Sustainable Landscaping | 11 Ideas for Eco-Friendly Gardens

March 17, 2023

Sustainable Landscaping: the eco-friendly trend is taking root.

Where people once may have opted for expansive, resource-heavy, time-consuming garden-scapes, they are now actively seeking landscape designs that are ecologically responsible and sustainable, balancing minimum material input with maximum ecological results.


What is sustainable landscaping?

Environmentally friendly landscape design can mean a great many different things, all of which we’ll touch on below. At its core, however, a sustainable garden requires minimal water, pesticides, fertilizer, labour, building materials, and maintenance.

Green roof

The tenets of sustainable landscape design often reject principles of traditional design, which often depend heavily on high water consumption, exotic and non-native plants, and environmentally detrimental construction materials and practices.

Landscaping sustainably is easier than you might think, too. Responsible landscapes are not only eco-friendly: they are also, by definition, low-maintenance. They can be much more cost-effective, too!

However, sustainable landscapes do require a lot of planning and a lot of knowledge. Here are some ideas to chew on before you dive into it.


11 Design Ideas for Sustainable Landscaping

1. Use native plants

Native plants – plants that grow and thrive without human intervention in your microclimate – are inherently better for the environment:

  • they’re used to the local soil and weather conditions
  • they won’t need any fertilizers to survive
  • they’re rarely invasive
  • they’re unlikely to need supplemental watering or irrigation (ie, they conserve water)
  • they’re naturally low maintenance
  • they preserve biodiversity



2. Create a rain garden or bioswale

Rain gardens and bioswales make effective use of rainwater and stormwater runoff by using slopes and berms to direct water. They dramatically conserve water by ensuring even distribution of water to all plants, and by ensuring that the thirstiest plants are physically placed in such a way that they get all the water they need. Rain gardens also act as biological filters, helping clean dirtied water before it returns to lakes, rivers, and watersheds.



3. Use minimal concrete

The chemical process by which concrete is made is incredibly wasteful; to throw it away, even more so. The use of concrete in landscapes is extremely common – patios, pathways, retaining, walls, and columns are especially prominent – but their environmental drawbacks are rarely discussed. Consider using landscape elements that are a little more eco-friendly.


4. Reuse and re-purpose whenever possible

If you must build with concrete, try re-suing from different areas whenever possible! That old pathway can be pulled up, pressure washed, then re-installed in the form of a patio. Those old slabs can be made into a pathway. The possibilities are endless.


5. Permeable hardscapes

Simply put, a permeable hardscape is an alternative to traditional concrete that allows water to filter through into the ground unimpeded. When water can seep naturally into the ground, the burden on storm drains and building infrastructure to manage rainwater decreases significantly. Permeable pavement is often cheaper and easier to install, reduces the need for costly drainage systems, and is quite durable.

6. Rain barrels and catchment basins

If your primary aim is to conserve water, rain barrels and catchment basins are a must-have. Rainwater from gutters can be easily collected and re-used to water your plants and lawns.

7. Green roofs

Vancouver is well-known for its green roofs; the Vancouver convention centre, most notably, has an extensive green roof. Because a green roof helps manage and absorb rainwater, it’s a perfect option for mitigating flooding and conserving water in the rainy Pacific Northwest.


8. Erosion control

If your property is situated on a hill, you’re likely familiar with soil erosion, in which nutrient-rich topsoil is worn away by rain water. As a result, the soil becomes less fertile and stormwater fills with dirt particles before returning to water sheds. Concrete or wooden retaining walls can be used to effectively halt erosion, but there are organic methods for battling erosion as well, such as planting shrubs, perennials or trees with thick, shallow root systems (such as salal, which naturally assists with soil erosion prevention in BC’s many mountainous rainforests).


9. Drought-tolerant landscapes

Drought-tolerant landscape design – also known as xeriscaping – isn’t just for hot climates. In Vancouver’s case, a drought tolerant garden or yard would simply refer to a landscape that requires little to no water, which involves removing plants that require supplemental water – including lawns – and replacing them with plants that are likely to survive on their own. Other elements include the use of rocks and mulches to help conserve rainwater.


10. Rock gardens

Rock gardens are a popular element of drought-tolerant, sustainable landscaping. They’re an excellent option if you’re hoping to make a modern, yet natural-looking garden that still allows water to flow freely. Rock gardens can also stifle weed growth and limit soil erosion.


11. Attract wildlife and pollinators

By planting pollinator plants such as lavender, butterfly bush, and cranesbill, you’ve effectively employed animals to be your assistant gardeners. Drawing pollinators into your garden comes with an obvious plethora of advantages, not the least of which is a healthy, natural landscape.


Need Help?

If you’d like some help designing your sustainable landscape, let us know! Our team of designers are accredited in ecological landscape design and have tons of ideas to make your low-maintenance garden dream a reality.

Get in touch for a free quote!


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