PLANTING DESIGN SOURCEBOOK - planting design sourcebook.pdf · Planting Design Sourcebook INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction This Planting Design Sourcebook is the essential - [PDF Document] (2024)

PLANTING DESIGN SOURCEBOOK - planting design sourcebook.pdf· Planting Design Sourcebook INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction This Planting Design Sourcebook is the essential - [PDF Document] (1)



SOURCEBOOK Jeannie Sim Prepared for DLB320 Landscape Horticulture,

at Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

© Jeannie Sim 2015. Image rotated: Cordyline sp. from Rainforest Garden, QUT/KG

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Introduction ....................................................... 1


1. PLANTING DESIGN as PROCESS ............. 5

What is the right Design Process? 5

What is Successful Planting Design? 7

Plant Selection/Design VARIABLES 8


Compositional Design 9

Problem-Based Design 9


GARDEN STYLES or design approaches 11






HUMANS ......................................................... 18










4. MANAGING INFORMATION ................... 39

Keeping alive the passion! 39

Keeping up-to-date & aware 40

Keeping data manageable & accessible 41

5. DESIGN PROCESS and DRAWING ......... 42

(1) Site Appraisal Plans 42

(2) Functional Diagrams 42

(3) Conceptual Drawings/Models 43

(4) Sketch Design Drawings/Models 43

(5) Implementation documents 43

Designing on paper or on the ground 43

Conclusion ........................................................ 44

More Information: DLB320 FACTSHEETS (for 2015) ................ 44

REFERENCES .................................................. 45

APPENDICES .................................................. 46

APPENDIX A : PLANT TYPES ...................................................... 46

APPENDIC B : HABITATS ............................................................ 46

APPENDIX C : PLANT FORMS ..................................................... 47


APPENDIX E : DESIGN USEFULNESS .......................................... 48

GLOSSARY ...................................................... 49

Monstera deliciosa oozing through the fence of

the Old Brisbane Botanic Gardens along

George Street (J.Sim 2012).

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Planting Design Sourcebook INTRODUCTION 1


This Planting Design Sourcebook is the essential

guide to developing phytophilic design

sensibilities, as well as constructing design

processes suitable for various situations, and

deciding how best to manipulate plants for

effective uses for humankind.

phytophilic is a word Jean invented that means 'plant

loving'. We hope you agree it is essential to appreciate

the natural world, natural systems and plants in

particular to be able to really engage with effective

planting design.

To be able to make good use of plants, a designer

must learn the character and capabilities of plants;

not ALL plants, but a selection which we could call

our 'plant palette'. These are the well-known

favourites which are easy to play with. However,

different clients and different sites may call for

different sets of plants. Therefore, a good designer

knows where to look to amass a new set of plants

that will be just right for this new situation.

A good designer should be aware also of

unfounded biases and swings of fashion. If we use

checklists or someone else's plant palette, we

rarely meet the requirements of the current client

and their particular requirements of site and brief.

Understanding plants allows us more freedom of

expression and speculation, and helps us achieve

better design results.

This book was compiled to teach landscape

architecture students at our university in Brisbane,

so we have a few biases especially in favour of

sub/tropical climates. Horticulture and park

management students will also find this book

useful. However, anyone who likes gardening and

designing would benefit from this book.

Certain design principles are common across all

climates because we humans have many common

needs. We humans also have some recurring

wants that plants can fulfil. So we have both overt

and hidden goals, often multiple layers of these

influential factors that can make plant selection a

daunting task. Leaving the selection to someone

else is not a wise strategy: you miss out on a lot of

fun and satisfaction in the hunt and the refinement

of a design idea.

Knowledge is power! We never stop learning

about plants and experimenting with ways of

intervening in their growth. And underpinning it all

are these amazing living things that provide oxygen

we need to breathe, food we need to eat and give

us all sorts of sensual pleasures. Plants are just


Design is fun!

And planting design is even more fun! Good design

outcomes can really help other people to find

health, comfort, safety and sustenance! What a

wonderful contribution to the world.

Other Planting Design books

There are many books published every year about

plants, gardening and garden design, and some of

these focus on planting and landscape architecture.

Most of these works are personal statements

often highlighting the author's own design practice.

Many of these also contain a personal selection of

favourite plants. They are useful to students up to

a point, but be careful of thinking that their way is

the only way. Only a very few books attempt to

describe planting design or designing with plants as

a process, let alone a set of possible options.

Our book is focussed on design process and will

reveal as many as possible of the current and

historical planting design approaches. To be both

specific and broadly encompassing is a challenge,

but we hope that the result will help you develop

more design flexibility plus better creative and

critical thinking skills. The thing we will not do is

provide you with a "how to do it" checklist. That is

a recipe for unresponsive, malfunctioning,

repetitive and banal design. We want you to be

much better than that.

Who designs with plants?

Here is a two-part proposition that may or may

not be accurate. (1) Landscape architects are

professional designers who mostly have larger

scaled projects that are mostly in the public

domain and cover a wide range of uses (including

residential, commercial, industrial and recreational

purposes). (2) Garden designers are mostly

amateurs (though some are professional), who

mostly design smaller scale gardens (rather than

landscapes or landscape systems), their projects

are mostly in the private domain and most are

domestic or residential properties. This

proposition is a generalisation, but even so there

are some interesting truths here.

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Planting Design Sourcebook INTRODUCTION 2

Most contemporary planting design books are

aimed at the home (amateur) gardener with

simplified concepts to help the most unskilled and

inexperienced reader. Without the benefit of

contextual knowledge (that is, what all the other

authors and experts advise) means that readers

are seduced into following one path that may or

may not be relevant to their situation.

We examined many published sources to consider

many sorts of design options and share this with

you. This is a reflective practice that marks a

legitimate professional with better adaptive

capabilities. It also encourages deeper thinking

about processes and outcomes to help advance

our group understanding and improve practice

overall. We want you all to be aware of what you

are doing and why you are doing it. If not, you will

be a cog in a machine, stuck in a repetitive cycle.

You will not be able to think for yourselves or be

able to react to future changing circ*mstances.

We can find evidence in history of this adaptive

and innovative practice. Someone was aware

enough to start making vertical gardens, where

previously there were concrete and masonry

walls. Someone adapted horticultural procedures

to create glass houses (so called winter gardens in

cold climates). Someone else was curious enough

to find out why planting in warm climate cities

reduces temperatures. The key to being an

effective professional landscape designer is this

willingness to experiment and to criticise the

status quo, and so create better outcomes.

We hope this book will help you develop sound

skills while you indulge in fun design activities along

the way. We certainly find mucking about with

plants (experimenting and pushing boundaries of

capabilities) is thoroughly absorbing and rewarding.

Good luck.

Jeannie Sim,

who conspired with Thom Lenigas in the earlier

stages of this publication preparation.

December 2014.

Ficus benghalensis Banyan fig.

30 years ago I produced this Plant Profile for my horticulture

subject at QIT! Note the power of the black ball point pen for

subtle hatching effects and that some glues discolour with age!


But tropical figs are just so awesome!


For an inspirational visual and intellectual feast.

Thom Lenigas set up a great Tumblr site

attached to this unit that just keeps growing,

since August 2009! Thanks Thom!

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Planting Design Sourcebook INTRODUCTION 3

Finally, rethinking teaching landscape horticulture...

a challenge for engagement.



Landscape architects who are ignorant and

dismissive of plants are really roll-playing

urban designers or planners or wannabe


Here are 5 observations that you may agree with

or you may be annoyed to the point of disgust!

Any reaction is a form of engagement! If you have

no reaction we are in deep trouble. Maybe you

should go away and come back when you are

ready to learn.

Observation 1

"I don't care about plants and stuff"

Some designers, such as industrial designers, can

have such distaste for plants that it borders on an

allergy. When this lack of connection to plants and

their living processes is manifest in baby landscape

architects, it borders on catastrophic for the

future of humankind. Why? Because landscape

architects should be the profession that helps the

other design professions deal with the realities of

the physical living world of which they are woefully

ignorant. LAs should be the ones to provide

ecological context to human-centred design.

Sustainable design is our bread and butter basics.

Plants matter!

Observation 2

"Most of today's landscape architects do not know

enough about plants"

"But it's too hard", folk cry out! So is playing a

musical instrument; so musicians practice every

day and never stop filling their lives with music,

listening to music and talking about music. Plants

demand that level of commitment to begin to

understand how they work, why they work and

what ones are useful to designers. Plants are

amazing! If an individual LA or a practice has a

reasonably fixed set of plants (so called plant

palette) that hardly varies, then they are not really

living up to the history of LA professionals who

are directly evolved from master Head Gardeners

who really knew stuff about plants. At this point,

such practitioners are really urban designers of

infrastructure most of which is hard constructions

and do more damage than good to the complex

systems of ecology and living things.

Observation 3

"Without plants, humans are just animals"

This is a philosophical point about the benefits of

observing and collaborating with plants. The more

you learn about plants, the more you realise there

is to learn. We can start with the scientific side if

things by learning basic ecology and horticulture.

Then traditionally designers look to art theory and

start to rummage in the attic for visual elements

and principles and other aesthetic matters.

Somehow we have to blend the science and the

art to make design usefulness the key goal. But

there is another way, the philosophical and

emotional way.

Plants and gardens can be good for your soul, if

you let them, if you participate and keep your

mind open. Awareness is not a shroud that

someone else lays over your head. Awareness is

based on active participation. You need to go out

and get into looking with intent, gardening with

patience and persistence and never stop

experimenting and growing. As soon as you stop

learning you become jaded and useless, because

ultimately a good designer is one who can adapt to

changing circ*mstances and make the best of what

is available. Adaptation is the key measure of

intelligence. Banality and repetition is good for

cows and sheep but not wild thinkers and

dreamers. And we need that wild biodiversity

potential to survive and thrive in the future.

Observation 4

"Designing gardens is not the role of landscape


That was me screaming, perhaps you didn't hear it,

but it was loud and gut-wrenchingly sad. Gardens

are places of such joy and healing, of such delight

and bounty, why the heck would you not want to

be part of that? Excuse me, but that was why I

joined this club so don't give me that 'it's not

relevant' balderdash (insert swear word of choice,

please be as creative and colourful as possible). If

LAs are about big picture infrastructure planning

only, then how will they be able to design for

human-sized, ordinary people with human-sized

needs and wants? Gardens are the vital core of

creating spaces for humans and should not be left

to scientists who may well understand the needs

of plants but are hopeless at understanding the

practical needs of people nor the spiritual needs of

creative outcomes to make our minds and spirits


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Planting Design Sourcebook INTRODUCTION 4

Professional horticulturists are not trained to take

on that huge area of learning we introduce to our

LA students. They have a smattering, but not the

tools to be truly inventive and adaptive. Thus we

get excruciatingly painful fashions like Bali gardens

or miniature boring bushlands that are limited in

use and repetitive in scope and form. Dumping a

Buddha sculpture into a lush border of gingers

does not make sense nor is it respectful to a noble

religion. Buddha sculptures should not be seen as

decorative; one does not use images of Jesus

Christ on a cross as appropriate decoration for a

garden even if one does practice Christianity. Such

icons are for active spiritual use not bubblegum

confetti wasteful displays.

The disparity and even disrespect between some

LAs and Horticulturalists who are garden

designers is shocking and not right. Both camps

are fearful of their own areas of ignorance about

either plants or about people. These attitudes have

to stop. Learning from each other is the key. Until

the profession of LA includes specialist garden

designers who have horticultural training, we will

be the disrespected poor cousins to the other

spatial designers out there.

Observation 5

"I can find it on my smartphone with an Internet


And I can find it by observing plants in my

backyard and my neighbour's and the botanic

garden down the road and the library next door.

Nothing is as good as first-hand experience in

understanding plants and their processes. Nothing.

Horticulturists train by hands-on experience of

gardening. Why don't LAs do the same? Because

we don't have the time and space in our courses

to fit such practices, that's the reasoning usually

given. Until that attitude changes, and it must, it is

up to individual students to get out of the studio

and into the bush and into the garden and start

really learning.

The best LAs are the ones with hands-on

experience. Lucky ones come with a horticulture

degree or diploma and learn the stuff about people

and systems laid over their previous studies.

Fanatics like me, came with self-taught gardening

obsessions that have been further honed and

practiced for decades. And I'm almost getting it!

However, the adaptive creativity that marks a

great designer is more than this formula. It is an

attitude of mind and strength of will that begins

the process of building creativity. It takes time and

engagement and you can't find that on your



So what? This manifesto is written to directly jolt

your over-worked and distracted student minds

with a challenge. Are you up to that challenge or

will "just passing" with dispassionate abandon be

your lifelong credo?

