Form and Function:  Beds & Borders’ “Gaia Design” is Landscape Design with Intent.


The Gaia hypothesis (/ˈɡaɪ.ə, ˈɡeɪ.ə/, GY-uh, GAY-uh), also known as the Gaia theory or the Gaia principle, proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.

From chemicals to climate change, the effects on the environment is one of the most important issues we face today. For this reason, Beds & Borders Landscape Design has committed itself to sustainable, eco-conscious landscaping that enriches and improves the environment.  We have coined this new philosophy “Gaia Design.” The principals within this philosophy take into consideration all aspects of the landscape as we strive to create unity within aesthetics and ecology.  We are confident this balance we seek not only will be impactful within your personal domain, but its effects will be seen in all the landscapes Beds & Borders create in the Twin Cities. When you landscape with us you are landscaping with others that share the same vision.  Come aboard!

Many homeowners don’t realize that thoughtful, eco-friendly choices in landscaping not only create beautiful landscapes, but also are impactful in reducing their carbon footprint, counteracting harmful transportation emissions, curbing erosion/water run-off, reducing the negative effects of non-indigenous plants and pests, promoting local businesses, and keeping chemicals out of their children’s drinking water.

There are countless paths to explore when considering our Gaia Design approach.  It could be as simple as implementing one concept or as complex as trying to integrate many of our environmentally-friendly ideas into your plan.  Whatever the case is, we can tackle it with integrity, passion, and precision.

Itemized below are the many options that can be discussed for your landscape as well as the techniques we are using daily to carry out our obligations as a responsible business creating beauty in a clean and conscientious manner:

Native Trees: When a native tree (let’s say a Sugar Maple) is planted between your house and the southern sun, this positioning will help protect your home from direct summer sunlight. In winter, the absence of leaves allows the lower winter sun angle to warm the house.  Both situations will reduce energy consumption.  It is said that every tree shading your house is equivalent to a 10,000 BTU air conditioner.

Native Groundcovers:  Wild Ginger, Solomon’s Seal, Thalictrum, Fern, Bunchberry and Blueberry are beautiful plants, but they also provide an important habitat for Minnesota’s natural fauna and insect populations, while at the same time they are excellent in controlling harmful erosion.  Additionally, many groundcovers are able to “blanket” the flower beds which in turn minimizes the possibility of evaporation.  A dry soil can be a needy soil, so it is best to use good design to mitigate any negative effects from drying.

Native Shrubs:  Serviceberry, Dogwood, Hazelnut and Willow are a few of the choices that offer critical habitat and food for birds and small mammals, while providing excellent ground stabilization.

Native Hardscapes:  Limestones, Granites, Igneous Traps Rocks and Flagstone are all very abundant in our region.  There really isn’t a necessity to roam any further than the outer reaches of Minnesota and parts of neighboring Wisconsin to construct that exquisite retaining wall, stone edging, outdoor kitchen or patio.  The principle of buying local and supporting local economies, to say nothing of the cost savings in transportation cost, alone, makes this the logical choice.

Native Vines:  There is nothing better than planting some Virginia Creeper if you are looking to tame the heat effect from a hot, late day sun on the sunny side of the house or chimney.     

Rain Barrels:  Harnessing and storing natural rainwater for redistribution to your plants and vegetables gardens is ideal in that fact that the water is void of chlorine and high in micronutrients.  What is most important is their ability to capture hundreds of gallons of water, water that would have ultimately made its way to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River.

Raised Bed Garden:  A raised bed can help overcome poor soil drainage, compaction problems, animal issues and weed intrusion. The landscaping accent of a series of raised beds in your landscape adds the aesthetic touch often needed to make your landscape outstanding.

Mulch:  A direct byproduct of logging, (which there is a lot of in Minnesota and Wisconsin) mulches are produced in varying colors and textures.  The most common types are pine bark and shredded hardwood.  Stay away from Cypress or Western Red Cedar as they both are transported to our state from long distances.  Common sense would dictate that it would be unwise to import wood products into our state, as disease and pests could possibly hitch a ride.  

