Finally! Garden & landscape design that makes sense (naturally)!

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Educational video on the principle differences between conventional garden design and eco-friendly, sustainable garden design and why sustainable design is superior to conventional design for saving …

Educational video on the principle differences between conventional garden design and eco-friendly, sustainable garden design and why sustainable design is superior to conventional design for saving money, time, energy, and resources. Showcases the work of Cornucopia Sustainable Designs based in Southern California (Los Angeles).

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  • 1. Earth-Friendly Garden Design Wendy Talaro, M.A. Principal designer and consultant Cornucopia Sustainable Designs Founder, Urban/Suburban Ecoliteracy Copyright © 2010 Wendy Talaro, Cornucopia Sustainable Designs All rights reserved
  • 2. Through the years that I have worked with clients, I have discovered that gardens fall into two distinct categories.
  • 3. There are ordinary conventional (and even ordinary organic gardens)…
  • 4. … and then there are eco-savvy, Earth-friendly gardens.
  • 5. The least successful gardens and homeowners take a conventional and petrochemical-driven approach.
  • 6. Architecture Dominates Structures, not plants and natural landforms, dominate the landscape.
  • 7. Imposed Aesthetics Imposed aesthetics that frame views and emphasize form are valued more than ecological function and structure.
  • 8. Cookie Cutter Design A conventional approach to landscape and gardens applies a cookie cutter formula to design.
  • 9. Cookie Cutter Design
    • This garden uses a hodge-podge of ornamental plants commonly used in Southern CA.
    • The garden faces north and east. The east facing side receives some morning and early afternoon sun.
    • Plants that wanted more sun on the north facing side of the garden were reaching eastward for sunlight, thereby distorting their natural forms.
    *yawn* (north facing side of the garden) (east facing side of the garden)
  • 10. Cookie Cutter Design Mexican sage lavender cape honeysuckle princess flower
    • The plants were initially planted too close together.
    • While this massed effect lends itself to the garden looking full quickly, it creates a maintenance headache and ruins the natural forms of the plants.
    • Princess flower needs some shade in hot locations. In West Los Angeles however, the plant needed full sun to thrive.
  • 11. Cookie Cutter Design
    • Over-watering is one of the most common gardening mistakes.
    • This fungus was growing under the lavender plant in the previous picture.
    • Lavender is native to the Mediterranean. As a result, it is compatible for planting with CA native plants with similar horticultural needs.
  • 12. Garden Obsolescence In conventional design, the garden plan is trendy rather than stylish, timeless, and personalized.
  • 13. Garden Obsolescence The end result of cookie cutter design is considered fixed and permanent, at least until obsolescence sets in.
  • 14. Garden Obsolescence Several years after its establishment, this is what a designer garden looks like past its prime, even with regular maintenance. Notice the legginess of the shrubs.
  • 15. Garden Obsolescence
    • For reasons unknown, the original garden designer selected some thorny plants for placement around the pool. (Huh? What was he thinking?)
    • The plant palette did not allow for the garden’s evolution. At some point, the whole garden would need to be redesigned to be renewed. Notice the large gaps between plants.
  • 16. Garden Obsolescence
    • Fundamental problem: Too little specialized plant care and maintenance, too late.
    • By the time I was brought in to provide specialized gardening maintenance, the more aggressive plants had spawned hundreds of thorny volunteer seedlings.
    • The bamboo in the foreground had escaped the concrete barrier that had been poured to contain it.
  • 17. Garden Obsolescence
    • The bamboo’s rhizomes were found all throughout this planting area.
    • Typical for most gardens, no mulch was used to protect the soil from runoff, compaction, moisture loss, and temperature swings (bad for roots). The resulting negative affect on most of the plants’ growth and well-being was apparent.
  • 18. Ignoring Ecological Principles Conventional design tends to ignore the optimal needs of the plants and treats them like outdoor furniture to be moved around at will and on whim. corn watermelon basil strawberry sage rosemary
  • 19. Ignoring Ecological Principles
    • Minimum space allowance between plants:
      • Watermelon: 12-15” for midget varieties, 18” for 5-7 pound varieties, 21” for 10-15 pound varieties, 24” for the largest varieties (John Jeavons, How to Grow More Vegetables, 7th ed. )
      • Basil: 6 inches
      • Artichoke: 5 to 6 feet
      • Corn: 15 inches
      • Strawberries: 1 foot for plants that produce runners, 36 inches for alpine strawberries
    • Actual dimensions of space shown: approximately 48 inches by 16 inches wide
    artichoke
  • 20. Ignoring Ecological Principles
    • Although this narrow planting area adjacent to a house in Mar Vista faced roughly south, it still did not receive enough direct summer sun for the tomatoes to thrive. The house itself and the fence to the west cast shade on the garden.