The first step in this process of engagement is to

reflect on your surroundings. Writing about plants

and gardening is an old tradition to help achieve an

increased understanding. It doesn't matter if you

believe you can't write to save yourself! Be that

musician and practice, practice, practice. We need

garden writers, landscape architectural theorists

and critics as much as we need designers. You

have the potential to be any and all these things,

but only if you participate. Widen your horizons

before you focus on your speciality!

Of course, the second step is to get gardening, but

that may take a longer time to get going. To start

off, I'm thinking of starting a terrarium for the class

and you shall watch and be amazed at this

extraordinary invention: the world in exquisite

microcosm. Dr Ward invented the idea in the 19th

century and without it, Australian settlement

would have suffered (maybe even failed)!

Jeannie wrote this Manifesto over 2 hours on an

overcast Friday morning in Spring 2014. And then

she decided to include it in this Sourcebook to

continue to shake things up and prod students for


Strelitizia regia (bird of paradise)

(JS 1984)

Plants are awesome! (Thom Lenigas, 2014)

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Planting Design Sourcebook PLANTING DESIGN as PROCESS 5




Have you done any planting design or plant

selection? Maybe you too have you been seduced

by a beautiful plant at the nursery and just had to

grab it for your garden? At first, you might be

thinking selecting plants is all about finding the

prettiest bits of greenery or the most fragrant, or

the cheapest!

All these factors could apply, and there are many

more possible influences, but essentially we select

plants for purposes that suit humans first, while

acknowledging the capabilities and tolerances of

the plants themselves for the site where they will


This Sourcebook is founded on the premise that

we can be logical and comprehensive when we

design with plants. We can also be whimsical and

irrational if needs be. With the huge range of

plants available for use and the many possible ways

we can treat plants, without an effective design

process, we are at the mercy of impulse buying,

making expensive mistakes and wasting money and

resources along the way.

What is the right Design


The first point to realise is that THERE IS NO


site is different, each client and brief is different

and each designer is different. This Sourcebook

can be used to help you find your own voice as a

designer with your own methods and priorities.

We reviewed many current publications that offer

advice about planting design and have drawn

together insights we want to share as well as the

faulty methods we believe you should avoid. When

you look at the huge wealth of literature about

gardening and plants, you can see that most

emphasise information about the plants: identifying

their place of origin (habitat and climate);

describing their physical character; and hopefully,

including data about their preferences and

tolerances for growing situations. A few

publications avoid the detail plant descriptions and

concentrate of design procedures and how one

selects plants. We reckon you have to know a

certain amount about the science of plants (botany

and ecology) and about growing plants

(horticulture) to be able to use effectively these

concepts about planting design.

Therefore, to help you find your personal design

vision and approach, we have included some basic

botany, ecology and horticulture in this

Sourcebook, but the overriding principle guiding

what information is included has been 'design

usefulness'. Indeed, much of the Sourcebook

covers what plants can do for humans: the many

purposes or uses we have for them. The other

matter that helps you achieve a good design result

each time you design, is knowing where to look

for more information about plants. Keeping up-to-

date and managing huge amounts of data are vital

goals in developing your personal design process.

We explore these ideas in the next section.

So what can we find in the planting design books

already published? Many don't really describe the

whole process but emphasise selected

components. These approaches can still be useful.

First let's look at the broad context of planting

design process.

One of the most well-known and loved landscape

architecture design textbooks was written by

American landscape architect John O. Simonds and

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Planting Design Sourcebook PLANTING DESIGN as PROCESS 6

is still available in its 4th edition. The following

guidelines show their origin in the 1960s

Modernist design approaches that emphasised

'functional' ideals and often resulted in checklists

that can seriously limit creative design thinking. Be

wary of checklists! Read Simonds for further

explanation and illustration of these ideas. Here is

his list of planting ideas, called "The Guidelines


Preserve the existing vegetation

Select each plant to serve intended function

Trees are the basics

Group trees to simulate natural stands

Use canopy trees to unify the site

Install intermediate trees for understory

screening, windbreak, and visual interest

Utilize shrubs for supplementary low-level

baffles and screens

Treat vines as nets and draperies

Install ground cover on the base plane to retain

soils and soil moisture, define paths and use

area, and provide turf where required.

In all extensive tree plantings, select a theme

tree, from three to five supporting trees, and a

limited palette of supplementary species for

special conditions and effects.

Choose as the dominant theme tree a type that

is indigenous, moderately fast-growing, and able

to thrive with little care.

Use secondary species to complement the

primary planting installation and to define the

site spaces of lesser magnitude.

Supplementary tree species are used as

appropriate to demarcate or differentiate areas

of unique landscape quality.

Exotic species are to be limited to areas of high


Use trees to sheathe the trafficways.

Give emphasis to trafficway nodes.

Keep the sightlines clear at roadway


Create an attractive roadway portal to each

neighbourhood and activity centre.

Arrange the tree groupings to provide views

and expansive open space.

Close or compress the plantings where the

ground forms or structures impinge.

Expand the roadside plantings.

Use plantings to reinforce the alignment of

paths and roadways.

Provide shade and interest along the paths and


Conceal parking, storage, & other service areas.

Consider climate control in all landscape


Complement the topographical forms.

Use plants as space definers."

We highlighted some of what we thought of as

biases in green to point out there are other

options and choices. Arranging plants in regular or

irregular (naturalistic) ways depends on the design

context. However, the use of indigenous species

as a priority (or exclusively) is hard to resist when

sustainable horticulture especially in the public

sphere, is a primary goal. And maybe we are being

too particular when we flinch at the thought of

EVERY scheme with a theme tree? Use the list as

suggestions, many points are very worthwhile and

most have good solid logic behind them.

This list still does not really describe the various

stages in the design process despite being so

prescriptive. We want and need more.

We found a thorough and succinct description of

planting design process from James Hitchmough

(1994,114) who listed the various stages from

beginning to end (we augmented, shown in green):


1. Initial aim & objectives

2. Base plan & site analysis (+ vegetation


3. Amended Aim & objectives

4. Big idea & rationale

5. Final aim & objectives

6. Potential functional spaces

7. Planting design concept

8. Detailed planting design

9. Initial plant selection


10. Site modification

11. Amended plant selection

12. Planting/seeding

13. Plant establishment

14. Vegetation management

Did you get lost in this list? Long lists will do that,

but it does reveal the back and forth in any design

process (the "iterative process" in design jargon)

and it also shows the many variables that can arise

along the journey. It is never a simple: "I like red

flowers, so I will only use them, full stop."

You can see that effective planting design should

include the implementation and continued

management of that design. It is such a waste to

find your best intentions are ruined because that

particular plant is not available for sale, or was

improperly planted, or perhaps planted in the

wrong place or subsequently pruned incorrectly.

Imagine a wistful naturalistic scheme that gets

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Planting Design Sourcebook PLANTING DESIGN as PROCESS 7

sliced and diced into topiary building blocks. Or

vice versa!

What is hidden in this simple list includes the

client briefing and consultations, research, problem

solving, and idea generation, to name a few major

activities. Even simple design projects have these

collections of stages each needing resolution.

Of course, in a typical home garden situation,

where you are designing for yourself, you can

easily slip into an indulgent and lazy approach.

Sometimes we can even justify this approach as

being whimsical and experimental. We have all

been seduced by the exquisite new plant or new

planting container at the nursery or some new

artwork that just has to be squeezed in

somewhere. And then sometimes you just have to

revision a whole garden compartment because you

can't get enough of pinkish-oranges this season!

This is the reality of gardens and people: they are

dynamic and change, even without our permission!

What works in the private sphere is not as

welcome in the public sphere. Change due to

mere whims or unforeseen disasters all need to be

funded, so change had better be worthwhile and

justifiable if the taxpayer or the big corporation is

paying. Unreasonable change is unwelcome in two

other special situations: historic places and nature

reserves. Historic parks and gardens have

distinctive and valued authentic plants and

arrangements which need to be protected and

maintained. Nature reserves need protection from

weeds, pests and diseases and even from human

misuse or overuse. These situations require special

management regimes to be sure to manage normal

loss of plants while protecting the special

components and essential spirit of place. All these

examples show that planting design process varies

according to the situation. So how can we judge

what is appropriate or successful?

What is Successful

Planting Design?

We could sprout an easy answer to this question,

such as "the right plant for the right spot or fitting

the purpose"! However, that doesn't help us

understand how we determine what is the right

spot or best plant. Judging what is successful,

needs clear objectives to measure against. Let's

review some of those possible objectives.

Landscape architectural academic from Britain (and

NZ), Nick Robinson describes three key

requirements for successful planting design:

☼ functional performance

☼ ecological balance

☼ aesthetic delight

This is a start but understanding what these points

mean and recognising what is missing is necessary.

Functional performance means the physical uses of

the plants, such as for screening or shading or to

define space or avoiding potential dangerous plants

for certain users. For instance, it is probably best

to avoid planting poisonous or thorny plants near

a children's playground! Ecological balance is how

your plants interact with the local vegetation

systems: do they pose a weed threat or will they

make successful associations? It should include

aspects of biological tolerances which relate to

limits your plants will withstand in climatic and

growing conditions generally: are they frost or

drought tolerant or gross feeders or tough as old


Lastly, we believe aesthetic delight should mean

more than just 'looking good'! Humans have other

perceptive senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing) and

we humans also think and feel. Psychological,

sociological and cultural needs and wants can also

impact on our design decisions and plants


Another landscape architect and teacher from the

USA, Nancy Leszczynski (199,84) delved into

defining what the purposes behind plant selection

might be and arrived at this list:

☼ Plants create an 'architectural' framework

☼ Plants produce aesthetic effects

☼ Plants modify the microclimate

☼ Plants provide solutions to engineering


We found this list uses awkward language and is

fraught with missed opportunities. Architectural

framework can be easily misunderstood as a

building by novices to design practice (and its

jargon). A more appropriate descriptor is spatial

framework. Plants can be manipulated to help

define spaces (or rooms) in the landscape. We

liked the clarity of 'modify the microclimate'

because it reminds the designer that shade is not

the only beneficial factor that can be provided by

plants. We also liked the ideas behind 'engineering

problems' but we need to make the extent of

engineering clearer, maybe even swap the word

for 'technical'. In this case, we generally don't mean

plants make dams or span creeks, but we have

found a few examples of where humans have made

living plants do such extraordinary things! Typically

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Planting Design Sourcebook PLANTING DESIGN as PROCESS 8

these technical problems include managing storm

or rainwater, erosion control, reducing toxic

chemicals in the soil and the air, and so on.

Thus an improved version of the basic

requirements for measuring planting design

success is:

☼ functional performance

☼ biological tolerances

☼ ecological balance

☼ aesthetic, emotional & mental aptness

We will explore these ideas in a practical ways

during design exercises (Esquisses) later in


Finding the right plant for the right use is part of

the planting design process. We have only have

scratched the surface of exploring the known and

potential uses of plants. We need to get more

information about plants and how they grow then

we can move on to exploring purposes in greater

detail, generously illustrated of course!

One last thing to recognise about planting design is

that the designer's decisions are only part of the

equation and other factors will be involved that

influence the final outcomes in the landscape. We

have called these 'variables'.

Plant Selection/Design


The more you look for variables the more you can

find, but let's start with these:

1. Each SITE is unique

2. Each CLIENT is unique

3. Each PLANT has a distinct CHARACTER

(preferred habitat, tolerances, cultivation

needs, visual characteristics, etc.)

4. Each landscape design project will have its

own set of PROPOSED USES and


5. Each project has a choice of possible plant


6. Each project can be maintained differently

(i.e. MANAGEMENT REGIMES can differ).

Any variation in any one of the above means a

change in overall outcome. All these things impact

on plant selection. And when you check on

nursery availability and/or cost, you might have to

start over again! But don't be discouraged. This

chaos is normal and designers do develop coping

strategies eventually!




PLANT SELECTION by biological tolerances

+ visual character

+ availability

+ cost





Figure 1: Variables in Plant Selection/Design


We could argue that the

complexity of plant selection and

planting design is what makes it

worthwhile, but for a beginner in

this area it can seem

intimidating and discouraging.

Ignore these feelings and keep at

it. You will find yourself addicted

to plants and planting design

before you know it!

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Planting Design Sourcebook DESIGN APPROACHES 9




Back in the introduction, we presented a

proposition that planting design has two major

directions as used by garden designers or

landscape architects. These are both valid

approaches which we believe can be used by both

groups according to the relevant circ*mstance.

We have examined the design works of both

groups and offer new descriptors for the differing

design approaches: compositional approach and

problem-based approach. More often than not,

both approaches are used in a project, but we

need to clarify what we mean and why we believe

it is important to make this distinction. This

section introduces some new ideas under these

two themes as well as some very traditional design

terms, such as garden styles and types.

