Landscape architecture, garden design, planting design and management - Rowland Byass

What is good planting design? (2)


 Planting design is about putting plants together in space as well as time.

Above: a 'conventional' planting plan, as horticultural planting has been practiced in designed landscapes and gardens for much of the twentieth century (from Hansen and Stahl, 1993). This kind of layout, with species in discrete blocks set out according to colour and height, provides a fixed layout in space and time. It assumes no change in the distribution of plants over time. Maintenance consists of maintaining the design as laid out at planting.

Above: an ecologically-inspired planting plan from the same authors, for woodland flora-type ground flora. This distribution reproduces the way in which plant communities of different species arrange themselves in landscapes where ecological processes of colonisation and succession are taking place. A few large 'emergent' plants are scattered through the planting, with much greater numbers of smaller ground cover matrix plants. Planting such as this is not (as is sometimes assumed) maintenance free. But its maintenance needs are less than more regimented, 'horticultural' planting design. What planting like this needs is occasional intelligent intervention rather than constant mangement. The arrangement of species - not jumbled together any old how but distributed according to their habit of growth and reproduction - allows for change over time, without compromising the character of the plant community

3D visualisation of a phenological pattern in semi-natural herbaceceous vegetation over a growing season (from Cruz Garcia-Albarado, 2005). The number of spheres represents the relative number of plant species - so mid-season species tend to be larger in number than other groups. Larger, late-flowering species are fewer in number, but are visually prominent when in season.

Planting design that is conceived in time as well as in space will be more effective than the sort of planting that is conceived as just a static picture. But in a designed landscape, planting needs intelligent  management as well, so that it unfolds over time in the right way.

'The essence of a garden is life in progress and out first duty is therefore to let things grow. Development, fruition, seeding and spread are all part of the experience that await us in a garden that is kept close to nature.' (Hansen and Stahl, 1993)

Above: Agastache and Persicaria backed by Deschampsia caespitosa on a bank at the London 2012 Olympic Park. Over time these plants will spread and merge into each other - certainly the Deschampsia, which seeds itself around readily.



Cruz Garcia-Albarado, J (2005) Natural patterns in time and space: inspiration for planting design. Phd thesis, University of Sheffield

Hansen, R and Stahl, F (1993) Perennials and their garden habitats. Cambridge



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