Compost:  There are ample business outlets in the Twin Cities that offer high quality bulk soils and compost that are recycled plant materials sourced from local companies (landscapers). Ironically, landscapers pay to unload plant materials, and then buy it back once it is composted.  Somebody has a good thing going there!

Living Roof Design:  As solar panels on roofs becomes more affordable, the living roof’s growth spurt might start slowing a bit, but in theory the concept of a roof that is visually stunning, and that provides carbon reduction as well as gobbling up rain, is genius.  We are able to incorporate living roof designs with a mix of succulents/perennials which are both heat and drought resistant.  

Drip Irrigation Water Systems:  Not all irrigation systems are created equal, and newer technologies have made drip irrigation in our state more practical than ever before.  Product longevity is now a word of the past when it comes to drip irrigation, and we are excited to share the details about how your beds can be watered in a very logistical way to save water and time.

Smart Irrigation:  By partnering with an irrigation company that sees eye to eye with our values, we are able to devise landscape irrigation design that is highly responsible and reasonably priced.

Local Sourced Bulk Fuel:  Beds & Borders buys 1000 gallon lots of diesel from a local cooperative.  This is the hardest commodity to keep local, but we do our best to support a local group, thus keeping as many dollars in the area as possible.

Locally Sourced Uniforms:  From Red Wing boots to American Apparel t-shirts from a trusted vendor in Wisconsin, we do our best to stay close to home in every aspect of our business.

Locally Sourced Office Materials:  Wherever possible, we try to purchase even our office materials, paper, computers, and software from companies in Minnesota, or at least in the USA if those options exist.  If you are vendor from the area, we encourage you to contact us as more often than not we will attempt to support you!

Recycling:  We reuse or recycle almost 100% of all our waste coming from the worksite and in the office.  If it is organic or non-organic in nature, we will find either someone or some place that will repurpose or recycle our waste products.

Prairie Plant introduction:  We propose that you strip away the grass and plant native grasses, coneflowers, bee balms, wolfberry, and blazing star.  This is how it was in the original ecology that served the landscape for 10,000 years….why not go back to what fits nature best?

Conversion to Electric Vehicles:  When the time comes (and that might be soon as Elon Musk at Tesla is engineering electric semi-trucks) Beds & Borders will start trading off our diesel fleet.  This just may be the single most important adaptation we will make.

Solar Roof at our Shop:  We harvest the sun’s energy and use it to charge our battery stockpile.  The rest of the energy it put back into the grid.

Wind/Solar/Battery:  Similar to adding solar to our shop, we can use this technology within landscapes where clients seek to keep their irrigation and lighting needs off the grid.  

Water Cisterns/Water Collection:  Water collection seems a bit unnecessary in our land of plentiful water, but this could change as we warm and weather patterns stall due to a meandering jet stream.  Consider the idea of an underground storage tank (cistern) that could harbor hundreds of gallons of clean water for irrigation and drinking (if necessary).  Once again, a concept that our grandfathers used a century ago.

Wastewater Funneling/Drain tile:  Ground recharge of stormwater runoff is critical.  There is absolutely no need to send excess water coming from our roofs into the gutter and down the storm sewers.  We can easily design a landscape that will capture all your storm water and put it back into the Earth where it is intended to go.  The water is easily brought to what we call a “rain garden.”

Rain Garden:  These are small pockets of a garden throughout a landscape that when properly designed, will hold runoff water, while at the same time provide habitat and pollination opportunities through the perennials planted within them.  Rain gardens are also very good at collecting and trapping sediment and environmental pollutants like petroleum residue and lawn fertilizers.  This is beneficial to our lakes and rivers in that a reduced sediment load can mean less algae and cooler lakes.  Check at your city hall as they might have a reimbursement program if you install a raingarden. 

Local Nursery Stock:  Landscape plants that are planted/potted in local soils and exposed to local winters are more hardy and resilient.  If you have lived in Minnesota long enough, I think you understand the logic.

Organic Nursery Stock:  There is a shift in the nursery industry right now. While there are always some consumers that will go to the Big Box stores for the plants, there is a huge movement from homeowners and gardeners alike that are demanding quality plant materials that are not only local but grown in organic soil from nurseries that have not used pesticides.  