    • Other edibles in this planter include strawberries, blackberry, and raspberries. Yields were poor to nonexistent.
    • Despite not meeting the plants’ needs, the client still unrealistically expected above average yields.
  • 21. Impatience is Expensive Impatience is expensive. Poor design ignores the precautionary principle.
  • 22. Impatience Is Expensive
    • This client in the Hollywood Hills repurposed a locally available material, i.e. railroad ties.
    • Unfortunately, he didn’t know that what he didn’t know could hurt him. Coal tar creosote, which is still a widely used wood preservative in the U.S., is toxic to plants and probably carcinogenic to humans according to the Intl. Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
  • 23.
    • This client had also paid for installation of an overhead irrigation system between the retaining wall and the railroad tie wall. He planned to install an edible garden.
    • Plants absorb coal tar creosote - minute amounts of it, but they absorb it nonetheless. Anyone want some creosote-tainted salad?
    • The type of irrigation system selected not only would not have been great for edibles but would have hastened the release of coal tar creosote.
    • I was contacted by the client after he had the railroad tie retaining wall and the irrigation installed. Result: wasted time, wasted money, lost opportunity to have the edible garden the client really wanted
  • 24. Ignoring Ecological Principles
    • This client in Highland Park had hired me to maintain and weed her garden. The decomposed granite pathway in particular had been extensively colonized.
    • A properly designed and installed decomposed granite pathway does not encourage weed growth.
  • 25.
    • Visible in this photo: exposed weed cloth poking out from under the decomposed granite
    • The weed cloth had been compromised by Bermuda grass growing through it. If this weed had been pulled out, even larger holes would have been created in the weed cloth, leading to more growth opportunities for weeds.
    • Reinstallation of the pathway was recommended to the client, who balked at the cost. The long-term benefit of weed prevention and control was lost the minute she chose to have this half-ass path installed.
  • 26.
    • Whoever installed the pathway only laid the decompsed granite two inches deep. The weed cloth barrier is visible beneath the tape measure.
    • The amount the client would have paid for ongoing weed removal and control negated the low cost “savings” from cutting corners on the pathway’s installation. Add to that the cost of redoing the path.
    • What DIY-ers don’t know that they don’t know often bites them in the butt.
  • 27. Conventional design tends to ignore the availability and application of local resources. Therefore, it tends to be costly (even though subsidized by the availability of cheap fossil fuels).
  • 28. Ignoring Local Materials Conventional design also ignores or flouts ecological principles and disrespects the particulars of place.
  • 29. Ignoring Local Materials
    • This south facing front yard garden near Cheviot Hills featured a mixture of drought-tolerant non-native plants juxtaposed with roses and other plants that require moderate to regular watering.
    • CA has more native plant species found nowhere else than any other state except Hawai’I.
    • Since this garden is in Southern CA, it would make sense to celebrate and enhance this uniqueness with CA native plants. Why follow the crowd with a cookie cutter approach, even if a climate-appropriate water saving garden is desired?
    • The garden was not mulched from the outset after planting. This negatively affected the plants’ rate of establishment.
    • The client sought garden solutions on the cheap and hired another contractor to spread mulch.
  • 30.
    • Unfortunately, the client never informed me of his choice. The contractor spread mulch improperly and buried the crowns of most of the plants.
    • The client ignored my advice to clear the mulch away from the crowns immediately and as many as 20% of his established plants were lost. (Guess who the client chose to blame.)
  • 31. Sedge lost to incorrect mulch application
  • 32. Sedges lost en masse to incorrect mulch application (shown before losses)
  • 33. Sedges lost en masse to incorrect mulch application (shown after losses)
  • 34. Heucheras lost en masse to incorrect mulch application (shown before losses)
  • 35. Heucheras lost en masse to incorrect mulch application (shown after losses)
  • 36. Cape honeysuckle stem rot and adventitious root formation due to incorrect mulch application
  • 37.
    • Most DIY gardens suffer from a lack of visual unity and rhythm, which can lead to a messy, chaotic look.
    • The front and back yards of most DIY-ers tend to look like everyone else’s due to this piecemeal approach.
    • Lack of knowledge on how to prune correctly and when to apply maintenance results in hacked up plants that look horrible.
  • 38. Elements of Successful Gardens The most successful gardens take their design and function cues from nature.
