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A Tale of Two Sustainable Gardens

Interested in making your garden sustainable but don't quite know how to do it? Take some tips from two experts who practice what they preach right in their own backyards.

Using varied planting in sustainable gardens need not make them chaotic. One way to keep planting and other elements in some order is to define your garden's structure when planning you garden, and stick to it closely when installing your vision. The examples shown here are held together with well-defined lines and shapes. They also include water, which provides an important wildlife habitat, and permeable hard-landscaping surfaces.

The Fresh Beauty of Varied Greens

This small garden sits on a north-facing slope.

Professor of horticulture and designer-owner Dunnett says:
"I wanted to create a woodland glade, with closely planted birch forming a light canopy and linking with the surrounding countryside. Clipped hornbeam hedges provide enclosure and structure alongside softer successional planting."

"Perennials form a dense groundcover, almost eliminating the need for weeding. The planting is 50 percent natives and 50 percent cultivated garden plants — together they give almost year-round color."

"The shed dictated the layout, but I like to work with compartments, which create a sense of discovery. The pond is filled with run-off from the paved surfaces — the bridge and the water have been a huge success."

Sustainable Garden Set in Woodland GladeSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

Key Ingredients

Marsh spurge(image 1); Wood cranesbill (image 2); Woodbine honeysuckle (image 3); Green roof (image 4)

  • Swamp Spurge is Great Accent Plant in BordersSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
  • Woodland Geraniums are Valuable Fillers for ColorSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
  • Honeysuckles Sweetly Scented to Attract BirdsSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
  • Green Roof Helps With Drainage and IrrigationSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

Secondary Participants

Burning bush (image 1); Purple lance astilbe (image 2); Marsh marigold> (image 3); Sweet flag(image 4)

  • Burning Bush Changes Colors with SeasonsSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
  • Astilbe Purple Lance Creates Candelabra EffectSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
  • Cowslips are Succulent Blooming PlantsSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
  • Sweet Flag is Best Grown in Damp SettingSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

Work in Progress

This sustainable garden in Westphalia, Germany is modest in size, but it includes a rich range of planting — ornamental and native species, selected for interest and their ability to thrive as good neighbors, are intermingled. A system of pathways provides easy access to them.

Barton, who first developed the garden with his wife years ago and continues to work on it today, says:
"In its early days, this was a family garden, but since our children left home it has evolved into something else."

"We develop areas as we gain new ideas, but the basic layout of the garden, as a series of "rooms," remains the same. We have structured the spaces with beech and box hedges, or with fences; and have created a range of small, informal seating areas to provide different views across the garden. In the main, we use perennials and shrubs, with some annuals added as necessary."

"For inspiration, we visit gardens, often in the Netherlands and southern England. However, we were originally inspired by a visit to a small private garden in Germany, the owner of which was the president of a local society, the Gesellschaft der Staudenfreunde, of perennial enthusiasts."

Modest Sustainable Garden has Wealth of PlantsSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

Key Ingredients

White water lilies (image 1); Siberian iris (image 2); European Beech (image 3)

  • Water Lilies Can Grow in Water Ponds All YearSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
  • Siberian Iris Adds Contrast and Color to GardenSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
  • Beech Tree Adds Structure to Garden SpaceSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

Not-so-subtle Standouts

Angelica (image 1); European hornbeam (image 2); Ragged robin

  • Garden Angelica Resembles Celery in Odor and LooksSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
  • Hornbeam is Often Pruned for Hedging and TopiariesSimple Steps: Vegetable Gardening ©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009
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