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5 Sustainable Features for your Garden

If we had to come up with Campion Walker studio trademarks, they wouldn’t be features or plants-- they would be philosophies. Our designs are informed by many things: the site, client needs, aesthetic ideas. But the point of view we bring to our many and varied projects always orbits around the ideas of simplicity and sustainability.

We like to see that we listen to the land, and what this translates to is how we recognize the need to interact with the native environment. In short, that is the definition of sustainability. The most natural thing we, as garden designers and stewards of the land, can do is to simplify how we tread on the earth, and lean on sustainable practices to work with nature to create beautiful spaces.

Some of our favorite elements of sustainable design:


In a garden setting, we refer to rocky swales and/or rain gardens as watersheds. These features are tools for retaining rain water on-site, which has significant impact on both groundwater supply and stormwater management-- both of which have far-reaching effects on the ecological health of our world. A watershed is a low point of a garden, designed to have rainwater drain to it, and designed with rocks and/or riparian plants that thrive in dry conditions with occasional flooding. On top of their function, watersheds are a dramatic and stunning feature in gardens, especially in rustic modern or xeriscaped designs.


If a project allows, or a homeowner is willing to invest in some plumbing adjustments, we advocate installation of greywater systems. These systems allow clean used water, called greywater, from bathroom sinks, showers, and laundry, to drain into a garden, either irrigating plants or percolating down into the earth if channeled to a watershed. It might seem unusual to reuse water in this way, but greywater is 100% safe to recycle in this manner. As a bonus, using phosphate-free soap/detergent and epsom salt is actually a fertilizer-- which is even more reason to recommend using greywater to water your landscape plants.


The subject of composting can raise an eyebrow from less than enthusiastic gardeners, but in truth, its practice is spectacularly simple. Setting aside organic waste from your kitchen (trimmings from fruits and vegetables, egg shells, coffee grinds) and your garden (grass trimmings, fallen leaves) can reduce as much as 60% of landfill waste-- that makes composting more green than recycling! You can compost in your own yard, either in a tumbler, or a bin, or a simple hole dug in the soil in a dark, secluded corner of your garden. Keep your kitchen waste in a pail under your sink, and bring it out every 3 days, and then layering in your green garden waste instead of throwing them away in your green waste trashcan. Allow the compost layers to sit, turning once a month or so to aerate, and in about 3 months, that compost will become rich organic matter, perfect as a natural fertilizer for your garden plants. For more information on how to start composting, we recommend this article.

Firewise Gardens

As longtime residents of LA’s Topanga Canyon, we’re no strangers to wildfires. When naturally-occurring, they are a part of the earth cycles, but containment is key to limiting their devastation. Because many of our projects are in the Santa Monica mountains and are close to areas where fire danger is high, we design firewise gardens: plantings chosen specifically for their ability to mitigate the spread of flames. Firewise knowledge can be as simple as tree choices: native oaks are slow to burn and fast to recover from flames, while many other tree choices incinerate fast and feed a fire. Other tactics we recommend are choosing high water content plants, such as succulents, and designing them in wide swaths to act as moisture barriers should a fire approach.

Plant Communities

The practice of designing communities of plants is one of our favorite strategies for a healthy, beautiful garden. Our horticultural background has taught us that placing symbiotic organisms next to each other takes a lot of the guesswork out of maintenance because it creates self-sustaining ecologies. We like to educate our clients about the importance of choosing such complimentary plant palettes, such as planting low-water, chaparral natives like Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) with Erigonium fasciculatum (California buckwhat) and salvias, in order to create a happy landscape.