Compositional Design

Most of the garden design and planting design

books available at the moment use terms that

describe different ways of designing with plants

such as styles (Formal Style, Natural Style) or

garden types (Cottage Gardens or Tropical

Gardens). Naturalistic planting maybe concerned

with establishing self-managing systems but at its

heart is a visual character that is distinctive.

Supporting these approaches are plant information

databases that focus on plant form, visual qualities

of colour and texture and so on. While mention is

made (at times) of potential functional aspects, the

primary driver for these sorts of design approach

is visual character.

It can be argued that compositional design is a

major focus for garden designers while landscape

designers concentrate on problem-based design

including whole systems that are typically big in


Problem-Based Design

This kind of design approach is primarily driven by

the need to solve a problem or develop a solution

system. Landscape architects undertake this kind

of planting design as part of their normal practice.

When the landscape architectural design books

start to list purposes and functions of plants they

are using aspects of problem-based approaches to

design to explain their intentions.



The preceding pages were focussed on design

styles, which may be applied to garden and

landscape types. Some places that provide specific

purposes have acquired names. We compiled an

explanatory list of these type terms:

Bog Garden soggy water logged soil for plants

that thrive in those conditions (sedges,

reeds) often beside ponds or lakes.

Cottage Garden mixture of ornamental and

productive plants seemingly haphazardly

arranged often with cluttered effect,

typically as surrounds to small houses.

Courtyard Garden may have no or limited

planting material; often has spatial function

that extends the inside to the outside or can

be inaccessible and provide visual display or

as lightwell.

Flower Garden (Cut-flower garden) has

primary purpose that is ornamental but may

also be a productive source of cut

flowers/foliage for use inside houses.

GARDEN: enclosure (usually bounded with

fences or walls) for cultivation of plants and

providing spaces for various useful functions,

events and activities.

Indoor Garden similar to courtyards (which are

open to sky) but indoors means under the

roof, albeit glass or plastic; includes internal

green walls.

Kitchen Garden; Walled Garden productive

gardens for food (fruit, vegetables, salad

greens, herbs, etc.)

Knot Garden intricate hedging that create knot

patterns as a version of a parterre;

Renaissance idea that is highly labour

intensive to maintain.

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Planting Design Sourcebook DESIGN APPROACHES 10

LANDSCAPE: broader scale, not

necessarily bounded, often in the public

realm, with plants (cultivated and remnant

natural vegetation) also providing spaces for

various useful functions, events and


Market Garden commercial productive garden

for food crops that greengrocers would sell,

especially salad greens, herbs and vegetables

Orchard; Fruit Garden productive plantations

of fruiting crops, mostly trees arranged in

regular layout.

Public Park accessible open space, government

owned for all to enjoy, mostly recreational

uses, also aesthetic values, can range from

remnant natural vegetation to formal


Podium planting a version of container planting

on big scale (on top of underground

carparks around buildings) with no access to

ground soil or water. Plant growing media

needs to be lightweight with good drainage

that invariably needs more attention to keep

fertile over time than is usually provided.

Rain Garden slows and filters overland

stormwater so it can seep into ground not

down a drain; bog garden plants used often


Roof Garden akin to podium planting as a large

scale version of container planting; may be

for looking out onto or walking through,

with medium height canopies or very low to

the ground. Grassed roofs are usually for

the benefits insulating heat/cold inside not

for walking about or other activities.

Stumpery 19th century invention of upturned

trees (the more bizarre shaped roots the

better) displayed as borders or spatial

definers; colonized by ferns / moss if located

under tree shade. Difficult to maintain in

Australia with our hungry termites.

Sunken Garden usually a space within/adjacent a

larger space that is lower in level that can be

overseen from the upper space

Terrace Garden as distinct from podium

planting, terrace gardens can have access to

real soil and ground water while much of

the space is paved over for other functions

than growing plants.

Wall Gardening rough stonework or rockwork

that allows small herbaceous plants to grow

in the gaps between rocks or spill over the

face of the wall from beds located on top of

retaining walls.

Wild Gardening 19th century idea about

naturalizing bulbs under deciduous (fruit)

trees or mixed, randomly arranged plantings

like Hill's Fern Island (OBBG) or Guilfoyle's

Fern Gully (RBG Melbourne)

Woodland Garden 19th century idea that

simulates woodlands with upper and

understorey plantings and sinuous paths

running through the plantations; often used

acid loving plants from New World e.g.

Sequoias with Rhododendron understorey

or bluebells under deciduous trees.

YARD: so little plant cultivation going on

that it really isn't a garden! It may be

grassed and mown, but often there are

many out-buildings and pavement.

Zoological Garden = ZOO (Menagerie) old

zoos started as gardens with animal


We also found a group of building types that

house plants, also called plant houses.


generic term for a building that houses plants;

includes glasshouse and shadehouse types.



Orangery, Orangerie, Lemonaria

Heated Glasshouse or Stovehouse or


Winter Garden (building)

Vinery (House for grape vines)

Orchid House, Palm House, Fig House,




(traditional Australian term since 1870s)

Fernery or Fern House

Orchid House

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Planting Design Sourcebook DESIGN APPROACHES 11


design approaches

One way of entering the planting design arena is to

consider latching yourself to a pre-existing design

style or garden type. Initially this can be a useful in

gaining confidence in your design skills, but relying

on it rigorously will actually stunt your judgement

and your creativity! However, knowing about what

other designers have done in the past and in

recent times is very useful however in developing

your own design approach, or adapting as needed

for new sorts of circ*mstances. There is an

important distinction to be made: knowing about

is not the same as copying.

Sorting design into distinct classifications of style

(and type) has been attempted by many historians

and other writers. Let's start with this broad

approach. Architect Barbara Stauffacher Solomon

(1988,8) considered architectural and landscape

design and devised a three part classification:

The formal garden is the reasoned ordering of landscape with buildings. The picturesque garden is a landscape of fictional scenery that consumes and trivializes the architecture. The agrarian garden is a cultivated holding of fields, orchards, and buildings.

She postulated that when all three are combined, a

fourth classification is created: "green

architecture". This is one way of sorting design,

but it is not commonly regarded as the best or

most accurate. What we like about it, is the

recognition of ordinary agricultural landscapes as

part of the designed world.

The classical traditions (formal regularity) and the

romantic traditions (informal irregularity) are

widely recognised general terms among landscape

and garden historians. Geoffrey and Susan Jellicoe

(1995,371) use the terms 'classical inheritance' and

'romantic inheritance'. Many historians consider

utilitarian approaches as part of a vernacular

tradition and not considered relevant within the

context of studying 'designed' landscapes. This

disregard for utilitarian approaches is undesirable –

all three approaches reflect human goals and

cultural beliefs. Furthermore, ignoring productive

landscapes as a landscape designer is cutting off a

huge potential market of clients and jobs!

Interestingly, the use of the terms formal /

informal design often incites much rancour and

argument among landscape architects, for example

from Laurie Olin (1988,155): "Everything that

exists has form. The words 'formal' and 'informal'

as used in everyday speech are meaningless and an

obstacle to a discussion about design which by

definition always contains formal properties of

some sort." This is on old argument, but the use of

the terms persists.

The Oxford Companion to Gardens revealed a

possible solution to the overuse or misuse of

these words. The French description of the English

Landscape Garden School and other English

garden design approaches includes the terms jardin

anglais and jardin régulaire, defined thus: "Jardin

anglais (or à l'anglaise) is a French expression

commonly used to signify the opposite of a jardin

régulier or à la français, i.e. in the style of Le

Nôtre." Thus, the polarity 'formal and informal'

might be better described by the terms 'regular

and irregular.' The use of pan-stylistic terms such

as formal (regular) and informal (irregular), are

part of the typical lexicons used by amateur and

professional alike. Whatever the ideological and

semantic discourses, their use cannot be disputed.

Their misuse or overuse can be debated.

Like a weed, which can be any plant deemed to be

'in the wrong place', the use of simplistic polar

opposites to describe design, have their place, if

used carefully. They offer a bridge between

common observation and deeper analysis and offer

a starting point for discussion, rather than a final

judgement. SOURCE: Lambin, Denis "Jardin Anglais," in Jellicoe et al.

1987. Oxford Companion to Gardens. Oxford: Oxford

University Press, pg. 298

Here is one approach to explaining (classifying)

patterns of design forms and their changes over


Utilitarian Traditions

Classical Traditions

Romantic Traditions

Contemporary Movements Let's look at these classifications a little more


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Planting Design Sourcebook DESIGN APPROACHES 12



for productive and scientific purposes


Adjective 1. relating to or consisting in utility;

concerning practical or material things.

2. having regard to utility or usefulness rather than

beauty, ornamentality, etc. ...

Noun 5. someone who is only concerned with practical

matters, or who assumes a practical attitude. The Macquarie Dictionary Online © Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty

Ltd. (downloaded August 2013)

An often forgotten reality, e.g.

☼ commercial nurseries, orchards, farms

☼ market gardens

☼ vernacular gardens

☼ popular domestic productive gardens

☼ permaculture gardens

☼ community gardens, farms etc.

☼ scientific collections

☼ plant enthusiasts' collections


Adjective 1. having, showing, or involving a system,

method, or plan: a systematic course of reading;

systematic efforts.

2. characterised by system or method; methodical: a

systematic person; systematic habits.

3. arranged in or comprising an ordered system:

systematic theology.

4. concerned with classification: systematic botany.

5. relating to, based on, or in accordance with a system

of classification: the systematic names of plants. The Macquarie Dictionary Online © Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty

Ltd. (downloaded August 2013)

The prosaic mentality behind the design quality of

the 'utilitarian' should not be confused with the

Modernist dictum of 'functionalism'. A utilitarian

garden may or may not be the most functional of

designs; it may be evidence more of making-do

with what is available to get the job done, rather

than finding a perfect solution or way of working

as espoused by functional Modernists. Such

utilitarian gardens often contain rudimentary

geometric layouts such as straight, often narrow,

linear garden beds; and, rows of trees and planting

beds along the boundaries and edges of space

(especially around the foundations of buildings).

'Utilitarian' suburban gardens of non-gardening

residents can take on a prosaic/banal character as

can public parkland when only the basic landscape

development is undertaken. Thus, utilitarian does

not necessarily involve productivity.

PRODUCTIVE GARDENS (orchards, herb and

vegetable gardens, and cut-flower gardens) were

(and are) usually arranged in a utilitarian manner.

Among orchardists, the use of the equilateral

triangle in laying out trees maximises the number

grown within a given area; it is thus more efficient

than a square grid pattern – maximising

productivity of the land area being the priority

here. A similar pattern is used in ornamental

gardening when bedding out masses of

groundcover plants or shrubs – to ensure

maximum coverage of the ground plane.

Solomon's observations (1988: 41 & 132) about

productive landscapes were:

Agrarian gardens, rural and urban, are eternal (if ignored as ignoble), constant and seasonal, utilitarian and splendid… Agrarian gardens were precursors of formal gardens and urban settlements. They are our earliest and most consistent ways of shaping the inhabited landscape…

SOURCE: Solomon, Barbara Stauffacher 1988. Green

Architecture and the Agrarian Garden. NY: Rizzoli.

Aligned to utilitarian arrangements are


collections of plants arranged according to a

variety of scientific, geographic or other concerns

(e.g. taxonomical systems). Systematic layouts in

gardens include those of plant enthusiasts who

collect and grow plants (usually breeding them

experimentally), often particular plant types with a

predominant concern for horticultural or botanical

matters rather than artistic aspirations or aesthetic

purposes. Such collections acquire special names:

Botanic Garden: scientific collection of living

plants with several purposes e.g. scientific,

educational, recreational and aesthetic values.

Arboretum: trees, woody shrubs, any sorts.

Bambooserie for bamboos (a French term)

Fernery: different ferns and their allies

Herbarium: botanists' dried, pressed plants used

for benchmark reference purposes

Mossery: different mosses and allies

Nuttery: plantation of nut-trees

Palmetum: palms or palm-like

Pinetum: conifers (pines, cypress; gymnosperms)

Rosarium, Rosary: formal rose garden

Succulentarium: for cacti and succulents

Vineyard: growing grapevines, prefer sloping land SOURCE: Symes, Michael 1993. A Glossary of Garden

History, Shire Garden History, No. 6. Princes Risborough,

Bucks.: Shire Publications.

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Planting Design Sourcebook DESIGN APPROACHES 13

The living plant collections of BOTANIC

GARDENS and ARBORETA are prime examples

of this systematic form and ideology of garden-

making. The 'system gardens,' based on

taxonomical classifications of family or genus or

other systems, traditionally used by scientific

botanical establishments are the most methodical

of all within the boundaries of this classification.

Figure 2: Sketch derived from description in the 'Agriculture'

column, The Queenslander, 16 June 1883, pg. 952.