No Irrigation/No Water Landscape Design (Xeriscaping): If you have ever been to Arizona, you will get the concept of no-water landscapes.  Without a doubt, we can design landscaping that requires very little water, but the skill lies in getting the proper plants established that adapt to this concept and are low maintenance. 

No-Mow/Lo-Mow Grass Seed: Certain circumstances will allow for special fescue blends of grass to be used that actually are no mow.  At a seasonal height of 6” the blades flop over and create a billowy carpet.  Don’t expect a putting green with this but do expect time savings and the elimination of exhaust-emitting mowing, fuel consumption and your personal time savings!

Locally Sourced Edgings:  Minnesota has lot of iron and therefore we have steel edging!  If you are looking for a clean architectural look, this is what the doctor ordered.  If you want local stone edging, we likewise specialize in this attractive and reasonable offering.  All of the natural stone in Minnesota and Wisconsin can be used for edging.  It is elegant and has no maintenance.  

Locally Sourced Bricks/Pavers:  We live in the land of pavers. There are so many companies within a stone’s throw of the metro that it is crazy to even think about purchasing materials any further than right in our backyard.  See our suppliers page as most of the materials found on these sites fall into the local category.

French Drains:  If we can’t build a raingarden due to space restraints or elevation issues the use of French drains are ideal for collecting runoff and pushing it back down into the earth.

Incorporating Fruit and Vegetables into Traditional Planting Areas:  More and more homeowners are planting veggies and fruits.  The demand for this in design is staggering compared to 15 years ago.  It is good for our body, family and for our peace-of-mind, so just ask!

No Chemicals:  No ROUNDUP, NO PREEN, NO YARD CHEMICALS.  Enough said.

Pollinator Plant Integration:  This is extremely important in order to keep biological diversity alive.  The main point here is to plant certain species of flowers within all landscapes that attract bees and butterflies.  This allows both insects to flourish, keeping diversity intact, while at the same time executing their primary duty of pollination and proliferation of plant species (and don’t forget creation of honey).

Elimination of Kentucky Bluegrass:  America is crazy about mowing and it is not necessary that we all have a perfectly manicured lawn.  Appropriate design can achieve the removal of common bluegrass cover with prairie-style plantings or grass-like groundcovers.  The possibilities are endless.

Gravel Patio and Path:  Concrete and brick all inhibit water and rain infiltration.  This is detrimental to lakes and their ability to stay clear and cool.  We have migrated away from the old school of thought on patio surfaces such as the ones mentioned above and are now installing gravel for sitting area as well as paths.  Water is able to seep into the ground using this medium and aesthetically it is very pleasing at a very attractive price.

Permeable Pavers:   Technically speaking, there really isn’t a reason why we all shouldn’t be using permeables.  With small slits in the pavers that lead to a specially crafted below grade base the water can actually go straight into the ground with zero run-off.  The price is a titch higher than traditional pavers, but some cities periodically offer incentives that might offset the higher cost.

Electric Blowers, Chain Saw, Saws and Trimmers:  These are in the process of eliminating gas-powered tools!  Beds & Borders will be switching over to all electric hand tools at the end of 2024.  No more loud leaf blowers from us, and gas consuming devices!

Crew Health:  By eliminating loud and obnoxious fossil-fuel-powered tools, our crews will no longer be exposed to harmful emissions constantly.  It is about time that electric tools are used to stop this assault on the health of the operator and the families living around the job site.

Organic Weed Control in your Yard:  Weeds happen in new yards.  It is nature.  Let us align you with an all-organic lawn care company that will keep to their word and not deceive you with products that are in the “gray” zone.

Ethics and Aesthetics – a joint venture:  Good things come to those who wait and now the wait is over.  We are truly committed to making the world a better place through our dedication to ethics and aesthetics. By giving thanks to God for all he has given us on the Earth we will honor and rejoice in the skills and abilities we have been blessed with.  This is our promise.  Please be a part of it.

With these and other innovations, Gaia Design will help you, the environment and future generations live better and more responsible WITH the earth.