Sustainable garden design; what is it?
This topic doesn't really get much discussion here, but is obviously only going to become more important as the cost of fuel, water and fertilizers continue to climb. I find myself looking to re-use materials when doing a garden renovation much more than I used to. I've done quite a few projects where old concrete paving to be removed got re-used as either stacked retaining walls, crazy paving, or saw-cut for reuse as benches or walls. I've also looked for opportunities to channel Downspouts into reverse french drains to recharge ground water on-site rather than draining to the street. I've yet to design a new garden with more permeable concrete mixes, but always try to break up large areas of concrete paving with plantings or gravel to allow for on-site water absorption. When opportunities present themselves to recycle plants from one client's garden into a new project, I also recycle; one time this meant recycling ground up tree trunk chips from a huge downed pine tree for free mulch for another new installation. Not the sorts of check list items credited towards a LEEDS rating, but efforts towards reuse never the less. Of course, water conservation via more drought tolerant plantings, less use of relatively thirsty turf and drip irrigation rather than higher volume spray irrigation design are basic starting points here in summer dry California. Many here locally have also transitioned there designs towards using more locally native plants; my personal preference is towards using whatever mix of plants, native or exotics, that work functionally and visually while also using less water.
What are some of the things you do to be more sustainable either gardening or designing gardens? And, for the pro's, do you advertise these sorts of efforts as part of your skill set, or just do them as a matter of course? Myself, I prefer to address the issues as they come up with clients when asked, rather than emphasize some sort of "green" credentials. Possibly a missed opportunity, but it just seems to me that more sustainable approaches to landscape design ought to be a given these days, rather than mere propaganda.