Figure 3: Layout of a Scottish school garden with vegetables

& fruit trees, in Hosking, A. 1917. School Gardening with a

Guide to Horticulture. London: University Tutorial Press.

History of School Gardens in USA

(17min. video from Library of Congress by Constance

Carter, 2009). (Accessed December 2014)



Regular / Formal Arrangements

For example in history,

☼ Ancient Land Art

☼ Ancient Egypt / Greek / Roman Gardens

and Urban Design

☼ Medieval Gardens

☼ Traditional Persian and Islamic


☼ Italian Renaissance Gardens

☼ French Formal Gardens or Grand Style

☼ Beaux Arts / Classicism of 19th


☼ Classicism of 20th

and 21st centuries



1. the condition or quality of being formal; accordance

with prescribed, customary, or due forms;


2. rigorously methodical character.

3. excessive regularity, or stiffness.

4. observance of form or ceremony. The Macquarie Dictionary Online © Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty

Ltd. (downloaded August 2013)

All gardens have form, but only some are formal.

'Formal regularity' or 'formality' are perhaps more

exact terms to describe this sort of design

approach. The design quality of 'formality'

incorporates many traditional stylistic categories

from classical to modern. The key characteristic is

refined geometry, either linear or curvilinear or

combinations of these attributes. Symmetry usually

accompanies these arrangements, with the

opportunity to create a vista along an axis or alley.

Various ideologies can be attached to these forms:

including the desire to dominate and control

natural processes and those related to expressing

artistic and aesthetic concepts. Such ideas center

on the notion of achieving and maintaining

perfection or purity of form and expressed via the

media of hard landscape and planted landscape

components. Common planting features in regular

landscape designs are avenues or rows of trees,

clipped hedges, clipped edgings (short hedges), and


At times throughout history, this perfection of

form has not been reached, with only a stiff and

awkward regularity achieved. This is typical of

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Planting Design Sourcebook DESIGN APPROACHES 14

amateurish design, where the full understanding of

the classical allusions and high-minded intentions

are missing. In this sort of attempt at formality, the

borders and edges of spaces are often the location

of planting – using narrow, straight beds and rows

of trees or shrubs – and featuring 'foundation

planting' near the junction of buildings and the


There has been a resurgence of regularity and

symmetry in some contemporary landscape

designs, particularly those designers offering a

'traditional' approach, e.g. Paul Bangay in Australia

(his book titles are revealing: Defined Garden /

Balanced Garden / Boxed Garden); Luciano

Giubblei (UK) and Jacques Wirtz (Belgian/Europe).


Bangay, Paul and Simon Griffiths 1997. The Defined Garden.

Camberwell, Vic: Penguin/Viking.

Bangay, Paul and Simon Griffiths 2003. The Balanced

Garden: Town, Country and Courtyard. Camberwell,

Vic: Penguin/Viking.

Bangay, Paul 2009. The Boxed Garden: Designs for Small

Spaces. Camberwell, Vic: Lantern Books/Penguin.

Wilson, Andrew 2010. Gardens of Luciano Giubbilei.

Princeton, NC: Merrill Publishing. British garden


Valdivia, Marco 2008. The Wirtz Private Garden.

Wommelgem, Belgium: BAI Publishers/Exhibitions


Figure 4: Macmillan's Plan of House and Garden; note

overall symmetry & plant house (=shade house) to right.

Macmillan, H.F. 1935. Tropical Planting and Gardening with

special reference to Ceylon, 4th ed. London: Macmillan, 61.



Irregular / Informal Arrangements

For example from history,

☼ Traditional Chinese & Japanese


☼ English Landscape Garden

☼ Picturesque (several iterations)

☼ Gardenesque (2 or 3 versions)

☼ Wild Gardens

☼ Arts & Crafts / Surrey School

☼ Native Plant Gardens: Prairie School

(USA); Bush Gardens (Australia) etc.

☼ Ecological regeneration works

☼ Australian Aboriginal practices

(function following form)


adjective 1. not according to prescribed or customary

forms; irregular: informal proceedings.

2. without formality; unceremonious: an informal visit. The Macquarie Dictionary Online © Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty

Ltd. (downloaded August 2013)

The essential attribute of informal arrangements is

an irregular layout. The design quality of

'informality' can be used in different rates of

irregularity. All the design approaches which

attempt to re-create or imitate natural forms and

lines are included in this classification, however

controlled, artificial, and 'unnatural' they might be

in reality. There is often some degree of chance

involved in the ideas and manner of keeping such


At one end of the scale of chance and irregularity

is the place which is approaching a self-monitoring

and self-sustaining state of being, otherwise known

as establishing its own stable ecological balance. At

the other end of the scale are places with

disguised or subtle geometrical layouts and sham-

randomness in planting arrangements that require

enormous amounts of human intervention to

maintain their character. Styles such as 'Wild

Gardening' (19th-20th centuries) or the traditional

'Cottage Gardens' are included in this end of the

informal spectrum.

One aspect of the ideology behind most of these

irregular forms is working with natural processes,

and directing but not necessarily curtailing change.

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Planting Design Sourcebook DESIGN APPROACHES 15

Traditional Chinese and Japanese garden design

contain many components of informality – albeit

usually highly controlled to a 'perfected' natural

state. However, regularity also existed in these

gardens in certain compartments, e.g. potted

collections of peonies or chrysanthemums. The

English Landscape Garden and notions of the

'picturesque' in the 18th and early 19th centuries are

early western examples of informal landscape


Contemporary terms and garden types:

Wildflower meadows


Herbaceous Borders


Cottage Gardens

Tropical Gardens (Tropicalia)

Exotica (tropical plants in temperate climates)

Australian (bush) Gardens

Natural Style Gardens / Natural Gardens

Naturalistic Planting Design

Ecological planting, etc.


Dunnett, Nigel and

Hitchmough, James (editors) 2004. The Dynamic

Landscape: Design, Ecology and Management of

Naturalistic Urban Planting. London: Taylor & Francis.

Kingsbury, Noél 2009.

Natural Garden Style: Gardening Inspired by Nature.

London: Merrell.

Oudolf, Piet and Kingsbury, Noél

2013. Planting: a new perspective. Portland, OR:

Timber Press.



Modernists, Purists, Pluralists, Eccentrics,

Critics, etc.

For example,

☼ Art Deco 1920s-1930s

☼ 'Abstractions' as one part of

MODERNISM (esp. since 1940s)

☼ Functionalism (form following function)

☼ Minimalism (various forms)

☼ POSTMODERNISM (various forms)

☼ Eccentrics: Burle Marx to Derek Jarmon

"Less is More" — attrib. Mies van der Rohe, German/US

Modernist architect

"Less is a Bore" — Robert Venturi, US Post-modernist architect

There is a huge diversity of approaches being

explored at present in all the arts, although

arguably landscape design is drawing from the

widest range of sources. The creativity of the non-

professional people (including indigenous, multi-

cultural and female) are being taken seriously as

never before – influencing mainstream professional

artists and clients. Conservation (natural and

cultural), environmentalism and sustainability

generally have become important underpinnings of

our lives and work, and of course our design


This rich, cacophonous mixture of design

outcomes can be explored by students in a

number of ways: by visiting the newly created sites

in person (the best approach) or by reading

descriptions/reviews and by viewing still/moving

images of these places.

It is still early days for historians and theorists

analysing the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Meanwhile, these publications (and professional

periodicals) are useful for becoming familiar with

the masterpieces of today.

All these recent design expressions have more

going on than just design with plants. They can't be

easily or happily reduced to just this one aspect of

design. However, the big philosophical ideas and

intentions behind these movements are important

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Planting Design Sourcebook DESIGN APPROACHES 16

if we are to be aware of the existing outcomes

that can inform future possibilities. We won't

delve too deeply into the historical plant use here,

just a nibble to get us started.

Reminder about future studies in design history:

DLB525 History and Criticism of Landscape

Design will focus on times from the 10th century

and beyond.

Emerging ideas are informed from many sources.

The table below emphasises the influence of Art

Theory and Art Movements on contemporary

planting design. The importance of science

(especially concerning the environment), physical

and human geography can be also noted. The

review was compiled by QUT Master in Landscape

Architecture student Kim Watson in 1999, who

had just completed the thought-provoking unit in

the Creative Industries Faculty AAB712

Contemporary Arts Issues. The movements

reviewed were: Modernism; Pop Art; Minimalism;

Conceptualism & Performance; Postmodernism

One; Postmodernism Two; Modernist Art

Photography; Feminism; Fluxus; New Realists;

Dada & Surrealists; and, Constructivism. Some

extra comments have been added, contained

within these marks. This review is NOT the

final word – merely a starting point for further


Note: KVB304 Contemporary Art Issues is the

latest version of this unit at QUT.

CONTEMPORARY ART MOVEMENTS and PLANTING DESIGN Originally compiled by Kim Masters in 2001 with

additional comments by Jeannie Sim

Modernism composition/ ► geometric relationships. ◄ picturesque surface / flatness ► abstract. ◄ representation

►Also the great California School designers –

Garrett Eckbo, Thomas Church and Lawrence

Halprin; also early Christopher Tunnard and

Geoffrey Jellicoe; etc. ◄

Mary Miss — foreshore promenade design, listed for her approach to composing the view and organization of the view. This example is also highly structured and pictorial.

Kathryn Gustafson — listed for her structured design, ►geometric relationships ◄ and sensitivity to the materials of the site.

►Also Burle Marx – for his abstract, bold patterns in

paving and planting design ◄

Paul Bangay — listed for his strict organization of the view,

highly clipped, manipulated and controlled planting designs. Creates a picture, view-sheds are controlled by planting whether it be, closing down the picture plane or opening it up.

►Although Bangay's regularity is usually more in the

classical tradition that Modernism◄

Pop Art eccentric replicable banal representations of Big Business overt denotative / iconic the "Superstar" artist

The "quirky gardens "phenomena — listed tentatively for its eccentricity however many of the gardens are created with a passion and individuality that cannot be compared to the theories of Pop. ► Martha Schwartz for her bagel parterre, etc. ◄

Pump it out Corporate / Apron planting — listed for their banal, replicable, Ready Made qualities. Their similarities become representations of Big Business or the corporate sector. ►Also known as 'International Resort Style' when

associated with tourist developments (anywhere in

world)' ◄

Round About planting/ Residential Estates/ Display Villages are all listed for as examples Ready-Mades, of replicable designs, lacking an author and lacking originality.

Hydro-seeding — listed for the its large scale production line quality. Likened to the many examples of the processed Campbell Soup Can works by Warhol — large scale production of replication and application.

Martha Schwartz, Peter Walker, George Hargreaves….big names of Landscape Architecture who have become so through signature designs and continue to ride the wave of success — listed for their super star approach to design and use of design signatures.

Minimalism simple complexity state of non description/ connotative redefinition of space simple aesthetics / deep in theories & meanings industrial medium intervention site specificity covert awareness of temporal & spatial elements

Rehab of toxic sites/ post industrial sites/ terrain vague — listed for the attempt to redefine the site through design by being aware of temporal & spatial elements. Many designs are supported by theories and contextual understanding of the site.

Brick Pit Student Competition ►at Sydney Olympics site,

Homebush ◄ — tentatively listed as examples of designs that acknowledge industrial history through underlying theory. Not interventionist design more so significant as

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Planting Design Sourcebook DESIGN APPROACHES 17

most conveyed an awareness of time and space.

Peter Latz — listed for his utility of a controlled planting palette in post- industrial landscapes. Through juxtapositions between ruins/ decay/ industrial/ pastoral/ growth/ creation/ intervention/ pure balance, he redefines the space. His designs are covert and simple.

Robert Murase & Xochimilco National Park, Mexico — both listed for their simple complexity, through their utility of materials and understanding of site. Both are examples of interventionist design as both use the collision of water, plant materials and hard scape to create a discordant harmony. However both designs are not a true intervention as all designs are ultimately beautiful and non-intrusive.

Monoculture Planting — listed for simplicity of planting palette.

Conceptualism & Performance language + incorporation of the written word enquiries into how art has meaning art as a system unto itself concerns with class and cultural constructions feminist/ psychoanalytical theories temporal process/ outcome redefinition

Richard Weller/ Vlad Sitta/ Anton James (maybe if he used more plant material) — listed for their designs that incorporate the written word. Designs are so loaded with meaning they are too heavy to fly of the drawing board!! Vlad Sitta's designs using fire and controlled burning off fit well into the process/ outcome equation similarly his designs are in tune with feminist theories of the temporal nature of the environment.

Designs incorporating grasses, meadow planting, crops etc.— listed in reference to the feminist theories that were incorporated in Conceptualism. Plantings are temporary, seasonal, appreciating the changing elements of the environment.

