Landscape designers are under a lot of pressure to delivery biodiversity, beauty, sustainability and easy maintenance all at once. It’s a challenge. Probably the easiest approach, should a client demand low maintenance, is hard landscaping. However, it’s not the only way.


Hard landscaping is undeniably practical. When it’s well designed and it’s installed by craftsmen, it can be stunningly beautiful too. Sustainable? Careful and ethical sourcing of materials can cover that one. But biodiverse? That’s almost impossible to do with hard landscaping alone.

No one can deny the beauty in nature. In this picture a honeybee pollinates a yellow rattle flower whilst gathering food for the developing baby bees still in the hive. Yellow rattle is a fabulous plant for balancing grasses in a meadow situation.


Creating a biodiverse landscape is what Nature does best. Especially in the UK. And are the heathlands, wetlands and pastures of the UK high maintenance? Well no, not really. Although grazing animals do an awful lot to manage the balance of species. Is natural Britain beautiful? Most certainly yes. Is it sustainable? Theoretically yes – provided drainage is looked after and pollution is controlled.


So how can landscape designers bring the beauty, sustainability and low maintenance properties of wild Britain and incorporate them into the confines of a garden?


I have 2 suggestions

Living green roofs


The first suggestion is green roofing. A green roof takes biodiversity to a different level. Paths, seating areas and hard landscaping features can be employed at ground level. At the same time, a mini-ecosystem can be thriving up on the roof where it won’t affect anybody on the ground.


Green roofing, offers so many benefits other than biodiversity and is the perfect accompaniment to a raingarden or a SUDS system. They’re rather helpful in many planning applications too.

This bicycle shed was created by Outerspace Landscape Architects in Teddington so that employees could cycle to work. The roof has been adorned with sustainable (and beautiful) Meadowmat wildflower matting.


The team at Enviromat have created a guide to designing and specifying low maintenance and sustainable green roofs. Read it here


The second suggestion is wildflower gardening

Wild flower meadow planting for maximum biodiversity and minimal maintenance

Wild flowers work beautifully on a green roof – provided the building can support the depth of substrate they need to grow in.


Wildflower meadows can also look rather special when combined with hard landscaping. A kind of town meets country history feel.


These plants are adapted to growing on really poor soil and they really don’t want to be fiddled with much over the course of a year. A mix of perennial wildflowers and native grasses will attract and support a huge variety of insects and minibeasts. Which in turn will attract and support small birds and some amphibians.


A Meadow-like area can be established quite easily using imported, low nutrient soil and a pre-grown matting such as Harrowden Turf’s Meadowmat. Maintenance consists of one cut per year with the occasional addition of plug plants to encourage more biodiversity. It’s cheap to look after and it’s relatively trouble free.


Choosing the best plants for maximum biodiversity and sustainability


Every garden designer has a portfolio of favourite plants. They usually relatively easy to source, hardy in the UK and easy to care for. Which is sensible I’d say.


For green roofing, especially on a shallow substrate, you need to think a bit differently. Plants need to be easy to source and frost hardy. Drought tolerant too if you want to avoid using an irrigation system.


If access is limited, then resistance to pests and diseases is pretty important – you don’t want to be clambering up onto the roof to zap any infestations. You also need plants that will support biodiversity. Herbs are quite good. If you have 5-8cm of substrate you’ll be able to grow chives, thyme, sage, mint and oregano. Allow them to flower and the bees will love you.

Frost-hardy succulents, like these mixed sedums are ideally suited to the harsh conditions on a green roof. Sedums are shallow rooting and need only a shallow (therefore light weight) layer of growing medium.


On an even shallower substrate, you’ll not be able to beat the succulents. Sempervivums and sedums are ideal. In fact mixed sedums are perfect because they flower prolifically and keep their foliage. Just be sure to select your species carefully to ensure you choose frost hardy varieties.


The easiest way to do this is to delegate – use Enviromat sedum matting. Plant species are selected and propagated for you. All you need to do is unroll the mats for instant plant coverage. Oh – I forgot to mention – sedums and sempervivums need plenty of sunshine. Rarely a problem on a roof unless of course it’s shaded by trees or buildings.


For wildflower areas


Again, you can delegate the choice of plant species and use a vegetation mat like Meadowmat. Just like Enviromat it’s easy to install, full of pre-grown perennial plants and very low maintenance. Meadowmat can be used to create swathes of flowers and grasses that gently move in the wind but are very undemanding.


For more information about Meadowmat for biodiversity, download our information sheets.


