Go green

To bal­ance their sleek, car­bon-neu­tral home Leilah Lier­man and Mar­tijn De Coster have cre­ated a wildlife-friendly gar­den burst­ing with colour and packed with clever space-sav­ing ideas

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Eco-friendly Garden - WORDS MARIEKE VAN GESSEL PHO­TO­GRAPHS MODESTE HERWIG

No, we don’t have any be­go­nias,” says school­teacher Leilah Lier­man, laugh­ing. When she and her part­ner, ar­chi­tect Mar­tijn De Coster, were look­ing for a site on which to build an eco-friendly home it was Be­go­ni­as­traat’s prox­im­ity to pub­lic trans­port links not its flo­ral name that at­tracted them. The con­tem­po­rary-look­ing house the cou­ple even­tu­ally built cer­tainly stands out in this quiet, tree-lined street in the Bruges sub­urb of Asse­broek. Mar­tijn, the co-founder of the eco­log­i­cal architectural firm eA Plus, de­signed and built it him­self, us­ing sus­tain­able build­ing ma­te­ri­als, and has made it al­most en­tirely car­bon­neu­tral with so­lar pan­els that are linked to a so­lar wa­ter boiler, leav­ing the cou­ple with heat­ing bills of just €250 a year.

Mar­tijn con­structed the house around a tim­ber frame and clad the ex­te­rior in sleek black tiles. It’s a bold de­sign that was in­spired in part by the Ser­pen­tine Gallery Pav­il­ion for 2011 – a to­tally black struc­ture, de­signed by Swiss ar­chi­tect Peter Zumthor. The pav­il­ion sur­rounded an in­ner gar­den by the in­flu­en­tial Dutch de­signer Piet Ou­dolf, and Zumthor’s con­cept was to cre­ate a hor­tus con­clusus or en­closed gar­den that would pro­vide a shel­tered, con­tem­pla­tive space. And this is ex­actly what Mar­tijn and Leilah have cre­ated in their Bel­gian sub­urb.

When the cou­ple started work on the gar­den about five years ago, the land around the house had only a few plants in it and there was hardly any con­nec­tion be­tween the house and the gar­den. “We re­ally wanted a gar­den that en­cour­ages bio­di­ver­sity and we wanted to be able to en­joy it while we were in­doors al­most as much as when we were out­side,” says Mar­tijn.

One of the first things the cou­ple did was to build a pond, to at­tract wildlife, and con­structed what can only be de­scribed as ‘an in­sect city’. Made out of 20 or more wooden poles with holes

Above Leilah Lier­man and Mar­tijn De Coster. Left To the side of the house, Leilah and Mar­tijn have cre­ated a wild gar­den made up of two large, lushly planted borders filled with wildlife-friendly plants, in­clud­ing salvias and knau­tias. The tall, white phlox in the cen­tre was a gift to Mar­tijn’s grand­mother and is now one of his most trea­sured plants.

This page Above left Black ce­ramic tiles on the front of the house cre­ate a dra­matic back­drop to the ef­fec­tive plant­ing, comb­ing the tall, fluffy heads of Thal­ic­trum ‘Elin’ and the dark-green fo­liage of San­guisorba of­fic­i­nalis ‘Red Thunder’ and Buxus sem­per­virens. A band of Salvia nemorosa ‘Ost­fries­land’, at the front edge, pro­vides a burst of rich-pur­ple colour and is a mag­net for but­ter­flies and bees. Above right Tim­ber cladding, made from sus­tain­able pla­tonised wood, helps to in­su­late the house, while a large pic­ture win­dow af­fords Leilah and Mar­tijn a front row seat for “some of the best na­ture doc­u­men­taries”. Right A neat lawn en­closed with Taxus bac­cata, hedg­ing and a mix of shrubs in­clud­ing the rounded Elaeag­nus x ebbingei, borders the wild gar­den.

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