City farms/ Community gardens/ Utility of permaculture principles — listed for their adherence to systems, systems of growth, people and energy. The history surrounding city farms and community gardens reflect similar concerns with class and cultural constructions as portrayed by Conceptual artists.

►Also Ian Hamilton Finlay – poet and his Scottish

garden, Stoneypath – unique place, brimming with

allusions, metaphors and visual jests ◄

Postmodernism One playful reflective concerned with "Re" ― re- working re- evaluating, etc.

Martha Schwartz — for her playful use of materials & landscape forms.

D Block courtyard design (utility of botanical signage for all plant material used) / Queen Street Mall Design (acknowledge past design lines in present design) — listed for their recognition/ reflection of history in their designs. In both examples there is an acknowledgment of existing linkages, palimpsest, traces to the present.

► Although these are minor applications of these


►Also Charles Jencks and Maggie Keswick – Garden

at Dumfriesshire, Scotland; where Feng Sui meets

science (Chaos Theory); re-working expressed in

metaphor/ allusion + playful, curving land forms ◄

Postmodernism Two nihilism presence through absence process acknowledgment of time and patterning physicality

Recent works by Janet Lawrence — listed for their utility of plant material by suggestion only, following the presence by absence theory. In many of her works plant materials are written about, abstracted or used referentially instead of being actualised.

Queen Street Mall — listed for the use of motifs of plant material, ie. leaves inlaid on the ground and suspended above the pedestrian.

►Another minor application, seemingly without the

intellectual depth; similarly, QUT D Block Courtyard

with layers of different patterns in paving and

planting including outlines of former buildings on the

site ◄

Modernist Art Photography challenging authorship the "pure idea" documentation fact/ fiction/ reality/ visual constructs Pastiche design (creating an authentic Thai garden in your home in Kenmore) — listed for the elements of distillation, adaptation and manipulation that occurs in planting design. It is the contemporary Asian cuisine approach to garden design, the creation of one thing out of so many influences that the purity of the original source is lost. Challenging the constructed reality/ pure idea/ authorship debate.

►Also part of this Thai/Asian gardening trend is the

(re)appreciation of TROPICAL plants – for

sub/tropical climates and as fantasies in temperate

places – such as New York or London (challenging

climate, the author of ecosystems)◄


Names have power! Naming a

type of design outcome can

resonate with user and designer.

Just consider the difference it

makes: garden or yard?

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 18





This section is devoted to revealing the wide range

of uses that humans have found for plants . Most

plants provide more than one of these functions,

even if we designers did not originally realise or

intend it.

plants for modifying microclimate

plants for solving technical problems

plants as spatial definers

plants for visual effects

plants for satisfying other senses

plants for the mind or heart

plants for food, fibre, fuel or sustenance.

There are so many purposes we humans have

found for plants one could almost think humans

were clever. Well, smart but not wise anyway.

Consistent and effective cleverness would make us

wise. Unfortunately, we still keep pushing the

limits beyond the sustainability of Earth and its

systems to be called wise. But you can make a real

contribution to achieving wisdom by understanding

the consequences of your design decisions.



We are talking what best suits humans here, and

this may by default include our pets or

domesticated animals. There are limits of

tolerance that human beings must observe to

survive. Too much heat or too much cold and we

sicken and can die.

There is also a concept that architectural scientists

use called the human comfort zone. Essentially this

is a combination of temperatures and humidity

that is just right.

Humans build to provide shelter for themselves

and designed landscapes that may create, augment

or ruin such comfort zones. Preferably, we make

healthy human environments! Unbearable heat or

cold can be debilitating and even lethal.

Shade is the key factor in reducing heat build-up

and trees are magnificent at providing shade.

Adding water features to landscape designs will

raise the humidity,

a welcome benefit

in dry places but

may be a problem

in the steamy


Bamboo Avenue, Old

Brisbane Botanic Gardens, September

2014. Shade makes

cool rooms outside.

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 19

Strategic positioning of planting can protect living

spaces from too much wind (especially cold winter

winds). Research is needed to establish local

climatic conditions, luckily we have government

resources at hand: learn to love and navigate the

Bureau of Meteorology website: In Brisbane, our chilling

winter winds come from the west/southwest so

these should be blocked. In summer, the beneficial

cooling breezes come from the north/northeast,

so avoid blocking these. Apply that logic to other

locations after researching local weather patterns.

Hedges and dense plantations of trees have been

used as windbreaks for centuries and in many

cultures. They are particularly useful at breaking

up the wind and preventing the harmful eddies that

form behind solid walls. Farmers know the worth

of windbreaks even on large scales. Such

uncomfortable winds occur typically on flat plains

or beside the sea.

Try these PDFs & PPTs from the USA Department

of Agriculture:

Slide 19: "new emerging uses for windbreaks include

moderating noise, screening unsightly views, reducing

airborne chemical drift, improving irrigation efficiency,

increasing carbon storage, and mitigating livestock

odors and dust as well as using specialized windbreaks

called living snow fences to keep roads clear of snow."

While hedges/windbreaks are great for moderating

wind they are not effective as sound barriers.

The rule of thumb is, if there is air the noise will

pass through. Solid walls make sound barriers.

Hedges can make only a psychological difference.

In cold/temperate climates, and even for

subtropical winters, planting design can help create

warmer areas called suntraps. For Brisbane, the

sunny side is north so verandahs and open garden

areas need this northerly aspect. Conversely, for

all southern hemisphere locations, the south side

of buildings is the shadiest (and coolest in


Applying the basics of shading open spaces in the

sub/tropics can be a benefit city-wide, reducing the

overall city 'Urban Heat Island (UHI)'

phenomenon. This cooling effect applies to all

sorts of planting, including garden beds, grassed

areas, green roofs, etc. IMAGE

CAPTION "Thermal (top) and vegetation (bottom)

locations around New York City via infrared satellite

imagery. A comparison of the images shows that

where vegetation is dense, temperatures are

cooler." Emphasis added. Originals images from

s/images.php3?img_id=17354 Accessed 13 Nov 2104.

Wrapping roofs and or walls of buildings in plants

(green roofs, roof gardens, green walls) provides

excellent insulation qualities and reduces

temperature exchange between inside and outside,

helping to cool or keep warm as required. This

area is the big experimental growth area for

landscape designers working with architects to

create better built environments. Of course, these

are really old ideas made new with new

technology and materials thrown in, proving yet

again the value of learning from history and other

cultures! See the sod roofs used in Stone Age

Britain or 19th Century settlers on the prairies in


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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 20

Frost pockets occur even in the subtropics when

humid cold air gets trapped in a depression or

valley bottom. Knowing the climate and the

topography are both important regarding planting


Microclimates is the word used to describe a

specific place, while Meteorologists mostly

describe large scale climates. There is much more

on the realities of gardening being about

microclimates rather than Plant Hardiness Zones

as the USDA mapped. There are larger scaled

microclimates and teeny ones like the sheltered

side of a large rock.

Refer to helpful article from Cornell University:

.html ).

Leszczynski (1999, chapter 4) described three

ways plants modify the microclimate, namely wind

control, modification of sunlight, microclimatic

elements of the garden. She listed these planting

devices that help in modifying microclimate:

arbor (arbour in Australia)









Pleached walkways


Be sure you know the climate of the sites for

which you design. Shade may be welcome and

necessary in one climate but cold and unwelcome

in other places. Be open to experimentation that

might really open up increased benefits for people

and plants alike. As large plants mature, new

microclimates are created and will require revised

design schemes to suit.



Leszczynski (1999, chapter 4) described five basic

ways that plants provide solutions to "engineering

problems" namely, visual regulation, erosion

control, sound mitigation, traffic control, and

pollution control. Included in these problems are

dust and chemical drift (part of air-born pollution)

which has been raised already under windbreaks.

Erosion control methods are widely used in

effective agricultural developments and adapted to

amenity horticulture, such as for public parkland

or other urban space management. Methods that

incorporate plants include:

buffer strip

crop rotation and conservation tillage

contour bunding and contour plowing

cover crops

ditch liners and fiber rolls and gabions



perennial crops


riparian strip

strip farming

sand fence

turf reinforcement mats

vegetated waterway (bioswale)

terracing and windbreaks, etc.

Farming experiences in early Australia (especially

in SA) in semi-arid/desert climates only reinforces

the need for careful attention in agriculture and

horticulture. Check out the horror stories of

1930s USA and the Dust Bowl phenomenon on

the Prairie landscapes.

Pollution can be mitigated to a certain extent

when certain specific plants are effective at

removing toxic chemicals from water and soil.

There are several processes and terms involved

here. Bioremediation is a waste management

technique that involves the use of organisms to remove

or neutralize pollutants from a contaminated site.

The actions of bacteria and fungi are relevant in

bioremediation. For example, composting toilets

make useful plant growing media while

disposing/cleaning human excreta. Win-Win!

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 21

Phytoremediation is the use of plants able to

contain, degrade, or eliminate metals, pesticides,

solvents, explosives, crude oil and its derivatives, and

various other contaminants from the media that

contain them.

These are amazing attributes! Plants are awesome!

Often these plants store the problem chemical in

their leaves or roots which can be harvested away.

Examples of phytoextraction include:

Arsenic, using the Sunflower (Helianthus

annuus), or Chinese Brake fern (Pteris vittata).

Cadmium, using willow (Salix viminalis).

Cadmium and zinc, using Alpine pennycress

(Thlaspi caerulescens).

Lead, using Indian Mustard (Brassica juncea),

Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), Hemp

Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), or Poplar

trees, which sequester lead in their biomass.

Salt-tolerant (moderately halophytic) barley

and/or sugar beets are commonly used for the

extraction of sodium chloride (common salt)

to reclaim fields that were previously flooded

by sea water.

Caesium-137 and strontium-90 were

removed from a pond using sunflowers after

the Chernobyl accident.

(See full 'Table of hyperaccumulators' ).

Also this local scientific paper:



which describes all sorts of versatile microbes,

plants and earthworms that are helpful!

The idea of cleaning sewerage effluent to create

clean water, is called locally 'water mining' and

was trialed very successfully by Brisbane City

Council at Rocks Riverside Park (2000-2006, and

ongoing). The native wetland reed Phragmites

australis was the hero plant filter. See

and similarly this source about recycled water:


"Carbon sink" is one of the buzz phrases used to

describe sequestering (storing) carbon safely out

of the atmosphere which helps the environment

(see ).

One of the best ways to store carbon is planting

trees! The more long-lived the tree, the better is

the result in this scenario. Such trees can be

provide more than one outcome if used in a



Landscape designers make outside spaces for

people to use: they range from effective hallways

to giant arenas and every size/shaped space in

between. This applies to public urban places as

well as private residential gardens. Every home

garden has more than one garden space, even tiny

courtyards. Landscape and garden designers often

use the term 'garden room' or 'the room outside'.

While hardscape walls and fences can be used to

help create these rooms we can also use hedges,

climbers on trellises and dense shrubberies with

trees to form the boundaries of spaces. Some

plants make excellent definers of space, and there

is a great range of plants to select from small knee-

height edgings, waist high, chin high or shrubs and

trees that are well over the height of a human.

And the variety includes visually solid, paritally see-

through and many colours and textures.

While outdoor rooms is a term commonly used in

planting design books to described openings, Loidl

and Bernard (2003, 85-87) use the term 'Grove'

to describe being inside a 'roofed' room. Being

inside the grove is like being inside a building, but

typically with more columns (tree trunks) breaking

up the space.

They also classify groves into FORMAL or FREE:

And make an observation about density:

Loidl, Hans-Wolfgang and Bernard, Stefan 2003. Opening

spaces: design as landscape architecture. Basel: Birkhäuser.

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 22

The basic spatial elements are typically listed as

floors, walls, and ceilings (the enclosing elements

that create spaces). Even so, different authors have

augmented and reinterpreted these elements.

Leszczynski (1999, chapter 4) described plants that

create an "architectural" framework and classified

the basic structural elements involved as the

garden floor, the ceiling, garden walls, openings,

and the garden hallway. The examples of these

elements in use with plants included:

garden floor: carpet bedding, lawn, meadow,

parterre, pathways, tapis vert,


ceiling: arbor, grove, pergola

garden walls: espalier, hedges, palisade,


openings: arbor, arch, gate, trellis

garden hallway: allée, border, hedge, pergola,

pleached walkway

Openings and linkages between spaces is a vital

additional consideration here.

Robinson (2011) listed these ideas about spatial

design with plants in chapters 3, 4 and 5:

Chapter 3 Spatial Characteristics of Plants

Spatial Functions of Plants in the Human


Ground-level Planting (Carpeting Plants)

Shrubs and Herbaceous Plants Below Knee

Height (Low Planting)

Knee to Eye Level Planting

(Medium Height Planting)

Planting Above Eye Level

(Tall Shrub/Small Tree Planting)

[Tall] Tree Planting .

