Just back from a series of seminars in Canberra run with Catherine Neilson from the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. Catherine put together a compelling case for why individual gardeners can make a difference to the way the Canberra’s urban areas deal with the effects of climate change.

Amazingly, in the ACT the greatest opportunities for future carbon sequestration are in the suburbs where trees are getting to 10-15 years old and really starting to develop some size.  Planting more trees and understorey in gardens and public places can also help to reduce the heat island effect, reduce energy consumption and clean air and water. Urban food production was also discussed along with the opportunities offered by urban permaculture techniques.

Catherine called landscapes that tackle these issues Carbon Advantage Landscapes.

Deciduous vines growing over the pergola along the northern side of the house in this garden (designed by us) shade the house and outdoor entertaining area in summer and let the sun in to warm the house in winter.

Jennie ran the second session at two of the seminars. Titled ‘Taking Action… One Garden at a Time’, it showed examples of work by Fresh Landscape Design and other landscape architects that implemented Carbon Advantage Landscape strategies.

Read the story in The Canberra Times. 

It is heartening to realise that we can use our own gardens to make a difference. Here are Catherine’s key goals and strategies for a Carbon Advantage Landscape:

Energy conservation:

  • maximize access to winter sun
  • minimize effects of cold winter winds
  • maximize shading capacity in summer
  • maximize efficient use of materials and resources
  • minimize waste

Carbon sequestration:

  • vegetation 
  • soil management
  • water management

Water quality and conservation:

  • maximize water-sensitive design strategies
  • maximize water-sensitive maintenance strategies

Food production:

  • maximize opportunities to produce food


  • maximize opportunities to increase biodiversity

Transport and fuel use:

  • minimize construction and maintenance waste
  • maximize use of local materials
  • minimize energy and water use in construction and maintenance

Human health and wellbeing:

  • maximize opportunities for social interaction – design, management, monitoring of landscapes
  • maximize opportunities for physical access and activity
  • maximize ecosystem function and biodiversity