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Thursday, April 21, 2011 03:22 pm

Green ideas for the garden

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Samll edible gardens are the focus of “It Doesn’t Take a Hectare.”

Going green isn’t just about hybrid cars, compact fluorescent light bulbs or low-flush toilets. It’s for the garden, too.

Environmentally friendly ideas from recycling milk jugs into patio furniture to growing your own food are the hot topics in garden shows across the country, providing new ways for many Americans to make their gardens a little greener.

“I think the entire landscape industry is focusing on environmentally sensitive gardening,” says Kay Hamilton Estey, producer of the recent San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. “I think it’s the wave of the future.”

Among the more unusual concepts revealed at the show was the “Poly-Patio” garden, named for the different Poly-Propelene products used in its construction that would normally be tossed into the trash. Acrylic test tube holders were crafted into a sturdy deck, while PVC pipe and drinking bottle caps created colorful pathways. The patio was topped off with outdoor furniture crafted from milk jugs melted down by an Indiana company called Polywood.

“These plastic materials are something that people might not think of in the landscape,” says Greg Lum, co-owner of Floricore in San Francisco, who created the Poly-Patio. “A lot of people think of stone, glass and concrete. It was a rather whimsical idea to use plastic. It gives the yard a different character to it. More playful and fun.” Another colorful eco-friendly concept is the “Jeweled Garden,” which uses recycled glass to embolden plants and trees and even act as a substitute for water. Created by DJ Curb Appeal in Oakland, Calif., the “Jeweled Garden” features wire mesh planters backfilled with recycled glass from American Specialty Glass in North Salt Lake, Utah.

“Today we have so much recycled glass with little application except for the occasional mulch,” says Jeffrey Lim, designer for DJ Curb Appeal. “Together with the right plants, a garden can be created with these recycled glass gabions.” Recycled glass also replaced water in the “Jeweled Garden,” providing the sense of being surrounded by a crystal blue lagoon.

Poly-Patio green and black Adirondack chair.
“This is a modern ‘take’ on an ancient Japanese aesthetic of raking gravel,” Lim says. “My style of gardening is such that you want to move away from all this water use. Instead of using water, we used blue glass as a substitute.” Using land wisely is also a new focus of eco-friendly gardening. The ability to harvest sustainable fare from small edible gardens – including urban roofs and cottage gardens – is the focus of the “It Doesn’t Take A Hectare” garden from Somersett Designs and Leiber Landscape Services, both of Walnut Creek, Calif..

“I wanted people to know that you don’t have to have 2 1/2 acres to grow food,” says Shelley Somersett, owner of Somersett Designs. “In a 4-by-8 foot bed I have grown strawberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, eggplant, cantaloupe, corn and tomatoes.” Like many eco-friendly garden designers, Somersett’s message is loud and clear: “We need to be better stewards of the land that we have. We need to repurpose the water that we do use and grow some of our own food. We have the capacity to grow food not only for ourselves but for other people.” - CTW

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