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Gardening sustainably: reflections of a garden designer

BBC Springwatch Garden RHS Hampton Court

Writing for the Financial Times this week, Jo was asked how to create a garden with year-round interest. 

“Whenever I’m asked this question, I always go back to a simple manta”, says Jo “think about how the space can look and feel exactly as if it should be there.” 

There are a number of factors that go into blending a garden authentically into its setting – use of colour and creating usable spaces, for example – but above all it’s about designing, building and planting in a way that respects the environment. 


“I absolutely love to read – my problem is I can’t just read one. This week I dipped back into ‘Environmentally Friendly Gardening’ by Jason Johns, whose impassioned plea and encouragement to use our gardens to help put the brakes on climate change, I echo”, Jo remarks.     


Like many, those of us in the JTLGD studio will be listening for outputs of the COP26 Summit, which starts at the end of next week. But as Jason reminds us in his book, let’s not leave it to the politicians to single handily solve climate change. We have the power to make everyday choices that will benefit our precious planet. 


Avoiding the use of chemical pesticides – did you know that you can have ladybird larvae delivered to your home to help manage greenflies? – composting garden waste and choosing peat-free compost all make a difference. 


As a studio we encourage clients to purchase UK-grown plants from local specialist nurseries; use local, natural materials where possible and re-use wherever possible – all of which also helps conserve a garden’s unique sense of place. 


The other really easy thing everyone can do is be less tidy. Leave seed heads on plants and do not clear up all the fallen leaves; instead let them be worked into the soil by worms, improving the soil and acting as a natural mulch. Log piles make great habitats and think about leaving gaps in hedges and fences for wildlife to trundle through. That way you should have some visitors to admire as well as the garden.