mylandscapes contemporary garden design & build

natural well-being garden biodiversity

modern garden design biodiversity ideas

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design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Universal Biomes

The next three decades will see seventy percent of us inhabiting urbanised areas, when ecological imbalance and insufficient contact with green space and wildlife, amid depreciating incentives to spend time out of doors in sunlight, increase our susceptibility to numerous allergies, pollution-induced asthma, depression and a whole host of stress-related conditions – weakening fundamental well-being. Our innate homeostasis reflects, and is dependent on, the cohesion in the balance of nature within universal biomes, symbiotically interlinked to both flora and fauna, their prevalence, stability and biodiversity.

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This biophilic well-being finds its valuable niches extensively in the microhabitats of private landscapes, and while a quarter of Greater London is covered in residential gardens, enhancing Europe's greenest capital, there's much potential sanctuary for both us and our crucial biota. From climate change to primate change, in less than a century, we've drastically altered the vital natural ecosystems which sustain effective environments. The fearless bolstering of biodiversity isn't a mere act of conservationism, but rather articulates an embracement of the well-being of all living things in every scale of habitation.

native plants

native plants biodiversity

Native shield fern, sea pink, wavy hair and quaking grasses.

It's a widespread misconception that native plants categorically contribute biodiversity in urban private gardens. Insufficient topsoil, drainage or moisture, absent mulch layers and permeable surfaces, excessive compaction, highly reflective surfaces which affect shade floras, and altered soil pH by artificial sub-bases all compromise the health of indigenous species. These environmental incompatibilities impede potential biodiversity, and consequently minimise available food for wildlife. Temperate forest, grassland and wetland floras are well-adapted to the British Isles' climatic conditions, and when aptly integrated into the micro-environments of private gardens, we utilise the broad capacity of these allied vegetations through a biodiverse amalgam of sustainable ecology, as well as aesthetic relevance.

wildlife gardens

biodiverse planting design

Nectar-rich Chinese and North American perennials in late summer.

While countless damaged natural ecosystems remain irreparable globally, in our private gardens, the union of native and extrinsic plant species provides a solid platform for sustainable biodiversity, when intimate horticulture corresponds to site conditions, sustains wildlife and highlights owners' nativity as a pertinent element of multiculturalism and modern-day well-being. Native fauna readily adapts to new sustenance and refuge habitats, thriving wherever nourishment and shelter are abundant, regardless of provenance.

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Paradoxically, the proliferation of invasive exotic plant species from seeds dispersed by birds and mammals validates this assertion, albeit instigating tenaciousness which undermines native habitat stability. While in the US, stringent governmental regulations strive to reduce invasiveness, European Union guidelines are still in their infancy. The introduction of new species is therefore invariably speculative, yet the principles of successful planting prevail whatever the style, when adhering to viable plant selections for endemic environments.

natural materials

natural garden design ideas

Indigenous stone and ferns with a Japanese maple.

While adequate fertilisation, selective pruning, mulching, irrigation and refined pH values support diverse cultivation in our gardens, the detailing of hard landscaping materials entails a measured approach in regard to thriving biodiversity. As wildlife alarmingly vanishes from our towns and cities, where impermeable surfaces, synthetic products and inorganic structures dominate the landscape, from faux grass to composite decking, fake plants, glaring glass and every fragment of plastic pollutants in their midst, artificiality annihilates our affinity with nature, alongside our native creatures and greeneries.

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Biologically rich environments enhance our well-being immeasurably; a well-documented, research-based dictum. Degradable, sustainable, recyclable, reclaimable and ethically sourced natural materials such as wood, stone, rock, sand, clay, earthenware, brick, rattan, Bamboo, Willow and pebbly aggregates harmonise contextually within garden environments, while sustaining liveable, biodiverse wildlife habitats.

sustainable gardens

modern ecological garden planting

Native Teasel with North American Coneflowers.