Landscape designers are under a lot of pressure to delivery biodiversity, beauty, sustainability and easy maintenance all at once. It’s a challenge. Probably the easiest approach, should a client demand low maintenance, is hard landscaping. However, it’s not the only way.


Hard landscaping is undeniably practical. When it’s well designed and it’s installed by craftsmen, it can be stunningly beautiful too. Sustainable? Careful and ethical sourcing of materials can cover that one. But biodiverse? That’s almost impossible to do with hard landscaping alone.

No one can deny the beauty in nature. In this picture a honeybee pollinates a yellow rattle flower whilst gathering food for the developing baby bees still in the hive. Yellow rattle is a fabulous plant for balancing grasses in a meadow situation.


Creating a biodiverse landscape is what Nature does best. Especially in the UK. And are the heathlands, wetlands and pastures of the UK high maintenance? Well no, not really. Although grazing animals do an awful lot to manage the balance of species. Is natural Britain beautiful? Most certainly yes. Is it sustainable? Theoretically yes – provided drainage is looked after and pollution is controlled.


So how can landscape designers bring the beauty, sustainability and low maintenance properties of wild Britain and incorporate them into the confines of a garden?


I have 2 suggestions

Living green roofs


The first suggestion is green roofing. A green roof takes biodiversity to a different level. Paths, seating areas and hard landscaping features can be employed at ground level. At the same time, a mini-ecosystem can be thriving up on the roof where it won’t affect anybody on the ground.


Green roofing, offers so many benefits other than biodiversity and is the perfect accompaniment to a raingarden or a SUDS system. They’re rather helpful in many planning applications too.

This bicycle shed was created by Outerspace Landscape Architects in Teddington so that employees could cycle to work. The roof has been adorned with sustainable (and beautiful) Meadowmat wildflower matting.


The team at Enviromat have created a guide to designing and specifying low maintenance and sustainable green roofs. Read it here


The second suggestion is wildflower gardening

Wild flower meadow planting for maximum biodiversity and minimal maintenance

Wild flowers work beautifully on a green roof – provided the building can support the depth of substrate they need to grow in.


Wildflower meadows can also look rather special when combined with hard landscaping. A kind of town meets country history feel.


These plants are adapted to growing on really poor soil and they really don’t want to be fiddled with much over the course of a year. A mix of perennial wildflowers and native grasses will attract and support a huge variety of insects and minibeasts. Which in turn will attract and support small birds and some amphibians.


A Meadow-like area can be established quite easily using imported, low nutrient soil and a pre-grown matting such as Harrowden Turf’s Meadowmat. Maintenance consists of one cut per year with the occasional addition of plug plants to encourage more biodiversity. It’s cheap to look after and it’s relatively trouble free.


Choosing the best plants for maximum biodiversity and sustainability


Every garden designer has a portfolio of favourite plants. They usually relatively easy to source, hardy in the UK and easy to care for. Which is sensible I’d say.


For green roofing, especially on a shallow substrate, you need to think a bit differently. Plants need to be easy to source and frost hardy. Drought tolerant too if you want to avoid using an irrigation system.


If access is limited, then resistance to pests and diseases is pretty important – you don’t want to be clambering up onto the roof to zap any infestations. You also need plants that will support biodiversity. Herbs are quite good. If you have 5-8cm of substrate you’ll be able to grow chives, thyme, sage, mint and oregano. Allow them to flower and the bees will love you.

Frost-hardy succulents, like these mixed sedums are ideally suited to the harsh conditions on a green roof. Sedums are shallow rooting and need only a shallow (therefore light weight) layer of growing medium.


On an even shallower substrate, you’ll not be able to beat the succulents. Sempervivums and sedums are ideal. In fact mixed sedums are perfect because they flower prolifically and keep their foliage. Just be sure to select your species carefully to ensure you choose frost hardy varieties.


The easiest way to do this is to delegate – use Enviromat sedum matting. Plant species are selected and propagated for you. All you need to do is unroll the mats for instant plant coverage. Oh – I forgot to mention – sedums and sempervivums need plenty of sunshine. Rarely a problem on a roof unless of course it’s shaded by trees or buildings.


For wildflower areas


Again, you can delegate the choice of plant species and use a vegetation mat like Meadowmat. Just like Enviromat it’s easy to install, full of pre-grown perennial plants and very low maintenance. Meadowmat can be used to create swathes of flowers and grasses that gently move in the wind but are very undemanding.


For more information about Meadowmat for biodiversity, download our information sheets.


 
 
 
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