Naturally inspired

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    Making the right choices

    By Jemma
    May 6, '20 6:18 AM EST

    Garden installations that are better for the planet, and the pocket

    Everybody is aware of the lure of false economy, and sometimes, a cheap and quick fix can be all that’s needed. But when it comes to garden design, it’s often better to invest in the best quality that you can afford, to save yourself the expense of replacement or maintenance in the long run.

    Equally, ‘buy once’ products are usually much better for the environment. Durable products lessen the burden of manufacturing on the planet (you don’t need to buy twice), and they are often made with sustainability in mind, which lessens their overall environmental impact.

    So, if you can afford to opt for quality over price, here’s where to focus your spend when revamping your outdoor space:


    Budget buys often equal landfill by the end of the year. Plastic fades, cheap pine rots, and other lightweight materials just won’t survive any windy or rainy seasons that they are subjected to.

    If you are planning seating areas, think about whether you can build these structures into your overall design. Stone seating around a firepit, or decking with inbuilt seating, can be better than heading to the budget furniture shop for yet another outdoor dining set. You could also check out your local reclamation yard. Cast iron garden furniture sets are very much in vogue, and it would take a lot more than a British summer storm to destroy them!


    Fencing and fencing fittings can be very expensive, but it’s important to secure your boundaries, so you’ll want to ensure that the job is done right, first time.

    It goes without saying that budget pine systems and Ebay ‘simple-fix’ systems will probably not see you through many winters. And in order to keep them looking and performing well, you’ll need to invest a lot of time in painting and treating the wood. Our advice would be to look for pressure-treated woods or brands that are known for their handcrafted wares, such as Jacksons or Kebur. You might also want to engage a well-recommended carpenter via websites such as trustedtraders,,, or similar.


    Decking is an area that should never be scrimped on, for many reasons, but mainly because cheap decking becomes an extreme health hazard every winter. Cheap softwoods have a tendency to rot, split and host algae, which makes most installations perilous, come November. Hardwoods are not as susceptible to these issues, but they incur a high environmental cost. 150 acres of the Amazon Rainforest (a key supplier of hardwoods used in projects such as decking) are lost every minute of every day, adding up to 78 million acres lost every year!

    If you can afford better options, choose a product like Millboard decking. Not only does the product need minimal maintenance, but the company also became the first premium outdoor flooring product to have its carbon footprint independently verified. An excellent product backed by an ethically minded company — the perfect combination.


    The enemy of enduring garden structures, such as decking, gazebos, seating areas and cladded walls, is poor subframe systems.

    New and innovative products, such as DuoSpan and Duolift, are designed to counter both environmental concerns and maintenance issues. DuoSpan provides the perfect subframe for Millboard decking (see above) and is also a universal support system for other types of outdoor flooring, cladding and more ambitious outdoor constructions.

    The intuitive system is precision engineered for durability and design versatility, and it’s made from 100% recycled plastic and 100% recyclable aluminium for eco peace of mind.

    Trees and plants

    Many landscape designers learn the hard way that big multi-nationals might offer cheap prices and wide ranges, but their plants and trees often arrive in a less-than-healthy state and never fully recover or flourish.

    As a rule of thumb, it’s better to develop relationships with your local, privately-owned garden centres. Not only does this aid the sustainability of your local economy, but it means that you can get full information on any purchasing decisions, and you can see the items before buying. Local garden centres are often staffed by enthusiasts too, and they generally don’t mind giving you any aftercare advice that you might need.

    Designing a garden should be an exciting process, and shouldn’t be hampered by reservations over whether products will stay the course or damage the planet. So, although everybody’s budget is different, it’s a good idea to recognise the benefits of investing in the best quality you can afford. By choosing local, ethical and recycled materials, you’ll choose once, and choose best.

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About this Blog

This blog covers the most energising and restorative landscaping, biophillic architecture and perma-culture projects taking place across the world! I'm interested in how we incorporate nature into our environments, particularly urban environments. As we progress into the twenty-first century, we appear to be moving ever-further from the futuristic aesthetic that our predecessors imagined back in the mid-century. This blog looks at the methods and psychology of natural influence.

Authored by:

  • Jemma

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