Sustainable Landscaping in Water Dependent Earth

By Jody McCutcheon

Excerpt from Eluxe Magazine

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, and considering the vast number of homes worldwide, plus the fact that most houses are surrounded by non-eco friendly grass, this is excellent news for the planet.

The basic ideas behind sustainable landscaping are simple and likely quite familiar to Eluxe readers and other environmentally conscious people: preserve limited resources, reduce waste, practice chemical-free pest control and prevent pollutants from entering air, soil and water. In other words, we want our landscapes populated with healthy flora and fauna, with 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 emphasizing both  aesthetic and environmental considerations.

The healthiest kinds of landscaping incorporate various strategies that address environmental concerns, with sustainable practices employed in every phase of the project, from design and construction to implementation and management. Landscaping could also incorporate biodegradable furniture into your garden, such as picnic tables, hammocks or deck chairs. In fact, today, you can even buy sustainable canvas deck chairs that are fully customised to be either plain, or with the photographic design of your choice. Why not imprint an image of your finished garden on one?

I’ve communicated with a couple of experts, hoping to learn some finer points about tips for sustainable landscaping.  Here’s what I learned.

  • Use local plants. “Use materials that are more natural to the environment. It’s important to organize your design and materials to accommodate a particular environment and temperature, as well as water needs and maintenance requirements.”
  • Keep in mind that environmental conditions can differ. “Sustainable landscapechanges,” Williams explains, “not only by state or country, but also by county. Since plants grow based on weather, soil conditions, rainfall, sun and temperature, plants are broken out into categories based on hardness zones throughout the United States [and other countries and geographic locales]. These zones indicate which plants do well in your area/zone.” It’s wise to be mindful of the requirements of the flora you plant versus the environment in which you’re planting.
  • Choose tough guys. Select drought-tolerant, wind-tolerant and low-maintenance plant materials to encourage a healthy ecosystem and provide aesthetic beauty to gardens.
  • Use sustainable hardscape materials. These include composite woods, recycled concrete products and turf stabilizers, 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 industrial materials that can serve as retaining walls or curbs.  This could include corten steel, railroad ties and recycled concrete objects.
  • Consider lighting. Use LED fixtures or solar powered lamps in landscape lighting whenever possible when designing lighting for pools, fountains and landscapes. LED is extremely efficient and consumes up to ninety percent less power than incandescent bulbs, whilst solar powered lighting is even better.
  • Use tech when possible. Irrigation clocks, for example, are getting very technologically savvy. This equals big savings in water use, both in waste and cost.
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