Today’s perfect, and trendy, garden contains green walls, recycled water and solar panels, as well as food plants mixed in with flowers
THE IDEAL garden of a decade or two ago bears no resemblance to the ideal garden of today. The harsh realities of urban spread, dwindling water resources and the call by climate change scientists to reduce energy consumption has had a significant effect on garden trends and has revolutionised the concept of the “perfect” garden.
If you want to be ultra-trendy and help save the planet, now is the time to re-think your garden design. Here are a few ideas:
● Create an eco-friendly garden Urban expansion and ecological conservation seem mutually incompatible, but research by ecologist Kevin Gaston of the University of Sheffield has proved that wildlifefriendly city gardens can make a big difference. “If only 20 percent of urban gardeners decide to do something eco-friendly, for example, plant a tree or two instead of putting in wall-to-wall paving – it makes a huge difference,” he says.
● Conserving water and energy Wasting water and energy is “out”. The latest fashion is to install a 5 000 or 10 000 litre tank to capture rainwater off your roof. The tank is then connected to your garden irrigation system via a pump.
“When the water in the tank runs out, the system kicks over to municipal water,” says landscaper Colin Thompson. “Not only is this economical, but rainwater is very good for the garden as opposed to municipal water. Rain carries many nutrients and is structured differently to municipal water which has been processed and cleaned so much that plants get much less nutrition. Look at the garden after a good thunderstorm. It is so much greener.” (Interested in installing a water tank in your garden? Go to www.jojotanks.co.za or www.stewartsandlloyds.co.za).
Adam Pasco, editor of a top British gardening magazine, says gardeners must look seriously at converting to solar power in their gardens. “As solar panels improve in efficiency and drop in price, gardeners will see them available for many more uses, in addition to garden and shed lighting and powering pumps in water features.”
● Plant a green wall With climate change now regarded as the biggest issue mankind has ever faced, green walls are high fashion. Simply put, green walls are covered with plantings.
They are being planned into city office block design to absorb carbon dioxide.
Green-walling is a way in which dense urban areas can help cut the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There is also the proven benefit that cladding the walls and roof of a large building with plants reduces energy consumption by keeping the interior cooler in summer and warmer in winter, in each case by 3°C to 5°C.
Urban gardeners are also encouraged to have creeper-clad walls or “vertical gardens” containing water smart plants.
● Grow your own
Linked to the sustainable gardening trend is the “grow your own” movement – especially as vegetable, fruit and herb prices rise.
The homegrown trend can also include planting edible plants in ornamental flower borders, such as pansies, nasturtiums, day lilies and ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard with its attractive coloured stems in shades of yellow, purple and red. Chilli plants also look great among perennials and annuals.
UP AND AWAY: The ‘Vertical Delight’ show garden at the recent Garden World Spring Show in Gauteng demonstrates how to create a low maintenance water-wise garden with a wall of plants converted into a water feature.