Garden Design With an All Green Theme

Kathleen Roberts
Horticultural expert Kristian Laws

Garden design with an all green theme is a way of life for garden expert Kristian Laws. However, when he talks about green garden design he isn't talking about color. He is talking about sustainable, earth-friendly gardening. It isn't as hard as you may think. In this interview, Kristian Laws shares his advice on how to have an all "green" garden.

About Kristian Laws

Kristian Laws began his career as a horticultural expert at the tender age of ten years old when he began propagating and selling plants. Right away he knew that plants would be his life. Throughout his youth he had the opportunity to travel the world and in doing so, he gained an appreciation for different styles of gardening as well as the need to work with nature.

When he got older, he studied horticulture and landscape design, becoming a landscape architect in 1984. He went on to win over 33 awards for his green garden designs as well as appearing on many television shows featuring his horticultural expertise. When asked about his background, Kristian said,

"Horticulture and gardens are definitely my life vocation, not just my occupation. I was born in Japan to British parents, so my early years were very inspired by nature and horticulture in its purest and most spiritual form."

"Traveling between the continents, I was exposed to and influenced by a combination of many great gardens. By age seven I was helping out on weekend at a plant grower, then I went on to formally study Horticulture and then Landscape Architecture and Construction."

Interview with Kristian Laws: Garden Design with an All Green Theme

About Green Gardening

LTK: Is it really possible to have a garden design with an all "green" theme and still stick to a budget?

Kristian Laws: Yes, absolutely. Being green is really not about spending lots of money; it is about making considered decisions with your garden as you would with other areas of your life. Look around your neighborhood and see what is growing successfully. Learn from this and choose plants that therefore suit your geographical local area, so they flourish.

Choose perennial plantings over seasonal spot color that requires changing out two or three times per year and frequently requires more watering than more established plantings. Recycle garden waste wherever possible and make your own "free" compost. The opportunities are endless. Most of all, gardening is a great way to unwind at the end of the day, so being green is also good for you!

LTK: What are some key elements in green garden design?

KL: If you work the garden yourself, then research the best methods to use. If you are working with a landscape professional, ensure that they have the correct skills, of course, but also the love of gardens and knowledge of plants to really help you be green. The key element for any green garden is finding the correct way to create and keep your dream garden and use, wherever possible, safe and organic products.

LTK: Which green features should be included in every garden?

KL: Being green is all encompassing, so it can cover everything in the garden. Most important of all however, is that you still have your ideal garden, so look at what you already have or what you want and then consider the best 'green' method to keep or add these features or elements.

When one of my clients asks, "Should I think about taking out my patio or lawn and turn it into to indigenous planting or perhaps a wildlife habitat?", I reply, "Why?" Would it not be better for you to still have the features you want and include an area for indigenous planting or wildlife within the garden? You do not have give up all you know and love to be green.

Look at ways to make your garden more environmentally friendly. If you want a hardscape area, consider using local products to avoid the haulage, and therefore the carbon footprint, and ideally natural stone originating from a 'green' source or perhaps recycled concrete or brick products. If the patio is large then think about using the area as a way to capture rainwater and collect the run off via a tank to use when rain is not falling.

Water features are relaxing to us, and the right types also attract wildlife into the garden. Just consider the options and ensure your water feature recycles the water efficiently. Do not choose a fountain that waters the garden around it each time it is on with a little breeze.

Wherever possible use natural organic products and materials. Look at the products you are using in the same way you do in the grocery store; it's the small print that contains the information you need to make that considered choice. As an example, mulch. Ask your supplier, gardeners or landscapers, what is in the mulch they are using, where it came from and what it contains.

Making Changes

Ladybugs are a great alternative to pesticides.

LTK: What are some of the biggest challenges in your work?

KL: Educating people that we do not always need to reach for the pesticide bottle at the first sign of bugs or disease. Look to nature for a solution first, such as lady bugs. Nature has it own very effective army, so use it. Avoid synthetic fertilizers on the borders and lawns; we have plenty of organic options that we should be using.

The challenge is getting people to consider that whatever they use in the garden could very well affect them as well as affecting the pest or disease! We are all used to the convenience of modern day life and sometimes it takes us a while to change, but change we must!

With the current economic issues, we are all seeking out ways to save money, so almost without knowing it people are becoming "green" gardeners. Some trends include better and more considered plant choices, water wise irrigation controllers that monitor your own garden conditions via satellite tracking and water accordingly, natural pest control and recycled products.

LTK: What suggestions do you make that clients are most surprised by or resist the most?

KL: Look at what you already have in your garden. Avoid taking anything out but rather, nurture what you do have - prune and feed. Don't remove the lawn! Consider reducing the lawn size or think about using a different grass type. Of course be water wise but be careful.

Removing lawns does not always result in reducing costs, especially when you consider the initial cost of removing the lawn and replanting or hardscaping. Anyway, if you have children and animals they need the lawn, or at least some lawn! Like all things, everything in moderation!

Whenever possible, don't remove, improve!

Interestingly, the suggestion that meets the most resistance is that you have to consider your garden as a room. Give it the same care and attention that you would a room inside your home.

When we work with clients, we consider their lifestyle choices, their decorative likes and dislikes. The hardscape is the walls and floor; the features are the furnishing; and the plants are the wall coverings and drapes. Give your garden the respect you would your home and it will flourish.


LoveToKnow would like to thank Kristian Laws for taking the time for this enlightening interview. You can learn more about sustainable outdoor living by visiting Kristian's company, Botanical Fine Outdoor Living, located in London, UK or West Hollywood, CA.

Garden Design With an All Green Theme