Sustainable landscape design is imperative in Australia and begins with appropriate plant selection for the geographic location.
Sustainable landscapes are healthy and resilient to the environmental elements of a location and will endure over the long term without substantial resources or maintenance. Sustainability is increased when the urban landscape is in harmony with local conditions.
Jim Fogarty, Melbourne landscape designer says, “Gardens should have the correct sense of place, whether it be a leafy city garden or a natural-styled native coastal garden that blends with the environment.”
The landscape designer is critical of aesthetic landscape designs that are unique and trendy, but simply don’t fit in the surrounding environment and therefore, require more resources and maintenance to upkeep.
“The key is aesthetic design that ensures the garden lasts rather than being a faddish makeover,” says Fogarty. “The word ‘sustainable’ has been overused in gardens sadly and I think the value of the motive behind the word has been diluted as a consequence.”
Fogarty says all gardens are good for the environment as long as designers make ethical choices when it comes to plant and material selection.
A combination of careful plant selection, good planning, soil preparation and effective irrigation will assist in the implementation of a sustainable landscape.
Other factors to consider are the use of water-wise plants, low energy consumption, avoidance of chemicals, sustainable and locally sourced materials and products as well as habitat creation.
“Trends in landscape design continue to include green walls, edible gardens and sustainable gardens,” says Fogarty. “These all have a place in landscape design but I think there will be an emphasis in the future on a greater selection of plants rather than just creating entertainment spaces.”
Plenty of built urban landscapes across the country use plants and practices unsuited to the arid environment. This makes them resource-depleting because they require significant water, nutrients, chemicals and energy to survive.
To achieve a successful sustainable landscape with a healthy future, urban landscapes must work with local climactic and ecological conditions.
Design for Geographic Location and Conditions
- Consider the characteristics of the proposed landscape including sunlight, shade, frost, wind and rainfall.
- Avoid bringing in too much organic mulch and compost, but rather, work with the natural soil and choose plants that will suit the soil.
- Consider drainage. Design a water-capturing and water re-use system.
- Plan for possible drought, fire, or flooding that can occur in the area and choose appropriate plants.
- Select trees and plants that grow naturally in the area. Vegetation varies greatly from one part of Australia to another. Using native plants almost guarantees success.