  A project that we’re currently working on in Leigh demonstrates how small changes can make a big difference to deliver a sustainable change.”

“We’re trying to introduce the layers we’d find in a typical woodland. For example, you have your ground species then your second-storey species, third-storey species and then your large canopy trees,” explains Eugene Hill, founder of Dewlands Garden Design. “It’s about bringing that diversity back into gardens to make it closer to nature.”

“There’s a group of oak trees surrounded by non-native pines; by clearing out the pines, we’re creating a semi-enclosed area of lawn in between thehouse and the new tree lines.  We can then introduce some native species in and around the ring of trees to accentuate and enhance the biological diversity. It’s simple changes like that – editing what’s there already in a minimal way – that can create a lawn rich with wild native flowers, which in turn creates an increased diversity for insects.”

If you want to design your garden in a way that causes the least amount of harm to the environment, Dewlands Garden Design are happy to help. There are processes and features that we can implement to help make your garden not only a haven for the wildlife, but also built in a way that does the least amount of damage to the natural world.

To discuss how our garden designs can enhance your environment

call 01892 577371 

or send us an email using our online form. 

Based in Crowborough, Sussex, Dewlands offers garden design and maintenance services across:  

Kent: Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone, Kings Hill  

Sussex: Crawley, East Grinstead, Lewes, Battle, Hailsham in Sussex  

Surrey: Redhill and Oxted in Surrey.   

You can read a more comprehensive list of the area we cover here.
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