All landscapers know that biodiversity is vital. But your customers may not be so enthusiastic when it comes to their own gardens! How can you counter their arguments? We asked the Carré des Jardiniers 2021 finalists what they say to convince their customers to increase the biodiversity in their gardens.
Propose low maintenance solutions - Stéphane FRITSCH
“Our customers are more and more open to biodiversity and ask us to set up kitchen gardens, insect hotels, etc. However they want low maintenance and prefer to keep weeds down with geotextiles, stones or asphalt, although these materials sterilize the ground and create small heat pockets. I prefer to use ground cover plants with bark mulching to preserve the biodiversity which develops below and nidagravel stabilization grids in the pathways to allow the free drainage of water.
People also want excessively structured hedges. I prefer to suggest hedges composed of berry-bearing plants to attract birds and beds in flower all year long to attract bees. I prioritize local tree species and stones as they also have an impact on biodiversity!”
Strike the right balance between garden use and the wellbeing of wildlife — Guillaume LACHANA
“Home owners and condominiums are more reticent than public authorities. For example, care homes for senior citizens more accustomed to precisely shaped beds, hedges and lawns mowed all year round, take longer to accept the differentiated management of garden zones. I explain that they should consider the use of space and the wellbeing of the wildlife already present (fauna, flora and micro-organisms) and that the right balance should be struck so that the finality of the garden corresponds to the customer’s wishes without sacrificing the biodiversity.
Public authorities are very aware of the need for biodiversity and it is our job to integrate the question of use into the equation, because these landscaping missions cost several thousands, even of hundreds of thousands of dollars and really must match the needs of locals. For example, a flowered meadow mown two or three times a year, whereas locals use it to play ball games at weekends, is unsuitable.”
Create an ecosystem which self-regulates over time — Matthias ORSI
“I explain to skeptical customers that gardens are a piece of life located in the middle of other ecological corridors and you cannot prevent life from settling there. Rather than choosing immediate, short-term, polluting solutions, like the use of chemicals or the waterproofing of soils, you can prioritize the creation of a more cost-effective long-term balance. For example, if you destroy earthworms with chemicals, you will need to use gardeners more often to aerate the ground. In fact, as people want to cut down on the use of chemicals on their premises, why would they want to continue to use them in their gardens?
You can increase biodiversity in gardens by recreating an ecosystem between predators and preys. If my customer wants beautiful roses, I explain that it may be a good idea to let some weeds grow near them to divert aphids from the roses.”
Save water in gardens for future generations — Hélène PÉPIN
“I prefer to work with customers with whom I feel in tune. People who insist on green grass, palm trees and a private pool are not for me. In all my landscaping projects I focus on saving water. If they ask me why I say, “Do you think that future generations will be able to sprinkle their garden when the human population exceeds 10 billion?" You can also discuss the annual cost of watering a garden and compare it with the cost of creating a garden adapted to drought, which will have a rapid return on investment.
In France, ecoresponsible gardens and parks can win BiodiverCity or Local Plant labels. This is an important sometimes marketing argument which interests local authorities. This is why their projects tend towards fertile and virtuous parks and gardens."
Overcome the fear of “creepy crawlies” - Franck SERRA
“Integrating biodiversity into renovation or embellishment projects truly renovates gardens. But sometimes you find that customers are afraid of “creepy crawlies.” I tell them that insects are a sign of a garden’s cleanliness and good health and if they can find their food outside, they have no need to come indoors. People are also afraid of snakes often associated with dry stone walls. They are generally inoffensive and there are several easy ways to get them to move away, starting with creating a welcoming habitat for hedgehogs or choosing repellent plants.
Last but not least, I convince them that biodiversity is not dirty and the idea does not mean planting a virgin forest in the garden: there are kempt zones and others that are wilder. It is a balance.”
To increase biodiversity in gardens, you have to convince owners why the approach is meaningful. You have to find the right argument – saving money by saving water? Winning a label? Reducing heat pockets? Thanks to our finalists, whose incredible projects you saw at Paysalia 2021, you already have some answers!
© Photo credit - Blackdiamond67 / Adobe Stock