People are increasingly interested in the provenance of garden materials, says Jane Perrone
Paving, compost, metal fixtures, plants – do you know exactly where all the materials that make up your gardens come from, and how they are produced? Garden designers are finding more and more clients are demanding answers to the above questions.
Salisbury-based garden designer Catherine Thomas MSGD was one of the founder members of the SGD’s Environmental Committee more than a decade ago. “Back then, not many people were thinking about sustainability in relation to gardens, but it has all changed now,” she says.
Thomas displays her mission statement about sustainability prominently on her website, and she believes responsible sourcing can chime with the basic tenets of garden design, namely providing a connection between the house, the garden and the wider landscape, by using locally sourced materials. “If you can, try to use British materials that don’t have many transport miles, or second best, materials from the EU, where countries generally have higher working standards than elsewhere in the world,” she advises.
Whether locally produced or otherwise, the gold standard when it comes to responsible sourcing of hard landscaping is the ethical sourcing accreditation from the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the UK centre of building science. Marshalls is one of the very few companies in the sector to have gone through the year-long process of gaining approval from the BRE.
Chris Harrop, the company’s group marketing and sustainability director, says it’s a rigorous task. “It’s not a tick-box exercise – there is a massive range of measures required,” he explains. But for Marshalls, a plc constantly under scrutiny from its shareholders, it’s worth it, because although some companies have paid lip service to the ethical agenda in the past, now customers and shareholders all expect transparency when it comes to sourcing. Other accreditations and ethical measures, such as the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council mark for timber, offer some reassurances.
When it comes to plants, the RHS Plant Health Policy, announced this spring, encourages the use of UK-grown planting material wherever possible to mitigate the risks of potentially devastating diseases such as Xylella being brought in on imported plants.
For now, it’s a case of navigating a patchwork of regulations and policies, while trying to keep clients informed about best practice when it comes to sourcing.