why sustainable landscapes?
As we rapidly lose truly ‘wild’ places to development, it is critical that we carve out habitats for insects and animals in developed areas wherever possible. If our native insects and pollinators cannot find native plants on which to feed and breed, the entire food chain can become dismantled. By replacing sterile lawns with intrinsically beautiful, functional, ecological gardens, we provide food and shelter for an array of insects and animals that are essential to keeping our ecosystems in balance.
As ecological designers, our focus is to work with nature, not against it. Nurturing balanced ecosystems in our gardens can lessen or eliminate the need to use harmful herbicides, pesticides and excessive amounts of water. Fostering biodiverse habitats invites beneficial insects, which keep garden ‘pests’ in check. By integrating nature into our built environment, we can render landscapes that, over time, require fewer external inputs to thrive.
We believe every piece of an ecological design has more than one function in the landscape; each detail should fill a niche. For example, a pear tree on the south side of a building shades the structure in the summer months, reducing cooling costs and energy use. It provides fresh fruit to eat and in autumn, the leaves fall to the ground creating leaf litter that will eventually decompose into the ground creating a more nutrient rich soil. The bare tree lets sunlight through its branches in the winter months, allowing for more solar gain in the house, thus reducing heating costs and fuel. The tree also supports pollination of other pear trees and provides food for pollinators such as native bees. Similarly, a hedge that creates privacy for a back yard can also provide food and a safe habitat for birds and other creatures, and shade and beauty for residents and passersby to enjoy.
In Gaia’s Garden, author Toby Hemenway describes the benefits of ecological gardens: “These are places where conscious design has been melded with a respect and understanding of nature’s principles. The result is a living and riotously abundant landscape in which all the pieces work together to yield food, flowers, medicinal and edible herbs, even craft supplies and income for the inhabitants, while providing diverse habitat for helpful insects, birds, and other wildlife. Places where nature does most of the work, but where people are welcome as the other inhabitants of the Earth.”