natural materials


The question we have been asking ourselves this week is one of environmental Sustainability.

How can we use systems which occur naturally to our advantage?

Local Materials

In years gone by, all resources we needed were sourced locally. The rocks and raw materials which formed our landscapes determined our designs. Since empires were won and lost, however, the fashions have tended to stray away from materials close to home and towards the more exotic. The more ‘strange and wonderful’ a plant, might be, the more excitement it inspired.

With a new trend towards conservation and a new appreciation of the natural look it is worth the effort to find the right local resources and naturally occurring materials to suit your design needs. Traditional materials and methods are now favoured for their appearance and often for the opportunities they provide for wildlife to flourish.


One interesting example of locally sourced materials that I’ve been reminded of recently is the marlpit.

Marlpits were dug as far back as the roman period, particularly in the Cheshire area. The purpose of the pit was to take ‘marl’(a soft concentration of secondary calcium carbonate) out of the pit to spread on the fields as a fertiliser.

These days, the pits have now filled with rain water and make up many of the ponds which litter the landscape. The marlponds which still exist today are now valuable habitats for wildlife and greatly add to the biodiversity of the countryside.


Fencing fashions appear to have come full circle since the white picket fence of the 1950’s suburb. If you come across woven willow/hazel hurdles on your wonderings then note the homely potential for our friend the insect. Woven Willow Hurdle fences and Sweet chestnut fencing, as seen below, now provides a natural boundary between land and sits quietly ‘with’, as opposed to ‘on’, the landscape.

Natural Stone

We also aim to source stone flags from as close to a site as possible, this saves on the energy consumed in shipping stones over from far off places. It also means that we’re supporting industries which have had to adopt higher standards in working conditions. Below you can see a garden that we were in the middle of planting, which uses reclaimed Yorkstone as stone steps.

Recycled Materials

Through using recycled materials we can also reduce our impact on raw materials being extracted and reduce waste in other areas. I have been using a rather nifty product known as granular hard-core or MOT. It is made from crushed concrete salvaged from demolitions and is most commonly used as a sub-base for highways, car parks, footpaths, driveways, hard standings and building bases.

A couple more of my favourite retrievals are below. The photos include a new snap of a wall and arch finished yesterday made from reclaimed brick and stone off-cuts which are typically skipped unless I’m in the vicinity.

For many types of designer, sourcing local materials and recycling others is not typically a priority. When designing a landscape, however, there is never a more suitable time to consider the sustainability and sources of your materials. The key is to find the objects which are in harmony with the colour-board and texture of the landscape and weather as well as our reclaimed bricks.

Here ends my meanderings on sustainable gardens for the time being.