Chapter 4 Creating Spaces with Plants

Experience of Space

Use of Spaces

Elements of Spatial Composition

Enclosure (Degree of Enclosure; Permeability

of Enclosure)

Dynamics (Shape; Vertical Proportion; Slope)

Focus (Symmetric Focus; Asymmetric Focus;

Focus on the Boundary; External Focus)

Chapter 5 Composite Landscape

Spatial Organizations (Linear

Organizations, Clustered Organizations,

Contained Organizations)

Hierarchy of Spaces (Hierarchy According

to Function)

Transitions (Transitions between Abutting

Spaces, Transitions between Interlocking

Spaces, Transitional Spaces, Entrance Zones).

All these ideas will be illustrated in the lectures

later in the semester.

Perhaps using plants as space makers (spatial

definition) is what resonates most with

architectural designers. However, we landscape

architects know that space is but one of the

functions we can find for plants, and typically there

will be more than one function!


The reaction among some contemporary

landscape architects to this topic can be extreme:

they simply refuse to acknowledge that visual

effects matter or are even used in landscape

design. That position confuses me. It is nonsense.

Planting design has many qualities and visual

character is one of them. That is a reality.

Arguably however, some designers (especially

garden designers) put too much emphasis on the

look of a scheme compared to other functional

matters. Getting the balance of priorities is what

makes for successful design outcomes.

Consideration of visual effects (principles and

composition) is a primary component of most

publications on planting design. Can they all be

delusional? I suspect there is a warped

postmodernist sub-agenda going on in rejecting

grand (all-encompassing) theories, especially

concerning notions of the visual preference for the

Golden Mean in proportion. Another observation

is the lack of mixed shrubberies and

herbaceous borders in landscape architectural

designs; their design is largely based on the

principles and composition of visual elements.

Have a read of these:


A Proper Herbaceous Border at Oxford Botanic Garden. I

suspect the slope on the bed really augments the display!

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 23

Leszczynski (1999, chapter 4) described plants and

hard landscape features that produce "aesthetic

effects" namely special design ideas/outcomes:

Eyecatcher or Folly

Giardino segreto (secret garden)

Giocchi d'acqua (water games)

Green theatre




Specimen plant


There are four major topics discussed further:

visual principles and composition, visual

characteristics of plants (plant form or habit),

colour and pattern.


Leszczynski (1999, chapter 5) describes composing

the planting design and lists five fundamental

elements of planting composition as: 'design

components' (balance, emphasis, proportion,

repetition, rhythm, scale, sequence, simplicity,

symmetry, and variety); Line; Form and Mass;

Texture; and Color [colour in Australia]. Simplicity

is an interesting idea to single out here as it no

often included in the design books. Robinson

(2011, 84-130) also describes all sorts of visual

properties of plants with illustrations.

Traditionally the basic visual elements in art and

design are listed as point, line, shape (2

dimensions), form (3 dimensions), colour/tone and

texture. Organising these elements are principles

which include: unity and variety, emphasis or

focalisation, balance (symmetry and asymmetry),

scale, proportion, contrast and tension, movement

and rhythm, and pattern.

Design Principles govern the manipulation of visual

elements to certain effects; also, they influence the

way we perceive compositions. The description of

design principles was largely taken from Sections 1

and 2 of this teaching resource: Sim, Jean C.

2012. Design basics: an introduction to

rudimentary design ideas and sources. Available


Unity / Variety

UNITY or harmony implies elements in a

composition belong together.

Unity = coherent, understandable design

Lack of unity = fragmented design

Unity is created by continuity or repetition or

proximity of elements.

VARIETY provides interest.

There is a need to have unity within variety; theme

within variation e.g. vernacular architecture.

Conversely, there is a need for order with hint of


Emphasis / Focalisation

Focus ATTENTION to increase excitement! Focal point (eyecatcher) = an element with a


Eyecatcher No focal point tree + beach

Converging lines = focalisation or FOCUS.

Use with restraint so as not to destroy overall



Balance = visual resolution of forces. There are

two kinds of balance: symmetry or asymmetry.

Symmetrical balance = aka. Formal balance:

= mirror images about an axis or axes; predictable

and reliable; a Classical Tradition.

Asymmetrical balance = aka. Informal balance:

= balanced dissimilar elements.

Arcane or informal balance is more dynamic!

Asymmetry often used in Romantic Traditions.

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 24


Scale is concerned with interpreting relative size

via some unit of measure especially a human being.

intimate human scale (maximum about 16x6m

in plan)

human scale (about 24 x 10m)

public human scale (about 250m wide)

superhuman (monumental)

extra-human, vast non-human scale of nature

(desert, sea, sky, etc.)


Proportion is concerned with the RELATIVE

dimensions of elements (length to width to depth).

The search for a 'perfect' proportion is ongoing.

Since the times of Ancient Greece, the 'Golden

Mean' or 'Golden Section has been thought by

some as the perfect proportion.

Golden Section = 1 : 1.618034… [etc.]

or phi Φ aka. 1: (1+5)2 or about 3:5

Often found in NATURE, e.g. ram's horn, nautilus

shell, etc. See more in later section on Natural


Contrast / Tension

Tension = contrast or the opposition of various

forms to produce a feeling of energy and vitality.

too much tension is not pleasant!

too little contrast can be boring

Black and white has maximum contrast.

Movement / Rhythm

This concerns the illusion of movement across a

visual composition. Visual designers have been

using implied motion since ancient times, from

running patterns like frets to the use of dynamic

lines like diagonals or obliques. The rate of implied

movement and the rhythm of repetitive shapes can

be measured using a musical metaphor. Motloch

(2001:146) describes legato (slow, flowing) and

staccato (agitated) rhythms.

Pattern will be discussed separately after Colour.

Designers (and artists) use the visual elements and

basic design principles to create designs – along

with many other factors influencing their work.

They can be applied to hard landscape forms as

well as plants. The language of art is also used to

explain these creations to others – orally or in

written form. Traditionally critics and historians

also use these descriptors to interpret creations.

Motloch, John L. 2001. Chapter 8 "Visual Arts as Ordering

Mechanism", in Introduction to Landscape Design. 2nd

edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Riddell, Bruce 1986. Art in the Making. Milton, Q: Jacaranda.

Rowland, Kurt 1971. Pattern and Shape. No.1 in Looking and

Seeing series. London/Melbourne: Ginn/F.W. Cheshire.

Simonds, John O. 1997. Chapter 12 "Visible Landscape", in

Landscape Architecture. 3rd edition. New York:

McGraw Hill.

Thompson, D'Arcy Wentworth 1971. On Growth and Form.

abridged edition edited by J.T. Bonner. Cambridge, UK:

Cambridge University Press.


Robinson (2011) describes these ideas which pick

up some of those basic elements discussed here

already but he attaches plant examples:

Chapter 6 Visual Properties of Plants

Subjective and Objective Responses to Plants

Analysis of Visual Characteristics

Form (Prostrate and Carpeting Forms...

Hummock, Dome and Tussock Forms... Erect

or Ascending Form... Arching Form... Palm

Form... Succulents and Sculptural Form... Oval

Upright Form... Conical Form... Fastigiate and

Columnar Forms... Tabulate and Level

Spreading Form... Open Irregular Form...

Trained Form)

Line and Pattern (Ascending Line... Pendulous

Line... Horizontal Line... Diagonal Line... The

Quality of Line... )

Texture (Fine Texture... Coarse Texture...

Medium Texture...

Colour (Hue... Value... Saturation... Colour

Perception... Colour Effects)

Visual Energy...(Combining Plants)

The overall form of plants which is greatly related

to their habit of growing is another basic idea

discussed in most planting design publications.

Little sketches or silhouettes are used to illustrate

their classification of forms.

"Three types of Greek fret patterns.

a) simple fret,

b) a compound fret,

c) rosetted fret.

Source: A. D. F. Hamlin, A History of

Ornament (New York: The Century

Company, 1916) p.94"


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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 25

Different reference texts have slightly different versions – but you get the general idea here.

Columnar e.g. Lombardy poplar, Cook Is pine Fastigiate e.g. Pencil pine Very narrow shape

Open e.g. Eucalypts

Pyramidal or Conical e.g. Liquidambar, 'Christmas tree' shape, blue spruce

Round e.g. brush box trees, or hummock or dome shaped shrubs and herbaceous plants

Spreading / horizontal e.g. Cedar of Lebanon trees or Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon' shrubs

Upright shrubs e.g. Sacred Bamboo

Vase-shaped shrubs e.g. crotons

Twisted trees e.g. Banksia

Weeping e.g. Weeping Willow, Wisteria; includes arching shrubs e.g. Buddleia species shrubs

MAIN SOURCE: Reader's Digest (1973). Practical Guide to Home Landscaping. Sydney: Reader's Digest. [tree

shapes on pp.320-321; shrub shapes on pg.355]. Also refer to Chapter 6 Visual Properties of Plants pp.85-109 in Robinson, Nick (2004). The Planting Design Handbook. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.

They always forget these guys! Palm shapes: Solitary trunks or clumping sorts or branching sorts; Leaf shape: fan (palmate) or divided (pinnate, bipinnate) or fish-tail shaped leaves, etc. [JS drawings]

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 26


NOTE: Reid always includes the VERY IMPORTANT ground line in these sketches.


Reid, G.W. (2002). Landscape Graphics. New

York: Whitney Library of Design.

[pp. 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 140, 141]

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 27


In art and her related applied design fields, colour

has been designated as having broad groupings

such as warm colours (reds, yellows, oranges)

and cool colours (blues, greens, violets), and

neutrals (creams, beige, browns, greys).

Black and white are colours outside these sets.

Scientifically, black is the absence of light while

white is the presence of all light waves.

"In colorimetry, the MUNSELL COLOR SYSTEM

is a color space that specifies colors based on three

color dimensions: hue, value (lightness), and

chroma (color purity). It was created by Professor

Albert H. Munsell in the first decade of the 20th

century and adopted by the USDA as the official

color system for soil research in the 1930s."

Another common categorisation of the colour

spectrum concerns 12 colours: primaries (red,

yellow, blue), secondaries (orange, green, violet)

and tertiaries (red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow

green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet).

Except, the 'double split complementary' set is

usually called OPPOSITE and they tend to 'clash'

(make your eyes pulse)! For example: red green

As designers, we borrow from scientific

understanding, technological developments and art

theory to use colour that best fits our purposes:

to invoke moods, provide social meanings, draw

attention, mask or hide things, inform, beguile,

entertain, and so on. Colour is awesome!


Jekyll, G. and Bisgrove, Richard (2001 [1909]). Gertrude Jekyll's Colour Schemes for the Flower Garden. London: Frances Lincoln.

Lloyd, Christopher and Hunningher, Erica (editor) (2004). Colour for Adventurous Gardeners. London: BBC Books.

Meadows, Keeyla (2010). Fearless Colour Gardens: The Creative Gardener's Guide to Jumping Off the Colour Wheel. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

Platt, Karen (2000). Black Magic and Purple Passion: Dark Foliage and Flowers for the Garden. Sheffield: Karen Platt (Black Tulip Publishing).

Platt, Karen (2005). Silver Lining: 2400 Silver Plants for the Garden. Sheffield: Karen Platt (Black Tulip Publishing).

Platt, Karen (2005). Emeralds: 1000 Green Flowers and 500 Choice Green Foliage Plants. Sheffield: Karen Platt (Black Tulip Publishing).

Platt, Karen (2004). Gold Fever. Sheffield: Karen Platt (Black Tulip Publishing).

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 28


There are many opportunities in planting design to

include patterns, chiefly in the arrangements of

groups of plants. The most common way to

classify arrangements is by degree of regularity.

Precise, regular, often symmetrical, often linear

arrangements are provided by grids. Grids are the

fundamental approach used by farmers, orchardists

and foresters to achieve maximum crop coverage

and yield. Similarly, French urban parks are famous

for their square grids of trees with clay-sand mulch

understorey (effectively these are groves). Mass-

planting herbaceous plants is often arranged in an

alternating pattern that is really a triangular grid

that ensures all the ground is covered with no

pesky gaps.


Irregular planting arrangements are more difficult

to set-up and look 'natural'. True randomness

includes plants too close and far apart and that is

hard NOT to correct! Australian garden designer

Edna Walling (1895-1973) was famous for

achieving this wild randomness.

For more:

RANDOMNESS (Edna Walling's idea):

1. Select your open space (e.g. lawn area) where

you want to plant some randomly grouped

trees (e.g. birches or crepe myrtles or gums).

2. Get some potatoes, an uneven number, and put

them in a bucket.

3. Toss out the potatoes across the open space.

4. Wherever the potatoes land (even if they are

VERY close together), plant a tree.

