Landscapers acting on sustainability but message still failing to reach the market

Call for greater focus on issue of sustainability to be made at Soft Landscape Workshop hosted by Palmstead Nurseries.

Gedge: arguing for subtle change in leadership covering green roofs - image: Palmstead Nurseries
Gedge: arguing for subtle change in leadership covering green roofs - image: Palmstead Nurseries

Sustainability is on the landscape industry's agenda but the message is not reaching the market, according to Palmstead Nurseries marketing manager Nick Coslett.

Landscape architects, designers and the RHS will call for a greater focus on the issue of sustainability at the Kent nursery's "Strictly Sustainable" Soft Landscape Workshop on 16 September.

Guest speakers will include soil scientist Tim O'Hare, Landscape Institute president Noel Farrer, pro-permaculture designer Mary Reynolds, landscape architect and big tree expert Brita von Schoenaich and RHS director of science and collections Dr Alistair Griffiths.

Coslett said: "Sustainability is definitely on our agenda as an industry and we're thinking in large numbers about sustainably sourced plants, water systems, etcetera. But it's not actually translating in practice to the landscaping work beyond the nursery."

Landscape professionals recently surveyed by Palmstead said fewer than one in five clients prioritise sustainability in the brief.

Coslett said: "We need to come together and increase our understanding of sustainable working so that practitioners can sell the benefits to clients and customers."

He added: "They need this to take the sustainability debate wider, take it outside the confines of our industry so that clients and commissioners are engaged."

Planning requirements have made developers aware of sustainability but it is still not on the radar for domestic clients, said Coslett.

Landscape architect Ken Trew, who will speak about working with developer Argents at Kings Cross, added: "Designers need to be more persuasive about what their clients can achieve - the ball is in their court.

"Landscape architects need to provide excellent case studies, put themselves in the developer's shoes and ask 'what are you suggesting I invest in?' and 'what is it going to cost me?'.

He added: "Be specific about the benefits - that message is sometimes lost. The client is waiting to be impressed and designers have potentially more influence than they think."

Also speaking at the workshop will be green roof guru Dusty Gedge, who believes sustainable urban drainage and green roofs are both areas where landscapers are brought in as an afterthought in the UK. "However, if you go to the US, somewhere like Portland Oregon, then you can see how successful they have been sustainably by allowing landscape architects and contractors to have more control over drainage," he said. "We really do need to argue for this subtle change in leadership."

He added: "Green roofs with solar are not working well for vegetation or energy because they are led by a solar contracting firm who does not know about soil and vegetation."

Box blight - Resistance and management

A rise of box blight caused by prolonged wet weather need not mean it is off limits for designers, RHS chief horticultural adviser Guy Barter will tell landscape professionals at the Palmstead Nurseries Soft Landscape Workshop on 16 September.

Barter will be speaking about the latest research, resistant cultivars and disease management, including fungus fighter TopBuxus, quarantine and pruning.

He said: "It is not a plant that requires potentially damaging interventions but this could change if it can only be grown with the help of pesticides."

The fungal disease comes in two forms, Cylindrocladium buxicola and Pseudonium buxi.

Symptoms include leaves turning brown and falling off, leaving bare patches. In wet weather the spore masses of the disease can be seen underneath affected leaves - white for C. buxicola and pink for P. buxi. Barter's advice includes:

- Cut back, gather fallen leaves and replace surface topsoil to get rid of spores.

- Fungicides tend to suppress these diseases, not eliminate them, so will only help in the short term.

- Pruning to enhance airflow and using fertilisers and plant tonics may help to grow healthy plants.

- Some cultivars may be less susceptible, but this has not been proven.

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