Sustainable Gardens—Eco-Beautiful

We gardeners dream of a beautiful environment filled with flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds. We definitely don't like to think about our hobby causing harm to the environment. But the truth is, heck yes, we can be a troublesome bunch. We sometimes introduce beautiful plants that turn into noxious weeds — think purple loosestrife and the species butterfly bush. Gardens may add to local stream pollution with fertilizer run-off. Heck, even manufacturing fertilizers causes pollution. Then there are the herbicides and pesticides. How can we escape our giant carbon footprints?

It's not easy. So far, sustainability is a buzz word without clear definition. The good news is that gardeners are working on creating beauty without those beastly footprints. Homelife took a look through some of the gardens we've featured in the past for examples worth imitating.

1.This terraced garden approach limits watering to defined beds, which limits run-off. These plants are drought-resistant too: In the center, snow-in-summer, Cerastium tomentosum, delivers in early summer with a dense display of white flowers. Plant it in well-drained average soil. Beneath it are two types of thyme, a drought-resistant herb that flowers in white, pink or purple. At bottom right, a poppy, which will bloom in early summer. Follow these with drought-tolerant summer annuals, like petunia or zinnia.

photo by Rob Werfel

2.There's nothing wrong with this stream. Waterless creek beds surrounded by native plantings make the most of local beauty. Try Gaura lindheimeri 'Siskiyou Pink,' first propagated by Homelife writer Baldassare Mineo. Other beauties to incorporate include prostrate rosemary, with blue blooms, and lavender and prostrate junipers, as shown in this garden.

photo by Rob Werfel

3.Walk through this garden gate into a small wonder. The message is, condense your plantings and make the most of their location. Put a garden where you can also enjoy other views, or where it is visible from your window. Here, a red metal gate takes you into a well-mulched garden with iris, lavender, zinnia and poppies. Drought-tolerant grasses take the eye up and decorative pavers keep it interesting on the ground.

photo by Larry Osborne

4.Use container plantings to your advantage. The reliable blue fescue is a drought tolerant grass that only needs a February hair cut, a trim of summer seed plumes and very little other attention. Planted in tall, stunning containers, Pennisetum 'Burgandy Giant,' is usually treated as an annual. It goes dormant in the winter and needs to be protected from temperatures under 40 degrees. Try a container of perennial Rudbeckia, 'Black-eyed Susan' if you want flowers instead of plumes.

photo by Steve Johnson

5.Reuse! These old metal wheelbarrows are glorified by their linear placement amid a mass planting of Spanish lavender. Placed on a recycled concrete walkway, mortared with decomposed granite, it's hard to be more "PC." Long on charm, both the wheelbarrows and lavender are easy to maintain. Substitute your own collections for a playful garden setting.

photo by Patricia Bean

6.The placement of rock is key in a successful Zen garden, shown here with a gravel base. Using sand, artful raking adds to the interest. No watering, no fertilizing "¦ about the only chore is leaf cleanup. That's a calming thought.

photo by Olga Thomas

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