GREEN…THE NEW BLACK – sustainable landscapes

Everywhere you turn, we encounter messages of environmental responsibility and sustainability. The wave of environmental awareness and all things ‘Green’ continues to gather pace. Hybrid cars, environmentally safe exteriors and interiors for our homes, food and yes, even our gardens.


So what is "eco-friendly gardening" all about anyway? It’s all about gardening in as natural a way as possible. This growing global trend is slowly changing landscaping and gardening methods. Eco-minded people and businesses want sustainable designs that save energy, conserve water and reduce the need for chemicals and pesticides. Climate change is a key gardening concern for many kiwi gardeners. More people will use a combination of natural and conventional landscaping and garden methods in the near future.

In terms of garden design, a conventionally designed garden has its focus primarily on aesthetics and functionality. Plants and materials used are not necessarily chosen or even considered for their sustainability. On the other hand, gardens designed with sustainability as its core focus work through a design process that applies more far-reaching principles.

Design decisions are based on the long-term impact on the environment and on people. Fundamental concepts of water management, energy efficiency, recycled building materials and efficient site management is incorporated into each project. Also the use of organic principles in maintaining gardens is also recommended and where possible sustainable product sourcing is encouraged for the creation of the garden.

For the average homeowner and gardener there are some simple things you can adopt to take a step towards a more sustainable outdoor environment.

Top ten eco-tips and sustainability ideas

1. Replace synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in favour of organically based fertilizers, which offer an environmentally sound way to provide proper plant nutrition.

2. Plant a tree. Trees and plants are the earths natural filtering system and they break down carbon and turn it into oxygen! A simple, yet effective way to help offset some of your "carbon footprint”

3. Use native plants. They need little maintenance and are well adapted to survive local conditions and climate.

4.Use eco-friendly timber for decking and outdoor furniture. Vitex is a much more environmentally friendly option when considering a hardwood deck than Kiwla or Teak. Use New Zealand grown plantation timber (Pine, Macrocarpa and Eucalyptus). Vitex comes from sustainable yield forests in the Solomon Islands. There are always alternatives to the local DIY megastore or Timber Merchant. Try demolition sites, reclamation yards, local forestry estates or your nearest sawmill.

5. Stain or paint exterior timber surfaces with a Bio paints. They are completely safe, environmentally friendly, non-toxic and natural.

6. Compost! Reduce your house waste and nourish your garden and the same time. Compostable material makes up to 45% of the average rubbish bag. Composting your food scraps and waste avoids precious resources going into landfills and the energy wasted in the process. And your plants will love you for it.

7. Capture rainwater from your roof to re-use in the garden. Also, install a ‘drip line’ irrigation system into your garden and use mulch to contain moisture. Use 100mm layer of mulch as ground cover instead of weed matt to reduce the use of plastic.

8. Grow your own vegetables. Apart from the feel good factor, home- grown vegetables taste better and are better for you.

9. Reduce run-off by putting in permeable paving materials that allow water to pass through to the ground beneath. Products such as Gobi blocks and Permapave are a good alternative.

10. Recycle, reuse and minimize construction and all forms of waste.

Sandra Batley of Flourish is a multi award-winning landscape designer based in Auckland. Sandra is passionate about, people, plants and design.

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