  • 39. Taking Cues from Nature You cannot out-design nature. She’s been in the design and sustainability game a lot longer than humans have been. Take note.
  • 40. In ecologically conscious design, plants and natural landforms are complemented by architecture, which in turn is influenced by geography and climate.
  • 41. Landforms and Plants Complement Whittier backyard garden, February 2007
    • This garden site in Whittier faces south and has clayey soil.
  • 42. Whittier backyard garden, February 2007
  • 43. Whittier backyard garden, May 2007
    • Plant palette features edible and non-edible CA natives: redbud, penstemon, yarrow, monkeyflower, CA fuchsia, CA poppies (scattered as seeds)
    • Tender redbud pods are edible
  • 44. Whittier backyard garden, May 2007
    • Plant palette features edible and non-edible CA natives: redbud, penstemon, yarrow, sage, golden currant, CA bush sunflower, Catalina cherry, CA wild grape
  • 45. Whittier backyard garden, May 2007 In ecologically literate design, productivity is balanced by and integrated with beauty.
  • 46. Whittier backyard garden, October 2007
    • Visible in the foreground: CA wild grape, golden currant, CA bush sunflower
    • Visible in the background: redbud, yarrow
  • 47. Whittier backyard garden, October 2007
    • Plant palette features edible and non-edible CA natives: Mexican elderberry, aster
    • 15-gallon elderberry was about 4 to 5 feet tall when planted four months before this picture was taken
    • Elderberries are edible if cooked - great in tarts, jam, and wine. Saponins can make you ill if you eat raw fruit in quantity.
  • 48. Whittier backyard garden, May 2009 Ecological design allows the garden to evolve, i.e. flexibility.
  • 49. Whittier backyard garden, March 2010
    • Established Mexican elderberry tree almost three years after planting. Client first harvested and froze fruit from this tree in 2009.
  • 50. Whittier backyard garden, October 2007 An eco-savvy sustainable garden is well-grounded in its locale.
  • 51. Whittier backyard garden, May 2009 Successful gardens interface the uniqueness of place with a client’s desires, lifestyle, and budget
  • 52. Whittier backyard garden, May 2009
    • Visible in this picture: CA wood strawberry, fuchsia flowered gooseberry, Indonesian seedless guava (rare, highly prized tree propagated by air layering)
  • 53. Whittier backyard garden, May 2009 Ecologically designed gardens are made to be experienced and enjoyed. They invite sensory interaction.
  • 54. Whittier backyard garden, May 2009 Plants with similar needs for water, light, soil type, temperature, fertility, and pest control are clustered.
  • 55. Whittier backyard garden, March 2010 Sustainable gardens are relatively easy to maintain. High maintenance plants (typically edibles) are generally readily accessible and close to the house.
  • 56. Whittier backyard garden, March 2010
  • 57. Whittier garden - front, October 2007
  • 58. Whittier garden - front, November 2007
  • 59. Whittier garden - front, March 2010 Sustainable gardens have plants that are site and scale-appropriate for access, maintenance, and harvest. Small spaces call for small plants.
  • 60. Mar Vista backyard garden, November 2007 Sustainable gardens plan for as many permanent paths as possible for maintenance and harvest.
  • 61. Mar Vista backyard garden, November 2007 Pathways are based upon patterns of movement.
  • 62. Mar Vista backyard garden, December 2007
    • East facing site with English ivy covered neighboring slopes to the north and to the south
    • Sheet mulch with mini swales and curved berms to direct water flow for an edible garden
  • 63. Mar Vista edible backyard garden, July 2008 Ecologically-savvy gardens temper initial enthusiasm with persistence, perseverance, and patience.
  • 64. Mar Vista edible backyard garden, July 2008 Successful gardens are not by-products of frequent impulse buys. Passion is balanced with practicality.
  • 65. Century City backyard garden with California native plants, March 2008
    • Plant palette features edible and non-edible CA natives: toyon, hummingbird sage, yerba buena, currant, huckleberry, huchera, irises, hedge nettle, mock orange (Philadelphus), pink-flowered currant
    • A few of the original plants from the previous garden were preserved. The princess flower was moved to a south facing exposure.
  • 66. Century City backyard garden with California native plants, March 2008 Ecological design, like Permaculture, transforms limitations into advantages. Problems offer the seeds for their own solutions.
  • 67. Nichols Canyon front yard garden, October 2008 Ecologically savvy design prioritizes long-term maintenance. Resulting gardens have longevity and are beautiful, yet require less work because of money, energy, and time investments made up front.
