Trees, Landscaping & Microclimate

The microclimate of a particular location or site is controlled – to a great extent – by it’s landscape and terrain. In a predominantly hot country like India the plantation of trees plays a vital role in preventing the build-up of heat. They shade the ground (and the walls of low-rise buildings) with their canopy and, combined with their transpiration, trees can lower temperatures in their immediate surroundings by as much as 5°C. Also, in conjunction with shrubs they can help in channelling prevailing breezes and improve comfort levels indoors as well as outdoors.

It is important, from the point of view of sustainability, to preserve what we can of a site’s natural ecosystem. This includes not just the flora and fauna but also the natural drainage patterns. We all know how landscaping can transform the aesthetics of a place but not many of us realise that greenery does more than just look pretty. Out choices affect what birds, butterflies and other creatures will survive not just in our own property but in the immediate surrounding areas as well.

For example, if milkweed plants like the calotropis sp. grow commonly in the area and we say, “oh, they’re ugly – let’s get rid of them”, then we’re not merely removing a species of plant but also banishing a number of small creatures – many of them attractive – that depend on the calotropis for their survival. I am not for a minute advocating that one should allow one’s garden to grow wild but merely pointing out that landscaping involves more than just choosing pretty plants.

Plant Appropriately

It is not merely enough to know where you are going to grow something; it is equally important to know what you are growing and how it affects the local ecosystem.

The subject of exotic versus native trees has generated a lot of debate but my own personal opinion is that, whenever possible, it is better to plant a local tree instead of one that belongs to a different ecosystem.
Continue Reading →

Reduce Hard Paving

City folk seem to have an obsession with paving every inch of land they see. This leads to a huge increase of rainwater runoff which, in turn, overloads the storm-water systems and results in flooding – sometimes with disastrous consequences. Soil, especially when well planted, allows a large percentage of the rain that falls on it, to penetrate the ground and recharge the water table beneath. This, in turn, allows plants to grow more naturally, gives us sweet water in the dry season and, in coastal areas, prevents the egress of saline water.
Continue Reading →

Give Nature a Home

Nature’s creatures respond very quickly to favourable conditions, so if you want to attract birds, butterflies or other creatures, it is just a matter of finding out what they need. Only remember that nothing exists in isolation so if, for example, you plant flowers to attract butterflies, you’re going to have predatory creatures like spiders trying to eat them (the butterflies, not the flowers) and you’ll have to be grateful for both!
Continue Reading →

Prevent Erosion

Sometimes you’re faced with a situation where erosion becomes a major problem. Usually, through landscaping, you should be be able to either eliminate the problem or, at the very least, bring it under control. In 2003, a client of mine bought a tract of land along the Narmada river where the soil was so powdery that even a little rainfall would create a channel in the ground. Today, that site is a great example of how to deal with soil erosion in a totally natural and eco-friendly way.
Continue Reading →