Wood can be used in several locations in your garden including fencing, compost bins, support structures, bed edging and garden furniture. The versatility of the material makes it very popular to use in the garden. However, with the increased awareness of climate change, we need to think about how the sourcing of different types of wood contributes to climate change.

There are three main kinds of wood that can be used in the garden: Soft woods such as Pine or Spruce; Hardwoods including Teak, Iroko and Oak; and Composites, which are a mixture of wood and other materials including plastic; not so ideal for an environmentally friendly garden. One could argue that composite decking is very long lasting and does not need to be replaced, therefore less wood is used in the long term. However, if the composite decking is removed when the garden is redesigned or as trends change, then the product is not biodegradable or recyclable and becomes a very environmentally unfriendly product.

Ethical Options for Wood Use

When considering the ethical use of wood keep in mind local suppliers and using wood from sustainable sources.  Although Iroko and Teak are great in the garden they are sourced from the rainforest. Sustainable wood will carry an accreditation mark from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This will ensure that the wood has not come from an illegal logging source among other things.

Garden Decking

Most garden decking is made from softwood that includes a 15-year guarantee against rotting, as it is treated with chemicals to delay its decomposition. The decking and other garden products made from hardwood will last longer if they are maintained with care.  Softwood tends to come from trees, which grow faster and therefore easier to replace.  It is also cheaper, though not quite as long lasting as hardwood. Softwood decking also tends to splinter easily, which can lead to injuries when walking barefoot on the surface. In winter, the wood can become very slippery if not maintained properly.

Although Iroko wood is a hard-wearing option, it is sourced from African tropical forests. This means that part of the rain forest has to be destroyed to source this wood.  Also, many air miles are incurred in getting the wood to the UK. The more ethical option is the use of local hardwood, which involves less air mileage and in turn aids the carbon footprint.  This is where the English Oak is one of the best choices in the garden. A long-lasting product that comes from one of the most loved trees in the UK. [case study]

Raised Beds

Raised beds as recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) are a wonderful addition to the garden, which can be used for planting vegetables and flowers, and can be used at different levels. They can be made from mixed softwood treated to last from 10 to 20 years.


Oak wood can also be used as options for fencing in the garden, not only for the boundaries of the entire garden but also to cordon off sections and for use as attractive trellis work.  Similarly, slatted wooden screens could be used to section off areas of the garden with a walkway through the middle. Another option is to use the branches from trees such as willow or hazel to create a woven basket like effect.


Leading on from fencing are pergolas, which can make a wonderful feature statement in your garden and can be created using FSC Certified Timber.

Trees in your garden

Perhaps the most ethical use of trees in your garden is to grow one or more depending on the size of your garden.  Trees must be planted at least 20ft away from the house and can provide an excellent shade as well as absorbing dangerous Carbon Dioxide from the air along with the other plants in your garden.

If the trees themselves are planted at least 20ft away from the house they can provide beautiful shade in the summer and absorb dangerous carbon monoxide as they grow.  Varieties of trees that can be planted in the garden include Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis, Cotoneaster cornubia, Crab Apple, Prunus Accolade and Hawthorn.

Wood is a fantastic product in the garden, but the type and source of the wood needs to be carefully considered before it is used, to protect our planet.

Please contact Berrie Garden Design for further information about the use of wood in your garden.