Patently pollutive and passively mindful, every aspect of our lives heavily relies on industry and chemistry. Habitation, transportation, agriculture, architecture and design have become entirely far removed from nature; so much so, we had to invent jargonistic terminology to justify the use of declining resources and its counteractive conducts – the only, albeit regrettably, facet of modern life embraced colloquially more than it is in unfaltering consistent practice. How, when and will this inborn mindset ever considerably change to salvage the demise of our planet's ecology, loss of biodiversity and species extinction?
habitude vs. habitats
Impermeability, chemicals, plastics, habitat loss and the widespread use of purely ornamental plants coalesce to diminish environmental balance in private gardens, public domains and natural landscapes alike. While we all seek greater habitability via modern translucent glazed elevations – heightening much-needed revitalising daylight, taking in restorative verdant sceneries, reducing carbon footprints and improving energy consumption, the meteoric decline of natural habitats is exacerbated by insular game plans, educational passivity and feeble legislation. In our own humble abodes, the slackening of garden maintenance, water and materials recycling, incorporation of wildlife-friendly resources, superior surface permeability and organic cultivation all contribute greatly to a healthier environment – a one in which the bi-folding doors frame an altogether wilder, heavenlier and ecologically better-off vista!
Rather artificially and ever so statically, many of the planting designs we're all too often compelled to create are envisioned as horticultural tableau vivants, devoid of seasonal flux or due ecological pertinence. Contraction of living spaces, desensitisation by social media and fake news, and unrealistic time demands, all effectuate commoditisation of plants in lieu of harvesting their equilibrial natural factors. While we openly remove colossal chunks of stable ecosystems in both town and country, we must ensure silviculture is abundantly reinstated as the generator of succession in climax communities and crucial biotas.
In our Western European temperate climate, the much-loved palm-like exotic winter hardiness, Zen-inspired stillness, structural planting formality and partiality for mouth-watering Antipodean floras should remain enduringly ad rem in driving design complexity, diversity and horticultural industry when appropriated non-invasively. Yet, no plant life will achieve the sustainability and sheer necessity of eco-friendly garden environments as the very species right outside one's doorstep – our highly beneficial and critically endangered native plants.
As we unsustainably devour every remaining morsel of Mother Earth amid an uncontrollable population growth, fuelled by a self-indulgent over-consumption, the increasing blankness of a solidly contaminated planet renders modern garden design as we know it rather irrelevant. While voluntary eco brigades carry out preservatory pilgrimages pole to pole knee-deep in muck, environmentalists rerun disturbing sound bites station to station, and political alliances scramble to determine the economical impact of biodiversity loss, the ethos of eco-friendly gardens focuses on reinstating some of the balance lost by malignant human actions. This reconciliatory process finds its cogent niche ever so slowly in landscape design projects both residentially and publicly, when mindfulness of a stable natural world endeavours to inspire eco-wise, compatible and thoroughly up-to-date practices.
Forever unnatural, every human activity within the landscape requires attentive considerations and long-term solutions to abate ecological deterioration. From the macro level of forestry, reservoir creation and contaminant prevention to the micro-ecosystems in our own scaled-down gardens, the biomes which we're all enormously dependent on undergo far-reaching diminutions. Collectively, small-scale gardens represent a far greater vegetational density than large landscapes, although fast tipping the ecological scales in favour of impervious hardscaping, over-ornamentation and chemicalised intervention.
Materials porosity, structural perviousness and surface permeability crucially ease off storm water, minimise pollution and irrigate biotic terrains. Integrated water management, eco roofs, green walls, wildlife habitat creation, indigenous, companion and fruit-bearing floras, as well as organic pest and disease control, vitally sustain ecological niches by echoing natural processes within the integral, resourceful maximisation of small spaces. Often senselessly underrated, these practicable methods contribute immensely to the bigger ecological picture – particularly in light of mass urban migrations worldwide.
While we all derive divine inspiration from pristine ecologies, many of the upkeep routines we engage in our own back gardens, rooftops and private landscapes epitomise an age-old tradition of manicured domination. This outdoor conventionality rather backfires ecologically, whereas a sprinkle of untamed wildness can advance environmental benefits a great deal. Periodically unmowed lawns, natural mulching, composted leaf litter, undisturbed patches, unclipped seed pods and shying away from chemical herbicides, pesticides and fungicides all revitalise faunal sanctuaries and rekindle essential eco-fondness – sustaining our well-being and the creatures dwelling our gardens. Stealthily bolstering these micro-habitats are myriads of annelids, mycorrhizas, soil microbes and micro-organisms, when maintaining gardens holistically nourishes biological fundamentals effectively.
Fifty five percent of us live in urban environments – a figure rising to around three quarters of the world population by 2050 or so – leaving behind irrevocably battered, fragmented ecosystems. Accentuating this socio-economic inevitability is the consequential trichotomy of space, sustenance and sheer sustainability. For the ecologically-minded, the appreciation of a stable ecology isn't a design optionality or a model buzzword, but forms an enlightened environmental etiquette. Mother Nature takes no prisoners, and as vast natural disasters continually manifest this apt proverbial maxim, abetted by gross environmental negligence, we must seek eco-kind solutions to lessen its reciprocal impact. While eco-idealism and urban ideals are momentarily out of mutual range, we strive to create garden designs of their time – rich in ecological awareness and environmental responsibility.
What's better than garden-fresh produce purveyed a la carte in one's own outdoor patch? Seasonality, wholesomeness, colouration, rituality and heaps of wildlife partiality prove sustainable indeed either side of the picking basket... Whether retrofitting an existent framework, or re-landscaping afresh, the integration of edibles among ornamental plants isn't only a straightforward undertaking, but also a one which is expressly beneficial to the crucial creatures perpetuating our rich ecology. From legumes to nuts, herbs, bulbs, seeds, wildflowers, fruit and veggies, there's an extended and exhilarating season to be had in any private outdoors – via family gardens to urban roof terraces and country homes, where even a handful of nectariferous, nuciferous and bacciferous vegetations will go a long way to boost our environment.
Juxtaposing modern, minimalist blueprints with lush, diverse and aptly eco-harmonious vegetations, alongside sustainable materials and cultivation methods, constitutes a win-win game plan for the environmentally-led garden designer. Offsetting carbon outgoings, diverting drainage into plant borders, reviving indigenous wildlife, meadows and habitats, celebrating seasonal change, enriching soil, repurposing natural materials, diversifying focal points, supporting local industries, and above all rebuilding a better connection with nature while maintaining a contemporary outlook, aggregate into a highly infusive, immersive and contributive lifelong endeavour.
up close and eco-loving
Devoid of genre-specific attributes, eco-friendly garden design effectively tackles universal conservational issues, and synchronously emphasises regional authenticity by embracing vernacular materials, native plants and available resources. Naturalistic both visually and sympathetically, while compellingly evincing our intricate and fragile relationship with nature, eco-sensitive gardens serve as architectural aide-memoires to a civilisation predisposed to ecological amnesia.
Profoundly constructive technique-wise, these eco-natured garden designs advocate not only golden mean strategies with a conclusive conviction, but also high-priority conventions for broad educational core curricula. For the heedless, the cynic and the charmingly eco-go-lucky, one thing's for sure – the relevancy of earth-friendly gardens is here to stay for quite some time, though not without the uphill battle of curing the colossal environmental hangover of many generations!