Ecological gardens

For landscape architects and garden designers alike, there is a contemporary approach to planting design that seeks to mimic or at least draw inspiration from the dynamics and make-up of natural plant communities.

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Mount Usher gardens, Co. Wicklow planted to William Robinson’s naturalistic style

In garden design, this approach is purported to have originated (at least in part) with William Robinson’s naturalistic approach to planting design in the late nineteenth century.  Landscape architects will attribute its flowering to a more diverse set of roots.  Nonetheless, whatever are its origins, this attitude gained severe momentum in the late twentieth century with a realisation that we are in the process of destroying much of the world’s natural plant habitats; so much so, that it is now incumbent on any designer worth his or her salt to at least consider the use of some native plants in any particular design, even if the entirety of the planting design is not “ecologically” driven.
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Wildflower meadow – pic taken at a friend’s house in Wicklow

There are a plethora of approaches from the monastic purists who will only use native plants to soft liberalists who will allow exotics but arranged in a “natural” manner: a complete breakdown of natural and ecologically inspired planting styles is given by Noel Kingsbury in Hitchmough and Dunnett’s  “The Dynamic Landscape“(2004).

My route in to landscape architecture was in many ways the “wrong-way-round”: I graduated as a geographer and then became a conservation ecologist dedicating a year of my life to habitat creation with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and only later on rekindled a childhood interest in landscape and garden design.

In many ways, I have now come full circle, as I am now keen to infuse my landscape and garden designs with as much of an ecological thrust as my clients will allow.

Originally posted in the THE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT’S JOURNAL BY TIM AUSTEN

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