Leaving behind a sustainable legacy

Reflections on sustainability

It’s okay, I’m not planning to leave this earthly realm just yet. We are actually downsizing, from 8 acres to 400m², moving house to a nearby village. 8 acres is just too much for a garden-designing climate activist parent. But I will miss the trees, we have planted about 3 acres of forest garden and coppice. We have our first walnuts in the very year that we’re moving home, which is bittersweet.

I’ve been thinking about the term “sustainability”. It doesn’t just apply to sustainable gardening practices but also to your very human life. A forest garden needs to be humanly sustainable. You need to have the economic capital behind you to sustain its upkeep, as well as the time, energy and desire. This is why it’s so important to consider the human aspect when designing a garden. How much money, time, energy and experience does the client have to maintain the garden? There are no gardens without people.

In this respect, I think forest gardening with an emphasis on trees is a bit misleading. You can have a small forest garden. My clients at the Undergrove project have a 140m² rear garden and there are so many wonderful native and edible plants crammed in there, with espaliers along the fence, roses and honeysuckle growing up into the Oaks.

I had a conversation with a friend about legacy, and how it was good that the new owners of our house will have trees for successive generations. Then I found out that they had sheep, and I had visions of there being no trees at all! In this respect, a forest garden held in common is far more likely to survive than one in private, individual hands.

Illustration for a substantial yet cost-effective tree guard

Luckily, the new owners actually love the planting and want to use tree guards to protect them from the sheep, so the trees will be safe for now. But I really do feel it’s important to set up community forest gardens across the land for a truly long-term sustainable legacy.

Forest garden photos

The Aronia berries are ripening. They’ll be ready when they’re black.

Stunning Chicory flower

Hemp Agrimony, with a beautifully delicate scent

Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar

Inspirational quote

“Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground — the unborn of the future Nation.”

YouTube lat

Using cleft Sweet Chestnut stakes and old fence palings for dead hedges!

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Would you like a wildlife forest garden?

I am taking on new commissions, from surveys to full garden landscaping. My portoflio is online here natureworks.org.uk/portfolio