It also works for BULB planting in lawns, and then

let them naturalize (spread). Mind you, you have

to be pretty strong in the upper body to heft the

potatoes out a good distance!

Generally, repetition of motifs = PATTERN.

This is achieved by the use of lines, shapes,

textures and colours. Here are two ways to

classify patterns: (not the only possible ways, mind


Dimensional patterns (using Euclidian

geometry) namely, 2D, 3D & 4D

Natural patterns (including branching systems,

spirals, hexagonal systems and fractal


EUCLIDIAN GEOMETRY and dimensional patterns:

2 DIMENSIONAL = shapes, for example…


triangular ▲ ► ▼ ◄ ◊ ∆



combinations ◙

3 DIMENSIONAL = volumes (forms), e.g.…

cuboid / prismatic

pyramidal / prismatic

spherical / tubular / drum



Euclid was an ancient Greek mathematician who

lived in Alexandria (Egypt) 3rd century BCE.

Motloch (2001,147) describes the four types of

Euclidian geometry as: rectilinear, angular, circular

and composites of these. A designer utilizes these

geometries singularly or in combination, along with

the ordering mechanisms of the visual arts to

create successful and interesting schemes.

Different human cultures attach distinct emotional

characteristics to these geometries. See if you

agree with Motloch's descriptions of emotional

associations to geometries.


Rectilinear 2D shapes and 3D forms have

the right angle (90°) as the determining

component. Squares and rectangles are flat and

two-dimensional. Cubes and some prisms are the

solid forms of these. Motloch (2001,147) describes

3 visual forces inherent in rectilinear geometry:

horizontal lines, vertical lines and right angles.

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Angular 2D shapes and 3D forms have a

smaller (acute angles) or greater (obtuse

angles) angles than the right angle (90°) as the

determining component. Equilateral triangles are

based on three 60° angles and three equal sides.

Triangular prisms are the solid forms of this

geometry. Motloch (2001,148) describes 3 forces

in angular geometry: point, radiating lines and

angles. He maintains that acute angles generate

energy – intensifying and increasing the dynamic

qualities – while obtuse angles "convey a

controlled, subdued, or refined energy."


Circular 2D shapes the perfect roundness of

the circle and includes the 3D forms sphere,

drum or cylinder. Motloch (2001,149-150)

describes four inherent forces in the circle: the

generative point, the arc, the radial forces, and

right angle where radials meet arcs.

4 DIMENSIONAL = time & movement, for


movement through space:

e.g. fast or slow, smooth or jerky,

up/downwards...changes & events over


solar patterns (day & night)

lunar patterns (over month)

seasonal patterns (over year)

generational patterns etc.

Natural Geometry Patterns

The mathematical principles on which nature's

patterns are based can be useful tools and insights

for designers of all sorts. Designers are interested

in both the structural patterns (frameworks, load-

bearing systems, arrangements of parts) and the

decorative aspects (colouration and surface

patterning). However, we designers usually make

use of the findings of the scientists who have

provided the detailed understanding and measuring

of these systems and patterns.

Biologist D'Arcy Thompson (1860-1948) first

published his influential book On Growth and Form

in 1917 and it still remains relevant today –

although there have been enormous advances in

understanding the workings of the natural world

and the variety of species within it. While this

work is naturally important to biologists,

mathematicians and other scientists, it also

intriguing to designers. With the growth of

Modernism in the post-WW2 era, and efforts to

remove 'style' from 'good design', the lessons that

Nature offered seemed particularly tempting as a

source of ideas. Many introductory texts for

designers in 1960s and 1970s were full of

references to organic forms and natural

geometries. However, Nature's solutions to

problems of structure and arrangement remain of

interest in the 21st century for all sorts of reasons,

including recent explorations regarding the use of

metaphor and the fascination of Chaos and Gaia


Contemporary designers and scientists use the

term BIOMIMICRY to describe learning from

nature's design solutions (and patterns).

Start with: and TED talk:


Benyus, Janine M. 2002. Biomimicry: Innovation

Inspired by Nature. New York: HarperCollins.

The following brief discussion of natural patterns

includes: branching systems, spirals, hexagonal

systems and hydraulics. Without digging into the

complex mathematics too much, the inspiration

for designers is often in the visual arrangement, so

illustrations have been incorporated here.


= Bifurcating linear patterns!

Trees and their leaves

River systems (whole sets of catchments, from

the tidal mouth to the smallest creek)

Blood circulation in some animals, e.g. humans

and other mammals

Some forms of lightening or other electrical


[Colorado River system image: Rowland 1971:80]

[Tree branches image: Rowland 1971:80]

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(found in plants and animals and beyond)

Curvilinear patterns! True spirals have the same

radius of curvature, such as the helix or the screw.

Equiangular spirals have a radius of curvature

that increases (based on the Fibonacci number

series) and are the most common form of spirals

in nature. They include:

Pinecones and pineapples

Flower centres in the Compositae family


Shells (sea-shells –nautilus, cone, etc.)

Horns of some goats, sheep, etc.

Some microscopic creatures, e.g. Radiolarians

Galaxies of stars!

[Radius of curvature images: Thompson 1971:177]

[Nautilus image: Thompson 1971:173]

[Haliotis Image: Thompson 1971:186]

[Sheep's horn image: Thompson 1971:209]


Snowflakes (or water crystals) are based on the

six-pointed star that is comprised of 6

angles of 60° each (= 360°).

Bee's honeycomb cells are based on a

hexagonal prism – very strong and very


Some rocks form around hexagons – basaltic

prisms, or some semi-precious gems

[Bee cells image: Thompson 1971:109]

[Radiolarians image: Thompson 1971:168]

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Liquids in action! Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated

by the flow of water and drew sketches from

observation. Slow-motion photography described

the action of things that occur too fast for the

human eye to perceive – and has been used by

advertisers ever since! Fountain designers are the

artists of water while hydraulic engineers and their

scientific understanding of water, save our cities

from floods and storm run-off damage. Consider:

Flows: swirling, curling, surf, tides

Drops and splats

Bubbles and froth

White noise or tabletop trickles and Feng Shui!

Source: Flow Diagram from Chapter 4 in Mollison, Bill 1988. Permaculture: A Designers'

Manual. Tyalgum, NSW: Tagari Publishers.


Using the expression 'natural' pattern can be tricky

when you consider the reliance nature has on

maths! She has a particular fascination with the


[0,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55, etc.) which is the basis of

the GOLDEN RATIO. This sequence is created

by adding the previous numbers.

Le Corbusier's 'Modular' Man proportion is based

on the Golden Ratio (see below).

ISO paper series comes close (at 1: 1.414 or

2) but not exactly the same.

The GOLDEN RATIO (aka Golden Section,

Golden Mean) is described with the Greek letter

Phi (upper case Φ) and is expressed as 1: 1.618 or

Ratio is another word for proportion to designers

and artists and the Golden Ratio has been used by

designers since the Ancient Greeks. The principles

of the Golden Ratio were described in detail by

Renaissance scholar Luca Pacioli in De Divina

Proportione (1497). For more: Livio, M. 2002. The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the

Extra Ordinary Number of Nature, Art and Beauty.

London: Headline.

FRACTAL GEOMETRY is a phenomenon that is

based on replication at every scale (or

thereabouts). The Mandelbrot Set is an example

of this self-similar patterning. Another classic

example is the Koch snowflake, a fractal that

begins with an equilateral triangle and then replaces

the middle third of every line segment with a pair of

line segments that form an equilateral "bump". Both

Mandelbrot and Koch sets are perfect (self-similar

at every scale).

Koch Snowflake (first 4) & 2 sizes tessellation

(See for nifty

illustrations and descriptions.) In nature, fractals

display self-similarity typically only within finite

scale ranges. The branching and spiralling patterns

mentioned previously are mostly fractal (self-

similar) as well.

Best ever explanation for all Fibonacci

maths that doesn't frighten mathophobes

like me is 3-part video series by VI HART:


Close-up of succulent

Aeonium tabuliforme showing multiple

spirals that reflect

Golden Ratio and the

Fibonacci series.


wiki/Golden_ratio ]

= means equal.

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If sight has been discussed, then that leaves the

other four basic senses of smell, sound, touch and

taste to consider. We will present some

fundamental ideas about these sensual

characteristics and urge you to find sources that

provide examples of plants with these traits.

Lists of plants with certain characteristics are

useful resources for plant selection. They can be

positive for certain sensual characteristics or

negative. Apart from fragrant plants, it is actually

difficult to find such lists in the literature. We

should concoct a few! Never-the-less, here are

few things to ponder.


This is the most commonly considered sense apart

from vision. It has huge potential for pleasure,

because even human noses are hardwired to our

brains and create strong reactions. Most plant

books will provide lists of fragrant plants, but don't

forget to find out WHEN and WHAT is fragrant.

Often the flowers are the source of fragrance (to

do with attracting pollinators, but we humans get

turned on as well)! But when are the flowers

around? That is the thing to be aware of well. I'm

writing this in November and I have true jasmine

flowering (Jasminum sambac 'Grand Duke of

Tuscany'), particularly stronger in the cool of the

evening when the breezes are slight so the smell

stays put. However, back in August-September

with late Winter, the Jasminum polyanthum (pink

jasmine) was flowering and heralding the Spring. In

between these times was Trachelospermum

jasminoides (star jasmine). You can see the

succession of smells!

Apart from flowers, foliage is another source of

fragrance. Thus, lovely scents are emitted when

people brush pass plants along a path. Most plants

in the LAMIACEAE family have lots of oils in their

leaves that smell, for instance, most Salvias will

provide a spicey smell but basils are even better.

The most drought tolerant is the perennial basil

(Ocimum gratissimum). The other king of smells is

Tagetes lemmonii (tree marigold) which is VERY

fragrant when touched smelling like lemons and


It is also important to remember that many people

have allergies and flower pollen can be a problem,

especially from acacias and grasses. There is also

variation between people's likes and dislikes with

fragrances. One person's fragrance is another's

pong, such as Magnolia figo (syn. Michelia figo)

called port wine magnolia or Banana magnolia (the

old stinky sort)!

Some plants smell awful because they are seeking

to attract insects that like the smell of rotting flesh

or faeces! The worst of these are fungi (all the

stinkhorns) and the Aroids with attitude (carrion

flavoured ), e.g. Titan arum (Amorphophallus

titanum). Landscape designers don't usually deal

with these plants (and fungi) but imagine a

commission by a botanic garden to create a

collection of them! The need there might be to

contain each smell so they did not mingle! We

could call such a collection a VOMITORIUM!












I will confess to being a fondler of plants! Maybe I

rub leaves to get the fragrance but the touch

feedback is another pleasure again. Have you ever

stroked a huge glossy Monstera delicosa leaf? Or

felt the fur on Senecio cineraria 'Dusty Miller'?

Some flowers have touch appeal, such as roses and

gardenias and even the fuzzy flower heads of

grasses such as Pennisetum.

The bark on tree trunks and branches are also

touchable! Old varieties of Lagerstroemia indica

(crepe myrtle) and Eugenia uniflora (Brazilian

cherry) have lovely smooth satiny bark. The rough

barks of old Callistemon trees and ironbark

Eucalypts are not exactly pleasurable to fondle but

they are interesting and make great places for

epiphytes to cling to!

The other thing to remember about touch is that

it may not be for pleasure purposes that humans

touch plants. I use strong branches of small trees

to hold like grab-rails to steady my lack of balance.

These favoured branches become like reliable

sturdy friends and mark my interactions with place

and plant. Touch is important for human well-


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Then there is the negative side of touch. Avoiding

prickles and thorns is very important especially

when designing for children, the very elderly and

infirm. Refer to the problem plant section for


Touch should not be equated with texture.

TEXTURE is the VISUAL surface quality of works

of art and design.


Now there are some very subtle things happening

with plants; some of them make windchimes!

Bamboo is renowned for its whispering. A writer

in the Queenslander newspaper described this

phenomenon as "the susurrus of the sleepless

bamboos imparts an irresistible pleasing

drowsiness to the nerve" ('The Sketcher', "The Brisbane

Botanic Gardens" In Queenslander, 8 April, 1876, 12). Another group of whispering plants are Casuarina,

especially Allocasuarina equisetifolia (coastal she-

oak). And of course, mass planting of ornamental

grasses can make for a fine rustling sound in the

wind. Rattling pods on some trees can be more

annoying than pleasurable, e.g. Albizia lebbeck

(woman's tongues tree)!


Plants for food are discussed separately under

'sustenance' but apart from productive gardens

and landscapes, there is nothing to stop a designer

including tasty plants amongst ornamental

schemes. Common mint Mentha viridis (or any of

its relatives) and parsley (Petroselinum crispum var

crispum) are great plants to steal tips and refresh

the mouth!