  • 68. Nichols Canyon front yard garden, October 2008
  • 69. Nichols Canyon front yard garden with edible California natives, January 2009
    • Plant palette features edible CA natives: wood strawberry, yerba buena
    • Southeast by east solar orientation, silty loam soil
  • 70. Nichols Canyon front yard garden with edible California natives, January 2009
    • Wood strawberries will be aided by the pine needle duff if allowed to accumulate (enhances soil acidity, which strawberries appreciate)
  • 71. Mar Vista backyard edible garden, October 2008 Well-designed eco-savvy gardens place the edible, nutritionally important plants as close to the kitchen as possible.
  • 72. Mar Vista backyard edible garden, October 2008
  • 73. Mar Vista backyard, November 2008
    • Compacted silty clay soil was reconditioned for edibles through tiny sheet mulches
    • All exposed surfaces had to be child safe since the clients had a preschool aged child
    • Project was planned and carried out to coincide with expected seasonal rainfall and spring planting of berries and cane fruit (blackberries & raspberries)
  • 74. Mar Vista backyard, November 2008
  • 75. Montebello weedy backyard, May 2006 The soil is always tested first before planning and designing an edible sustainable garden.
  • 76. Montebello weedy backyard, May 2006
  • 77. Montebello weedy backyard, May 2006
  • 78. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, October 2006 Well designed sustainable edible gardens start small but allow room to expand.
  • 79. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, November 2006 Sustainable edible gardens are not purely self-serving. A well-designed garden compensates for expected losses due to critters and pests.
  • 80. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, November 2006
  • 81. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, November 2006
  • 82. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, December 2006
  • 83. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, December 2006
  • 84. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, December 2006
  • 85. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, December 2006
  • 86. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, December 2006 Vegetable and grain beds (hint: make them rectangular for ease of crop planning, maintenance, and harvest) are made no wider than 4-5 feet for adults, 3-3.5 feet for children.
  • 87. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, January 2007
  • 88. Montebello backyard sheet mulch, January 2007
    • Corrugated steel (top visible at the base of the fence) was attached to the fence on the west side of the property to prevent decay that would result from contact with the sheet mulch.
    • The technique known as sheet mulching was chosen not only for weed control / eradication but to also enrich the soil for an edible perennial garden that would be implemented in phases.
    • Plant palette included edibles for people and plants to feed beneficial insects and birds
    • Total area covered by multilayered 10 inch deep sheet mulch was over 2,000 square feet.
  • 89.
    • A living example of the right plant in the right place - edible CA native golden currant planted in clay soil within a narrow bed as a visual screen for a north facing window visible from the street, April 2009
    • 1-gallon plant was no taller than a foot when first planted in 2007
  • 90.
    • An endangered CA native (Englemann oak) planted in a front yard within its former geographic range, April 2009
    • 5-gallon plant was no taller than 2.5 feet when first planted in 2007
  • 91.
    • Silty clay soil in alluvial floodplain
    • Neighbor to the north waters excessively, neighbor to the south less so
    • Water respects no property boundaries - it travels horizontally as well as vertically through the soil
    • Clients wanted infill design for an existing CA native garden to cover the gaps between the plants
    Mid-City front yard garden with California natives, November 2009
  • 92. Mid-City L.A. front yard garden with California natives, November 2009 As a DIY gardener, your largest constraints are often money, time, and skill.
  • 93. Mid-City front yard garden (median strip) with California natives, November 2009 Remember that DIY garden / landscape projects take 2-4x longer than expected and cost 2-3x more than anticipated.
  • 94. Picture window view of Mid-City front yard garden with California natives, November 2009
  • 95. Mid-City L.A. front yard garden with California natives, April 2010
    • Infill plant palette includes edible and non-edible CA native plant species: penstemon, fern of the desert (tree), cream cups, prostrate sage, CA poppies, coyote mint, Mexican elderberry, St. Catherine’s lace, white sage
    • Coyote mint leaves and flowers can be steeped in cold water for a clear tea with a slightly bitter minty flavor
  • 96. Mid-City L.A. front yard garden with California natives, April 2010
  • 97. Mid-City L.A. front yard garden with California natives, April 2010
  • 98. Mid-City L.A. driveway visual screen with drift of native heuchera, April 2010
  • 99. Contact Information Frustrated with your results? Want help with creating your own sustainable garden? Contact us: http://www.cornucopia-sustainable-designs.com For information about upcoming Urban/Suburban Ecoliteracy workshops: http://urban-suburban-ecoliteracy.com