Maybe we all need a little refresher when it comes to birds and bees. And who better to give it than garden design experts and AD100 Hollander Design Landscape Architects, who presented on the subject this week as part of the Bunny Mellon programs at the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art? (The company’s serene outdoor settings have often graced the pages of ADmost recently with the immaculately manicured lawn of Candice Bergen’s Hamptons retreat.) Additionally, with renewed enthusiasm for exterior design still going strong, it may benefit designers to focus more on how they can help promote biodiverse landscapes in their projects.
Held in New York, the “Birds and Bees in Garden Design” conference illustrated how residential gardens of any aesthetic can be beautifully designed while keeping insects, plants, animals and humans in mind. . “If there’s one takeaway, it would be that anyone can do it,” says Melissa Reavis, Hollander Design Landscape Architects Residential Studio Manager and keynote presenter. Biodiversity is, as Reavis says, imperative for your outdoor space to thrive, and conveniently, “Anyone can create a pollinator-safe space.”
Whether your next project is a one-hectare garden or a simple planter, the thought is true: “The more diversity there is in these ecosystems, the healthier and more resilient these spaces become,” says Reavis. Because when a great diversity of plants are grounded together, the space helps the greatest variety of insects and pollinators, closing a loop that has been fractured in traditional horticulture.
“Monocultures serve only a limited number of species, which leads to an overabundance of a creature, which can lead us to intervene with pesticide applications,” she explains. “If we invite all insect species, then nature takes control and we find ourselves intervening less and less.” The benefits are two-fold: not only is the resulting landscape sustainable and self-sufficient, it also supports its natural inhabitants.
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It is the latter – these birds and bees – that Reavis discussed at length in his presentation. “Why is it important to save pollinators? she asked and, answering her own question, explained that these organisms are “the first link in our long food chain, and their removal from an ecosystem has downstream effects.” Reavis warns that, if insects are going extinct – a frightening prospect, when 40% of the world’s insects are threatened with extinction – then frogs, fish and bats (to name a few) are also in danger.
The ripple effects caused by extinction are widespread and catastrophic. “The loss of insects means the loss of all other species, including us, but I think it’s entirely possible to live side by side with them, and I hope to share ways to help customers to do just that.”
Every great design project relies both on form and function, and keeping biodiversity in mind from the start of a residential garden project can ensure this. “I think for a long time we assumed that nature could be somewhere else, something we visited when we were vacationing in a national park, for example,” says Reavis. “But the truth is that nature is everywhere, including our backyards, and if we plan for it early, we can create a balanced existence for them and for us.”