During the Anthropocene era, world population has increased fourfold in a century; a meteoric surge fast leading to an unavoidable demise. This unsustainable existence, amid insufficient resources, substituting forests and wildlife for commercial farming, leaves Western populace seemingly unaffected, however destructively land reallocation and the loss of biodiversity ensue. Yet, the sterility of modern life, in essence, continues to pervade rather malignantly in every corner of the globe, bringing entire ecosystems to their knees in our illogical, unwavering and unrealistic quest for high living standards and infinite growth.

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From the acute awareness of bionomics, through horticultural acumen, to effective and sensitive conservation, sustainable gardens exemplify biodiversity and well-being, epitomising ecological sagacity in the solutions of a fully fledged multidisciplinary field. In heavily congested metropolises, where steely skyscraping is all but a forgone conclusion, garden sustainability contributes indispensable edibility factors, educational benefits, a wildlife revival and complete wellness both indoors and outdoors, in green architecture, living walls, cleaner air and diversity – producing healthier and more connected places.

garden ecology

modern garden design for wellbeing

Diverse permeable habitats for both flora and fauna.

Scientific progress and economic incentives drive the impetus for developing modern plant-based construction products, progressively embracing biomass renewable energy. From sustainable bioplastics to mortar techniques, insulation, living roofs, structural timbers and bio-based coatings, the vegetal waste by-products utilised in eco homes and conventional architecture delineate principles deeply rooted in recyclability, renewability and sustainability. While not all renewable materials are necessarily sustainable or entirely recyclable, we seek long-term, diverse solutions in the manufacturing and construction industries. The permanency of concrete, to many, wholly outweighs the carbon discharged during casting; the renewability of wood, to some, is devalued in limited sustainability; while steel structures accomplish this triad of noble qualities to the broadest possible advantages, although new production is patently non-renewable.

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Finite, pollutive resources routinely permeate all landscape design projects, where non-natural substances and much fewer eco-friendly building materials available than for indoor professions hinder plant life and faunal habitats. In London, where short-term habitation and low-maintenance prerequisites propel common edificial ephemerality, the ethos of sustainability is typically trivialised. With a ten percent yearly increase in UK sales of robotic lawn mowers, gas and electric barbeques, and outdoor furniture, the emphases of trade and over-consumption focus on no-brainer respite for the overworked, at the expense of vital garden ecology, through environmental impact and utter unaccountability. Ecological planting, permeability, composting, water recycling, crop conservation, kids' wildlife zones and home-grown harvests aggregate across every garden scale to sustain all-important biodiversity, and promote restorative well-being.

planting design

roof garden biodiversity

A biodiverse planting scheme with native, naturalised, European, East Asian and North American species for year-round benefits.

We seek curative consonance within natural garden elements, and planting design fulfils the most cardinal aspect of biodiversity and remedial well-being. Yet, with a fifth of all plant species at risk of extinction by global deforestation, chemicalised water, contaminated soil and a steady rise in herbicide usage, our collective microbiome depreciates despairingly. The more biotic pollinators we encourage in our gardens through biodiverse cultivation, the less hypersensitivity, allergies, hay fever and eczema become widespread. Conservation of trees, wild plants and crops in seed banks, botanical gardens, public arboreta, commercial cultivation and private landscapes ascertains our reliance on plants as major sources for medicine, environmental uses, food, materials and, indeed, designing ornamental gardens.

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Broad plant biodiversity loses momentum when extensive pesticide and fungicide usages, monoculture and invasive species undermine ecologies, gradually diminishing consecutive generations' intuitive connection with the landscape. Unfamiliarity breeds indifference, while variety of life sustains balance, progress and longevity – the most desirable and rewarding facets of natural planting habitats.

wild gardens

environmental landscape design planting

Herbs interspersed among ornamental plants extend the flowering season and encourage wildlife.

