7 Ways to Design a Sustainable Garden

Incorporate recycled materials and resource-minded practices for a stylish, earth-friendly retreat

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Incorporating earth-friendly elements

In Bob Buchbinder and Lynn Pearson’s San Francisco backyard, gently curving paths link several stylish spaces—indoor, outdoor, and in between. Many of the materials are recycled; most of the plants need little in the way of care or even water. Design: James Pettigrew and Sean Stout, Organic Mechanics, San Francisco (organicmechanics.com or 415/567-6367)

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Rescued shed

To some eyes, this weathered structure would have been a teardown. With new windows and wiring, though, it’s now a backyard getaway.

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Low-water plants

Easy-care honey bush (Melianthus major) and a potted Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Saligna Aurea’) flank a small bench.

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Salvaged stone

The 16-foot-diameter patio is made of granite remnants—mostly dumpster finds—mixed with metal sewer caps and bricks.

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Found firepit

A 28-inch-diameter metal wok, turned into a wood-burning fire bowl, sits on a steel base made by one of the homeowners.

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Living roof

An arbor of recycled copper pipes, covered with passion vines, shades the nearly hidden dining area.

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Permeable paving

In the arbor-shaded dining area, Salmon Bay–colored pebbles let water seep into the ground rather than run off the property.

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Wildlife-friendly fountain

This recirculating fountain ($795; asilvestri.com) provides fresh water for the butterflies and wild parrots that visit. Elegia capensis grows at left.