Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.
Do you secretly long for a more Nature-friendly garden but fear the work involved? If you’re a garden designer, do you struggle to inject Nature-friendly elements into a brief because of clients fear it will result in an unwelcome workload?
A low-maintenance corner of easy-care shrubs and perennials like the scented daphne (in background) and the hellebores in the foreground offer sustenance to insects early in the year. (Picture: Helen Gazeley)
Gardens are many things: a place to relax, to entertain, a play area for the kids, a haven, perhaps just somewhere for the cats to laze in the sun. Whatever it is, it certainly shouldn’t be a burden.
A garden is also where the natural world comes closest to our lives.
If we allow it to.
Garden-design briefs often veer towards pushing Nature away. Even as the merits of trees and plants in controlling pollution and producing cooling effects, the advantages of wildlife corridors across cities, and the physical and mental health benefits of looking out at a natural scene are increasingly understood and extolled, we lay more artificial grass, cut down trees, and even pave over entire gardens, generally in the interests of Low Maintenance.
The Outdoor Room
In part, it is the landscaping industry’s fault. We have spent the last two decades, since Groundforce took TV viewers by storm in the 1990s, describing the garden as an outdoor room, making it out to be an extension of our living space. And while we can certainly extend our day-to-day living into the garden, it is most certainly not a room.
What has been the effect of calling a garden an outdoor room? We suggest that it’s subtly altered expectations, and had a major impact on the look of gardens over the subsequent decades. If the garden is another room, it should look pretty much the same all year round and, if it’s a room, then all it needs is a quick dust, Hoover and tidy-up every so often, just like the lounge indoors.
In many ways this is ideal. Low maintenance is understandably one of the most frequent demands for a garden design, with mowing, weeding, leaf-blowing and pruning kept to an absolute minimum.
But what is missing?
Benefits of a Nature-friendly garden
A single flower gives bees the chance to collect pollen where double flower sometimes don't. (Picture: Helen Gazeley)
A nature challenge run by The Wildlife Trusts in 2015 asked participants to do one “wild” activity every day for a month. Participants reported at intervals on how they felt. It turned out that even simple activities like feeding the birds and planting bee-friendly flowers made a difference, with an increase of 30% in participants reporting themselves in excellent health at the end of the challenge.
Other research has demonstrated how a view of nature reduces the need for pain-killers, aids healing, rests the mind and reduces negative emotions.
Children gain enormously from interaction with the natural world. In fact, research into human development portrays childhood as a time when we particularly want to explore it.
And none of the above is possible without the building blocks of a Nature-friendly garden that will attract the wildlife to give you the restorative and stimulating environment that will make a haven for you and a playground for your children.
The landscaping industry’s role?
At Landscaping Solutions we believe that we all have a responsibility towards Nature.
We feel privileged to be part of an industry which is uniquely placed as a bridge between the needs of our clients and the natural world. We can distance people from Nature, or we can create a manageable environment which harmonises with Nature.
If we look after it, it will repay us, with all the benefits listed above.
Client-friendly AND Nature-friendly
A mix of summer shrubs and self-seeders creates a nectar-rich corner. (Picture: Helen Gazeley)
What does this mean for your garden or, as a designer, your clients’ garden? At Landscaping Solutions, we’re not advocating creating a wilderness outside the back door. We have built award-winning gardens that major on high-quality hard landscaping, with very formal designs and minimalist planting. We’re not going to preach about what should and should be in your or your clients’ garden. However, we choose our materials and plants mindfully.
And this is where we can help. Most garden-design briefs allow plenty of room for Nature-friendly elements. They may not be things that you immediately associate with a low-maintenance garden but, if properly installed, they require little attention while enhancing the design, bringing the pleasures of Nature closer to your window, and making a more sustainable design for local flora and fauna.
Here at Landscaping Solutions we have an excellent understanding of how to introduce tiny differences with a big impact, adding a Natural element and yet give you a living space that you can use as part of your daily life and not slave over.
Ivy makes an ideal, easy-to-trim fedge (mix of hedge and fence) and strikingly structural fruit which feeds thrushes in winter. (Picture: Helen Gazeley.)
From choice of productive shrubs, trees and nectar-rich flowering plants that will attract and feed wildlife, choice of grasses and wildflowers for the lawn and minimum grass-cutting regimes, to the installation of safe ponds and small areas of locally appropriate habitat, we have plenty of tools in our toolbox to create a design that will give you an interesting, sustainable garden throughout the year.
We work sympathetically with designers who want to expand the Nature-friendly extent of designs. We can also provide a garden design service. Alternatively, if you would like to make some changes, however small, to your existing garden with a view to supporting wildlife and are wondering what you could reasonably do, we’re happy to advise.
For more information or an informal chat about options, contact Ben West.
A leading industry event, taking place at Sandown Park Racecourse, Surrey, Futurescape brings designers, landscapers and contractors together from all over the UK, creating a stimulating platform for industry debate. Ben will be asking exactly what are our responsibilities as an industry in creating outdoor spaces, and how can we reasonably fulfil them?
An unfortunate side affect of living a modern lifestyle is losing touch with nature. As we further develop our towns and cities, slowly swallowing up fields, parks and woodland the gradual loss of our natural surroundings is becoming ever more apparent.
Thankfully, as a nation we are becoming more environmentally aware everyday and attitudes are beginning to shift. As the effects of climate change begin to touch our everyday lives, there has been a rise of eco-conscious gardeners wanting to get back to nature and live a more sustainable lifestyle.
