We’re looking at ways to create gardens that will be sustainable in our changing climate.
I’m of an age where I can (just about!) remember the summer of 1976. When the tarmac on the roads melted and plants withered and died in the heat. And judging from the past couple of years, those sort of weather conditions are likely to become the norm. We’re told we can expect wetter winters with a threat of flooding, and drier summers with searing heat and a high risk of drought and wildfires.
It stands to reason that all of us need to take a two pronged approach to our lifestyles in future. One, to try to prevent further damage to the environment that could make climate change even more challenging. And two, to adapt our homes, gardens and lifestyles to the weather we are likely to get. How can landscaping help? Let’s take a look.
A well landscaped garden provides a sanctuary in all weathers
Rainwater management is going to be key to landscaping for our changing climate. Ensuring that our gardens are not prone to flooding whilst making sure that drought is not a problem either.
Let’s start with autumn, winter and spring when heavy showers can quickly overwhelm local drainage infrastructure. First of all, we need to make sure that patios, paths and driveways beside a property are constructed in such a way as water drains away from the building. Next, make hard landscaping permeable so that water filters through the cracks and down into the soil – just as nature intended.
If we’re smart, we’ll make sure that we collect as much rainwater as possible. Diverting down pipes and drains into some kind of a reservoir could well help to overcome water shortages in the summer. Water buts are of course the obvious choice of reservoir, but you could also install a dipping pond or opt for a rain garden instead.
Fellow APL members, Holland Landscapes have written an interesting article about rain gardens – read it here.
Another possibility to explore when landscaping for our changing climate, is green roofing. Green roofs are great for rainwater management, for biodiversity net gain and for cooling the air in summer.
Cooling The Air In Summer
Being surrounded by greenery instantly makes you feel cooler on a hot day, yet in winter time, it has a warming effect.
Summer in the garden should be a time for relaxing and enjoying all of the health benefits of being out of doors. But when the temperature is stiflingly hot, all you want to do is retreat to your air conditioned living room. With clever landscaping however, you can create a garden that feels luxuriously warm without being uncomfortably hot.
Surrounding yourself with living green plants is a wonderful way to feel cooler. Don’t worry that they’ll be high maintenance. Ask your landscaper to install an irrigation system that you can control from an app on your phone. Set it to work on a timer, and if you are lucky enough to get some rain, override the timer and save water.
We’ve mentioned green roofs, but what about living walls? A living wall could be a hedge (lovely!) or it could be a bespoke wall of plants with its own irrigation system. A living wall would make awesome screening around a hot tub – you’d feel as though you were on holiday in Bali!
Trees are another way to cool the air in summer. Their shade is invaluable. Plant a tree or two on your driveway if there’s room. They’ll help keep your car at a more comfortable temperature.
Shading The Soil
I’ve heard it said that the reason that human beings can survive on earth is that we have 15cm of topsoil and it rains from time to time. It’s so important to look after the soil in your garden, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a gardener.
Bare soil is incredibly vulnerable to water loss through evaporation. And not only that, when soil is hot it must have a knock on effect on the health of any root systems within it. A thick layer of mulch is easy to apply, looks very professional and protects the soil from extreme temperatures. Mulch should be permeable so that rainwater can seep through it, but water vapour is less likely to escape from it. Try compost, well rotted manure, bark mulch, leaf mould or aggregates.
Shade and Shelter For You
There are some weather conditions that make you feel that you shouldn’t be out in the garden. And that’s a shame, because provided you are warm and dry, there’s no better boost for wellbeing than spending time out of doors.
Landscaping for our changing climate means that nearly every garden we build has some kind of shelter in it. That might be an intimate arbour seat for two, or a large pergola with room for a party beneath it. We install summerhouses, timber shelters and protected patios.
Any of these can be used to shield you from a scorching sun, protect you from a rain shower or shelter you from chilly winds. They are great for afternoon tea, morning coffee, reading a book and are easily made cosy for winter with the addition of a heat source and/or a blanket.
Add a living roof and/or a water butt and your shelter can become part of your rainwater management strategy.
Responsible Choice Of Landscaping Materials
The materials used to create your garden all need to come from somewhere. At Manor Landscapes we try really hard to use sustainably sourced landscaping materials in all of our projects. Landscaping for a changing climate needs to be about carbon footprint of materials as well as how they perform in a garden.
UK sourced landscaping materials and plants are an obvious choice for sustainability ….. if you can find what you need. As are recycled and reclaimed items such as reclaimed natural stone pavers (gorgeous!).
You can find all sorts of interesting features in a reclamation yard. Or why not consider composite decking and fencing? The beauty of composite products is that they are made with recycled materials and they never need you to apply chemical preservatives.
If you are planning to build timber structures in your garden – and I thoroughly recommend that you do – always opt for FSC Certified timber. https://uk.fsc.org/what-is-fsc
Plants For A Changing Climate
Choose your plants wisely! If in doubt about the right species for your garden, talk to a garden designer. There’s little point in spending money on perennial plants that are just not suited to our changing climate.
Future Proof Your Landscaping Project
By working with a reputable garden designer and landscaper, you can help mitigate the effects of climate change by building a garden that serves you and the environment equally well. That doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be difficult to look after or in a style that you dislike. Careful choice of materials and expert installation can combine to create an outdoor space that you can use and enjoy all year round safe in the knowledge that it will adapt beautifully to our changing climate.
If your garden needs future proofing, talk to Geoff at Manor Landscapes who will happily share his knowledge and experience to help your garden be the best it can be.