Dr Stewart Harding said: “Poor planting in parks is a huge problem. It stems from a lack of understanding of how plants were planted in the past.”
He also hit out at the big emphasis on biodiversity. “The people behind that sort of project tend to only consider planting loads of native trees without any regard to what they will do to views or how people move around, or the interaction between different parts of the place. Another concern is the planting of trees along paths, which leads to paths becoming corridors. Local authority landscape architects are really sensitive about being criticised for this.
“There’s a few garden history courses that get across the principles of private and public parks planting but they tend to be posh ones. They do historical stuff on landscape architecture courses but I’m not sure they do it at a practical level — how to plant and what groups to plant together. Also, there’s a lot of friends’ groups that do planting because it’s a nice thing to do but often aren’t informed about what and where to plant.
“Parks should have a management plan to identify opportunities for tree planting and specification.”
Landscape architect Tom La Dell agreed: “Less is being taught about plants and plant material on landscape architecture courses. The real issue is that landscape architects are not taught how to design with plants. Plants are becoming more an addition to urban landscapes.
“Within the historical context you have to be able to design with plants as an integral part of the landscape but that skill seems to be being lost. You have to be able to design for 10, 50 or 100 years ahead. Native planting and ornamental planting can supplement each other extremely well. Good planting design is integral in a site’s overall design. Without that the whole thing falls apart.”
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