With this change in attitudes, people are developing a greater awareness of the environment as well as becoming more considerate of garden wildlife. Recent figures released by Wyevale Garden Centres showed that 67% of people surveyed considered themselves to be eco-conscious when it came to their approach to gardening. City dwellers in particular are setting a good example when it comes to cutting back on waste and encouraging wildlife.
The same survey also revealed that more than three quarters of gardeners try to avoid using chemicals in their gardens, with 46% opting for organic fertilisers as an alternative.
The negative impact our current food system has on the environment is also becoming clear to the eco-conscious gardeners of today. For this reason, growing your own food and in particular, watching what you eat, is becoming increasingly important to many.
People want to know where their food is grown and are aware that by adopting an organic approach to growing they can dramatically reduce their food’s carbon footprint.
As a result, the grow your own movement has been gaining traction and has quickly become a key focus for the eco-conscious gardener. In fact, a recent report from The Soil Association revealed the UK organic market alone is now worth £2.2 billion.
For those starting out in eco-gardening, knowing were to start can sometimes be a daunting prospect. The trick is to start small with something simple; using recycled pots, encouraging birds and wildlife in to your garden or installing a water-butt can quickly set you on the path to becoming an eco-gardener.
If growing your own food tickles your fancy then starting with items that are relatively easy to grow is also a good way of beginning your eco-gardening journey. A perfect starting point for example would be growing tomatoes. Tomatoes require minimal effort but can still yield satisfying and tasty results.
While all this may seem like relatively small steps at first, if all of us began thinking about changes we could make in our own gardens and implementing those changes we could make a difference. Not only to our own surroundings but to the environment too.
A number of recent studies conducted by researchers and health practitioners have concluded that daily contact with nature has a positive and long lasting affect on our mood. The simple act of gardening itself provides substantial human health benefits and not just for your physical health but your mental health too. In short, gardening is good for you.
Studies carried out across the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East all looked at the effects of daily contact with nature and its long lasting benefits on our health.
The research showed a wide range of positive health outcomes, such as reductions in depression, anxiety, and weight loss.
Many of us live in a society full of daily stresses. Difficult commutes, long working hours, daily obligations and workplace pressures all form part of our daily routines. Add to this high-fat diets, environmental pollutants and increased levels of social and psychological stress and it quickly becomes easy to lose touch with nature altogether.
As a result, conditions such as heart disease, depression, diabetes, and obesity have become a major public health issue. It is estimated that worldwide, approximately 415 million people currently suffer from diabetes and somewhere in the region of 350 million people suffer from some form of depression. Sadly this trend shows no sign of slowing.
As part of the various studies, a number of volunteers who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood, or bipolar disorder were asked to spend six hours a week planting. After three months, over half of the volunteers had experienced a measurable improvement in their symptoms of depression with others showing lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
As the research has shown reversing the adverse effects of losing touch with nature is possible. The sensory experience of gardening offers the opportunity to quickly and easily reconnect with nature. First and foremost gardening gets you outdoors, while simple tasks like digging, planting and weeding offer excellent forms of low-impact exercise. The plants themselves improve your local environment, trapping toxins and filtering harmful pollutants, in turn improving not just your health and wellbeing but those around you too.
The beauty of it is you don't need a big garden to start reaping the benefits either. A small garden or courtyard is more than sufficient and even something as simple as gardening containers is a great way to start out. With the right approach even the simplest gardening experience can help make a difference.
As subject matter close to our hearts, we’ve covered a number of environmental issues over the past months. If you have found this article interesting you may also enjoy some of our previous articles - Battling Urban Air Pollution: The Humble Hedge, Pocket Parks and Bees In Crisis.
A recent report by the Association of Play Industries has revealed how local authorities nationwide, have slowly been closing children’s playgrounds and parks at an alarming rate.
Extensive research carried out as part of the API report shows that between 2014 and 2016 local authorities across England closed 214 children’s playgrounds and public parks, depriving local communities of access to these vital green spaces in the process.
When questioned about the park closures a number of the local authorities involved admitted that there are in fact another 234 more parks and playgrounds scheduled for closure.
It is no secret that in recent years, there has been a series of spending cuts to play areas and public spaces around the UK but these latest figures highlight just how serious the situation really is.
Childhood obesity and wellbeing have been high on the Government’s agenda for sometime now yet the report revealed that the majority of the recent playground closures were as a direct result of a 37% cut in Government funding to local authorities.
The Chairman of the Association of Play Industries Mark Hardy had this to say “With increasing childhood obesity and the health benefits of activity and play well known, now is not the time for community playgrounds to be closing. This action goes against the Government’s clear intention to get children more active and needs to be stopped as quickly as possible”.
The loss of so many playgrounds across the country is undoubtedly a travesty and a number of organised protests have already taken place but with so many parks already closed is it too late to reverse the damage?
According to the same report approximately £100 million of investment could not only reverse the closures but also increase the number of playgrounds available to children across the country.
However, with the recent cuts as a clear indication, the funding is obviously not going to be coming from the government. Local authorities will have to continue to make difficult decisions about which parks and playgrounds are to be closed, unless they look towards organisations like the Big Lottery to meet the investment requirements.
As adults it is easy to become complacent about the importance of our connection with nature and quickly lose touch with it, we covered this topic in more detail in one of our recent articles "Losing Touch With Nature" a subject matter all of us at Landscaping Solutions are very passionate about.
It is heart breaking to think that unless something can be done we are gradually going to witness playgrounds and green spaces up and down the country disappearing from our urban landscape and while campaigners battle tirelessly to defend our parks and playgrounds, the harsh reality is that for now the future of Englands parks is unknown.
For further information or to read the The full report 'Nowhere to play' visit the API website.