Planting style should depend upon context. Lately I’ve had the opportunity to work on a few modern projects that demand the dramatic with simple clarity. For these projects we’ve used a graphic style of planting design, which creates a strong framework and clarity of vision to build on. This style is evolving to include the use of green and built vertical forms and visual and circulation axes that establish strong spatial frameworks.
Matrices of diverse plants can be arranged in patterns, with built and architectural features forming frames. With today’s focus on ecological function, more diversity can be introduced within the frames, resulting in a more sustainable design.
A more complex plant palette offers benefits of diversity, habitat connectivity, conservation, and systems thinking. A diverse palette results in a high-performance landscape that responds to programmatic desires such as water retention/cleansing, pollination, habitat creation, carbon sequestration. Not to mention resulting in an exquisite place!
When Plants Drive Design
When plants drive a garden’s scheme, the landscape is conceived in a series of layers. First, trees and large shrubs to form and shape the garden. Defining space with large-scale plants creates an outline for garden. Smaller woody plants and perennials come next to develop another layer and create interest on the ground plane. Lastly, bulbs and annuals add seasonal color and interest.
…but keep in mind there’s a difference between creating a plant collection and creating a garden
Gardens offer a shady place to sit and enjoy the view. Paths with hierarchy that orient. Organizing space is key to creating a beautiful garden that affects us on a subconscious level. Using plants to create character and structure and serve as guideposts throughout a garden is essential.
Mixing Styles is Perfectly Acceptable
Mixing different planting styles embraces complexity and depth. I often lay out the framework and then take specific blocks and plant them in a matrix or mixed way as contrast to the larger structure. Taking pieces of different planting theories and applying them to one project is similar to how trends in the overall profession shift and change gradually as new ideas are introduced.
I use plants to reinforce function, intellectual content, themes, green or ecological strategies and create immersive, emotive experiences.