The Garden Guide


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

From Alice Bowe English Landscapes (

Almost every landscape material you choose to use in a garden design will have an environmental impact, but some are more eco-friendly than others. The best way to make your garden greener is to ask yourself these three simple questions when choosing your garden materials:

  • 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?

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 (phew!) 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.


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!

>Alice Bowe is an award winning garden designer, writer and columnist for the Saturday Times. For more information on her sustainable garden designs visit her website