Documents: Special Interest: Gardening In England:

Sustainable Garden Design Materials
by Alice Bowe
by Alice Bowe

Alice Bowe is an award winning English landscape and garden designer with particular expertise in sustainable landscape architecture and green garden design.

Alice writes regularly for The Times and The Garden Design Journal as well as running a successful Garden Design Studio ( and the garden accessory shop Garden Boutique (

Her contemporary garden designs and painterly planting schemes have been featured in numerous publication including: Gardens Illustrated, New York Spaces, The English Garden, Homes and Gardens, Eve Magazine and House Beautiful.

You can read her planting design blog at

You can read her green garden design blog at

May 24, 2009

Hints and tips for creating more eco-friendly and sustainable garden designs

Green, sustainable and eco-friendly garden design does not mean you have to compromise on good garden design. In fact careful, considered thought about materials and how they are used often lead to better design and better results.

Almost every landscape material you choose to use will have an environmental impact, but some are more eco-friendly than others.

If you want to know the full environmental impact of a hard surfacing material you’ll need to know every process from ‘birth’ to eventual disposal into account! Luckily, someone else has already done this hard work for us and you can read all about it in the BRE Green Guide to Housing Specification at

But you don’t have to get involved with this detailed level of information trick to make a real difference when creating your green garden design. Compromise is rarely avoidable, so the trick is to weigh up the facts and make an informed decision to use the less damaging materials.

Ask yourself three simple questions when assessing how sustainable your landscaping materials are:

  • How much energy was used to source, manufacture and install them?
  • How much energy was used to transport them?
  • How do the materials behave in the garden?


  • Use locally sourced materials
  • Cut down on road miles
  • Use reclaimed materials where possible
  • Reclaimed materials may well cost more than new materials but remember that reclaimed brick, stone and timber will immediately give a scheme character and make a garden design look established - as well as improving its green credentials.
  • Look for permeable landscaping solutions
  • Try to balance the amount of impermeable landscaping in a garden with at least the same area of permeable landscaping to allow water to drain away naturally.
  • Check your timber is FSC or PEFC certified

Remember that even sustainably sourced tropical hardwoods are not very eco-friendly because of the many miles they have to travel to get to the UK. Reclaimed tropical hardwoods or native “green”oak are a much better choice for landscaping. Also worth considering for rustic pergolas, fences and retaining walls is locally coppiced sweet chestnut - which ticks lots of green, sustainable boxes and is a renewable material too!

With a moment to stop and think about where the landscaping materials for your new garden come from, you'll soon discover the benefits of sustainable garden design solutions are not just the green ones!

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row