Sustainable Planting

Planting styles have dramatically changed over many years. In the 70’s and 80’s planting was predominately shrub led with perennials adding a bit of froth to the front of the borders. Busy Cottage style planting was also a go to scheme for people, and who doesn’t remember the badly designed rockeries that mostly ended up as weed beds.

In the 90’s and onwards, things did start to change, a movement called naturalistic planting started to develop. It was in The Netherlands and Germany where the great plantsmen/women started to create a more natural look, inspired by nature, to garden borders. Henk Gerritsen was a very early pioneer starting in 1970 but it has been the work of Piet Oudolf that has really kickstarted the naturalistic revolution. His body of work is impressive spreading across Europe, America and very recently a massive undertaking in South Korea at the Taehwawang National Garden in Ulsan which I believe is his largest creation yet. 

To walk through planting designed by Oudolf is something to behold, he uses perennial grasses to create movement and texture, bold planting of en masse perennials make stunning displays which last from early May right through to February when they are all cut down.

I have been attending a course recently with Nigel Dunnett and Noel Kingsbury who are at the forefront of Sustainable Planting in England. They do not doubt the beauty of Oudolf’s borders and how they reflect nature’s cycles, but they question the sustainability of them.

To create these large planting schemes thousands of plants have to be grown, tended in greenhouses using many resources from water, heat, compost and plastic pots before they are planted by a team of gardeners and then maintained for years after.

What Dunnett and Kingsbury offer is a different way of planting large areas and that is planting perennial ‘meadows’ with seed.

This was done to great effect at the Olympic Park for the London 2012 Olympic Games with bold swathes of planting which all visitors were blown away by.

Planting this way is so versatile and a much less expensive option than creating large planting schemes. The beauty of this style of planting is that it is ever changing, not just through the year, but as dominant species come and go over the years the scheme will look different for years to come.

For smaller gardens, this  isn’t really an option, as the space is limited and there is  much  more scope to create a natural look  with perennials and grasses.

My take on being sustainable is to use plants that will last the test of time and of course using the old gardeners adage ‘Right Plant, Right Place’.

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Neil and Rodger, Hove

Owen came up with the perfect design for our south facing walled garden. He knew how to balance what are priorities were, with plants that would thrive and attracted abundant nature into the garden. Owen is professional, customer focused and friendly. We would highly recommend him.

Sam Fisher, Sussex

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