Diversity is called for: Plant selection for the sustainable garden
7 May 2020
Sage, dahlias, savoury, yarrow, butterfly bush... the new spoga+gafa garden is gradually filling up and is getting green. But which plants turn it into a sustainable project?
Today, many people want a garden that is as natural as possible, which is furthermore environmentally-friendly and sustainable to care for and manage. However, they often don't know how they can arrange their conventional garden so that they correspond with both these ecological goals and their formally aesthetic demands. In the freshly created show garden of spoga+gafa, the garden blogger Beatrice Degenhart, demonstrates how this can be done.
Stimuli, tips and ideas
At the end of April 2020, the official ground-breaking ceremony took place in the selected plot in the rambler rose allotment garden complex in the Cologne district of Sülz. spoga+gafa launched the project at the beginning of the year, because 'Sustainable Gardens' is one of the key themes of the trade fair that is taking place in September. Up until then Degenhart will keep the readers updated in her blog regarding how the show garden is being designed step by step and how it is developing. The blogger will not only present numerous sustainable and innovative garden products, but also give her followers lots of stimuli, tips and ideas for their own green paradise at home.
Garden design selection criteria
The right selection of plants is an important aspect for a sustainable garden. "Since our project garden was very wild when we took it on, I am having to acquire a lot of new plants for both the vegetable garden and for the decorative garden area," explained Degenhart. "Of course, I spent a long time thinking about which criteria I would implement for choosing the plants. The following aspects 'accompanied' me in making my selection: I would like to place the emphasis on domestic plants. For instance, I am planning a flower meadow and also many medicinal plants will be found on the plot. In order to be able to tend the garden in an as resource-saving manner as possible, I usually opt for plants that cope well with dry periods."
Implementing as many different regional flowers, perennials and shrubs as possible in the garden offers many advantages: They are used to the local climate and thus encounter optimal conditions to enable them to thrive. Whether the plants prefer the shade or plenty of sun - there are the appropriate local shrubs for each spot. Cleverly chosen and combined, the garden owner not only contributes towards a biological biodiversity of the flora, but also of the fauna. Because the plants offer insects, different types of birds and small mammals such as hedgehogs as well as ideal nesting areas and places of retreat also a large food supply thanks to attractive blossoms and long-lasting fruits. On the other hand, foreign ornamental plants often bear fruits that the domestic wildlife don't eat, and on the other hand artificially bred perennials and flowers with double flowers mostly don't offer pollen or nectar.
In contrast to short cut lawns, meadows with grasses, herbs and wild flowers provide valuable biotopes for countless bumble bees, butterflies and wild bees. And one also finds numerous birds here that feed on the insects or seeds. Beyond this they add a very romantic touch to every garden. Degenhart advises gardeners to always pay attention to the fact that the seed mixtures they purchase mainly contact domestic plants. "Of course, one can also collect the seeds for the flower meadows oneself. That is especially sustainable," according to the expert. "It may be rather time-consuming, but then one really does only have the flowers in one's garden that one wants. For the spoga+gafa project garden, I myself have opted for a mixture between purchased and self-collected seeds.
Particularly in times of climate change, with summers that are increasingly drier and hotter, a sustainable garden is characterised by a resource-saving attitude towards the vital asset water. The garden blogger thus preferentially opts for plants that don't need much water. "Many plants have developed totally different strategies to survive dry periods," she explained. "Some of them, such as the stonecrop, store liquid in their leaves. Others, including lavender, use their grey/silver leaves, which reflect the sun rays to protect themselves against heating up too strongly and the related drying up. And others, such as rambler roses, grow extremely long roots so that they can reach water reserves that are found very deep down in the soil."
However, for Degenhart a garden only actually becomes a sustainable garden, if as well as containing plants that delight the eye, it also comprises of those that we can actually eat or put to use for other purposes. This is why in future different types of vegetables, numerous medicinal plants and herbs that can be implemented in the kitchen or to relieve many complaints should be grown in the project garden.
More on the right selection of plants for a sustainable garden or the garden project of spoga+gafa can be found in the blog of Beatrice Degenhart: www.beatricedegenhart.de