From AI to VR, automation, segregation, small-mindedness and the ignis fatuus of our cyber age, we're all sterilely standardised into indistinguishable entities, fiercely desperate for distinction amid the masquerade of a so-called global village. Wildness connotes elusive perceptions; to some, its essence insinuates bygone pastorality, to others, signifies ecological awareness in a world dominated by man-made order. Plant species preservation endorses some of the most elementary needs and obligations of our time, and wild gardens are places where both artistic expressiveness and environmental care coalesce ecologically to define individuality, intimacy and solace.

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While fruit-bearing plants remain UK's least sold flora, encouragingly, vegetable varieties top the horticulture statistics list – an inclination indicative of a resurgence in self-sufficiency and food sustainability. Integrating edible plants, legumes, herbs, nuts and wildflowers into ornamental gardens broadens biodiversity ingeniously, facilitating a connective experience for both owners and wildlife, while enhancing social, educational and many seasonal factors. The informal, untamed visuality of wildly cultivated gardens not only imparts timeless charm and charisma, but also, rather pertinently, supports native fauna and human well-being through the practice of organic, lenient upkeep.

native gardens

large private garden biodiversity

Grass is left long during the year and cut down for winter.

Transport yourself a mere six hundred years back in time, before the Age of Discovery, and the extrinsic factors affecting native biodiversity transpired only as far as wind and ocean currents could convey plant seed, albeit minimally, and seldom transcontinentally. Ensuing global trade had drastically disturbed unspoilt ecosystems, further relocating myriads of species which cause dramatic consequences. Nowadays, we increasingly embrace plant nativeness, indigenous fauna and regional building materials in the pivotal regeneration of native landscapes. In 2015, the European Commission eventually recognised that “invasive alien species are one of the main drivers of species extinction and global biodiversity loss.” While legislation, prevention and courageous volunteering assist only half the battle, education should become a far greater catalyst through ecology studies in all school curricula.

natural habitats

native rooftop biodiversity

Diversity of natural habitats, plant species and wildlife food sources.

Natural landscaping transcends beyond insightful species knowledge; its merits manifested through design clarity, a profound appreciation of local nuances, environmental candour, constructional permeability and sympathetic upkeep. Incentives for horticultural leadership can produce accessible intelligibility which is centrally critical in edifying consumers, gardeners and maintainers alike. The profusion of today's easily obtained exotic floras has inadvertently extinguished numerous indigenous wildlife and plant species in our native landscape, when the incongruity of purely ornamental plants diminishes habitats.

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Across roof garden microhabitats, where irrigation, feeding and soil types are easily controlled, the scope for flora biodiversity is truly broad. Incompletely, the organic surface elements, micro-organisms, nutrients and annelids available in terrestrial gardens are missing or merely insufficient in roof terrace gardens. Yet, rooftop microclimates enable prolific cultivation of coastal, Mediterranean and high-altitude floras, embracing contiguous continental elements in floristic pairings of diverse plants, providing secluded wildlife havens, and celebrating human biodiversity in an expressly cosmopolitan environment.

organic balance

natural biodiverse landscaping

An ecological balance of native perennials, shrubs and trees.

Since many London private gardens are generally space-limited, the meaningful integration of native design ideologies, broad biotas and biodiversity practices is often restricted. Yet, ironically, the very non-native floras which delimit variety of life on the larger scale assist us in striking an ecological balance in urban residential gardens, where nectariferous, pollen-rich and baccate shrub combinations, cascading living walls, companion planting, aquatic features with oxygenating hydrophytes, compact tree cultivars and space-saving bulbous drifts contribute priceless eco-friendliness – the hallmark of modern-day biodiversity and personal well-being.

– coda –

Ecological Conscientiousness

From scientific consciousness to ecological conscientiousness, we strive to redefine a workable biodiverse environment, to reconcile irreversibility, and enduringly progress wellness into the mainstream. While the majestic balance of nature captures our imaginations time and again, its preservation indeed eludes us abysmally. Axiomatic as this reality has become, so does the ruthlessness of nature manifests its counteractive processes within complex, fragile interconnections, as poignantly portrayed in the American author and environmentalist Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire: “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.“