Lastly, become aware of the problem plants to be

sure you don't use them in the wrong

circ*mstances. There is more written about

problem plants later in this section.

We could argue that plants can offer all sorts of

sensual character to a design, beyond being visually

interesting or offensive! Forgetting that a plant

gives off a disgusting smell would be a grave

mistake if that plant was positioned near an eating




When we design, matters of philosophy, beliefs,

and other intellectual intentions also come into

play. Similarly, cultural values, social meanings,

personal and community identity are important

factors influencing the client's wants and our


Sacred Plants

Some plants have great significance to various

established religions, and some are commonly

valued, such as the sacred lotus. Here is a sample:

Nelumbium speciosum Sacred lotus ... (EgyptAsia)

Ficus religiosa Peepul ...... (to Buddhists & Hindus;)

Kigelia pinnata ............................ (in Tropical Africa)

Melia azedarach .................................................. (India)

Nandina domestica Sacred bamboo (China & Japan)

Ocimum sanctum Sacred basil ................. (to Hindus)

Plumeria acutifolia Temple tree .................................

................................................. (to Buddhists & Hindus)

Myrrh Commifera spp. ............................... (in Bible+)

Frankincense Boswellia carterii ............... (in Bible+)

Landmarks (as points of identity)

There are a number of trees with a distinctive

form that are visible kilometres away. These can

be especially prominent in flat plateau landscapes,

which made Araucaria bidwillii (bunya pines) a

favourite homestead marker inland on the east

side of Australia.

RIGHT: Mature feature trees (bunya pines) at

Cressbrook Station, the homestead of the earliest

holding in the Brisbane Valley (established 1848).

Source: Hogan, Janet 1978. Building Queensland's

Heritage, Richmond, Vic: Richmond Hill Press, 52. [Richard Stringer photographer]

LEFT: Sometimes form is made stranger by the effects

of wind or bifications of trunks, e.g. the forked hoop

pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) located at Cleveland

Point is used by seafarers in Moreton Bay as a vital

wayfinding device. (JSim 2006)

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Social Status or Botanic Obsession

Some people make gardens to show their wealth,

and similarly there are public parks and gardens

that seek status appeal. Such private gardens are

typically 'designed' in whatever is the most

fashionable look at the moment somewhat like

interior do-overs. For the gardening cognoscenti a

prestigious garden might be a replica of

Sissinghurst's White Garden (think classic beige

interiors), lots of clipped hedges and being

selected for the Open Garden Scheme! So as a

designer aware of current trends, you would be

able to talk fashion statements with your client!

Recent finds from the wild are often in the true

collectors must-have list, e.g. foxtail palm

(Wodyetia bifurcata) and Wollemi pine (Wollemia

nobilis). Of course, after the true enthusiasts,

these same plants can be symbols of status for

some. Other collectors specialise in plant types. It

would be a real treat to work with an expertly

knowledgeable client to design their garden or

arboretum. Imagine the collaborative rewards!

SOURCE: Druse, Ken 1996. The Collector's Garden.

London: Clarkson Potter.

Intellectual Investigation/ Declaration

Dignitaries, royalty and celebrities have been

known to plant trees to mark a point in time and

their lofty presence in certain places. The selection

of species (and specimen) is critical and depends

on the circ*mstances. Seek advice from arborists

and horticulturists to be sure your selection will

be suitable. Politicians' requests have to be

countered with sound scientific knowledge if they

try to insist on planting Quercus robur English oak

trees in Brisbane (they do not do well here)! On

the other side of this category would be

intellectual teases (mazes and labyrinths) and

experimental planting. For example, from the

1970s in Queensland, many native plant

enthusiasts began planting up their backyard with

rainforest plants to create Rainforest Gardens, an

innovative wild garden form yet to be truly

recognised by garden historians.

Healing and Refuge There is an increasing amount of research

supporting the benefits of gardens for soothing

troubled souls, especially the sick and the elderly.

Healing Gardens should be mandatory for all

hospitals and care facilities. Consider doing some

serious searching in the available literature and be

amazed! These effects can be both psychological

and physiological. Rather than specific plants here,

it is plants in a garden with various facilities (like

sitting spots, universal access paths and handrails)

and typically designed in collaboration with users.

Most home gardens can become a refuge, with

even a small courtyard providing privacy and

peace. Ideas about simplicity and elegance (instead

of bold, cluttered designs) are typically important

in refuge situations. Another name for such places

is Meditation Garden. Then again, the sociability of

community gardens can be a safe refuge of another

sort, freedom to mix with different people and

enjoy life and yummy food plants and pretty

flowers. One beautiful flower can be soothing to

an upset heart. SOURCES: Cooper Marcus, Clare and Marni Barnes 1999.

Healing Gardens Therapeutic Benefits and Design

Recommendations. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Cooper Marcus, Clare and Naomi A. Sachs 2013. Therapeutic

Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing

Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces.

Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Memory and Identity

Of course there are personal markers of memory

which may be requested by clients, but some are

linked to community memory associations, such as

red poppies (Papaver rhoeas) and rosemary

(Rosmarinus officinalis) for remembrance.

Paper poppies, Roll of Honour at Australian War

Memorial, Canberra.

Since ancient times this aromatic herb has been believed to

have properties to improve the memory. Perhaps because of

this, rosemary became an emblem of both fidelity and

remembrance in literature and folklore. Traditionally, sprigs

of rosemary are worn on Anzac Day and sometimes on

Remembrance Day, and are usually handed out by Legacy and

the RSL. Rosemary has particular significance for Australians,

as it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula.

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Another tradition in European Christian countries

is to plant evergreen trees in cemeteries – making

a connection between heavenly paradise after

death and where one is 'planted'. In Europe, yews

(Taxus baccata) are favourites because individual

specimens are known to live a thousand years.

Yew is over 1600 years old; Le cimetière d' Estry

(Calvados, France), 2011 [Wikipedia commons]

Floral Emblems There are plants declared as national floral

emblems which are community identity markers.

Australia: Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha

Vic ........ Common Heath Epacris impressa

Tas ......... Tasmanian Blue Gum Eucalyptus globulus

ACT ...... Royal Bluebell Wahlenbergia gloriosa

SA .......... Sturts Desert Pea Swainsona Formosa

WA ....... Mangles Kangaroo Paw Anigosanthos manglesii

NT ......... Sturts Desert Rose Gossypium sturtianum

Qld ........ Cooktown Orchid Dendrobium phalaenopsis

NSW ..... Waratah Telopia speciosissima

Queensland Government Tourist Bureau (1940), Brisbane:

Official Guide Book to the Capital of Queensland.

Brisbane: Queensland Government Tourist Bureau

We could argue that many instances of landscape

design using plants mean more than the sum of the

parts. They are imbued with human purpose and

connections. Never judge a book by its cover. All

gardens and landscapes have meaning.


Plants provide humans (and our animals) with

food, fibre, fuel or many other useful resources.

Botanists traditionally have categorised these

valuable sorts of vegetation as economic plants.

Agricultural enterprises are founded on economic

plants and many secondary industries are only

possible because of these living resources. They

also offer a splendid sustainable set of renewable

resources! What have economic plants got to do

with landscape architectural design? We reckon

our design sensibilities have an enormous potential

in this area that has been largely ignored up to

now. Imagine being part of a team that designs a

farm or a forest! Initial contributions in this area

include thinking of the street trees, public parks

and home gardens as a collective 'urban forest'

that requires collaborative management. This idea

is very strong in many large municipal councils

these days.

Let's look further in this genre of planted

landscape. As landscape forms and systems,

agriculture contributes to the countryside or

regional cultural landscapes. Smaller scale

productive enterprises contribute to the peri-

urban, suburban and urban landscapes. Community

gardens and city farms are increasing the food

supplies and helping to strengthen social groups

into successful networks. The backyard vegetable

and fruit garden is regaining popularity with

ordinary private citizens, conscious of making

sustainable lifestyle opportunities that include

good health and wellbeing.

And finally at the detail scale, organic horticultural

approaches offer so many opportunities for design

that are good for people, the environment and

economies, that the new term to use overall is


expanding quest for a sustainable human existence

on our Earthship has opened all sorts of

opportunities for mixing up planting design

functions and outcomes. We can decrease city

'heat-sinks' by increasing the vegetation while

providing food or other sustenance at the same

time. This is the age for planting designers to really

get creative and think outside the traditions of

singular use or superficial visual styles. It is a very

exciting time and full of heart-warming hope!

The following lists are a start at understanding

something about the number of uses people have

Brisbane City floral

emblem = Poinsettia



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found for plants. There is a specialisation called

ETHNOBOTANY that seeks to learn about plants

used by traditional cultures. Science is still finding

secrets in old forests and in old cultures.



(for animals that we eat)

• PLANTS for BEES (to make HONEY)





• BEVERAGES and other edible products

Major HUMAN FOOD plant families:

GRAMINAE (grass family)

– cereals, wheat, rice, maize, sugarcane


– melons, cucumbers, squashes, gourds


– legumes, peas, beans, pulses


– apples, pears, plums, cherries, almonds,

apricots, raspberries, blackberries

CRUCIFERAE (mustard family)

– green vegetables (brassicas), cabbages

PALMAE – coconut, date, sago, oil palms


MUSACEAE – bananas


– potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum, chillies

PLANTS THAT MAKE BEVERAGES: China Tea .................. = Camellia sinensis var. sinenis

Indian Tea ............. = Camellia sinensis var. assamica

Carob ............................................ [Ceratonia siliqua]

Coffee ............................ [Coffea arabica, C. liberica]

Cocoa/Chocolate .......................... [Theobroma cacao]

Cola ...................................... [Cola acuminata] seeds

Camomile (tea) ...................... [Chamaemelum nobile]

Chickory ................................... [Chichorium intybus]

Guarana ......................................... [Paullinia cupana]

Kava ............................................. [Piper methysicum]

Sugar cane .......................... [Saccharum officinarum]

Palm-sugar ............................... [Arenga saccharifera]

Sugar maple .................................... [Acer saccharum]

Beet-sugar ........................................... [Beta vulgaris]

Rice ...................................................... [Oryza sativa]

Sago palm ...................................... [Metroxylon sagu]

Coconut milk/cream ........................ [Cocos nucifera] Plus fruit juices!! And plants that are distilled to

make alcohol (e.g. vodka from potatoes, gin from

juniper berries, and wines from grapes).


Learning from Australian indigenous people, so

many new foods are being explored derived from

local plants. Many of these plants are beginning to

be farmed commercially for the growing gourmet /

foodie markets and further developed by nursery

owners to create newer, stronger better forms.

These are exciting times!

Here is a small collection:

Macadamia spp.(nut)

Podocarpus elatus Brown pine ('nut')

Araucaria bidwillii Bunya pine ('nut')

Backhousia citriodora Lemon myrtle (flavouring)

Citrus australasica Finger limes (fruit)

Syzygium australe Lillypilly (fruit)

Tasmannia lanceolata Mountain Pepper Berry

Solanum centrale Bush Tomato or Desert Raisin

Acacia victoriae Wattle Seed

Rubus probus Atherton Raspberry

USES of PLANTS (not as food)!

Botanists call all these "economic plants".

(bad) POISONS ! to humans & animals

(good) DRUGS!




(fibres & beads for weaving, twining, sewing)

DYES for colouring fibres or paint




There are further useful plants described in

factsheet 11 USEFULS.pptx > PDF.

SOURCES: Lewington, Anna 2004. Plants for

People. 2nd revised edition. London: Eden Project

Books / Random House. [first edition is 1990]

Low, Tim 1991. Wild Food Plants of Australia. 2nd

revised edition. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Australian Native Food

Industry Ltd.

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 37


We have discussed so many things that plants

provide to human beings that are good, helpful and

even wonderful, but we need to be aware that

sometimes they can be problematic. Remembering

all the characteristics of plants is important when

designing and selecting plants. While most plants

are not intrinsically dangerous, they may be

inappropriate in certain circ*mstances or certain

seasons. No one wants children endangered or

pets harmed by plant toxins. Similarly, at certain

times of the year, some plants provide trip hazards

if not groomed appropriately. In these instances,

the key is to know what to expect when, select

appropriately and maintain accordingly. Apart from

the moral issues, canny landscape managers know

the realities of legal implications of endangerment

and damages. Designers need that same

pragmatism and sense of responsibility to be

inherent in their design decisions about plants.

These sorts of problem plants are described in

further detail in these 3 factsheets – they have

even more of the important relevant online

sources noted:

Poisonous and Toxic Plants

Be careful as plant managers and designers.

ntre/plants_fungi/keysymbols.asp [Nov2014]

Factsheet 08 TOXIC.pptx > PDF

Physical Hazards

Dangerous plants to humans are often exhibiting

defence mechanisms that evolved to protect the

plant from grazing animals! Chemical defences

include poisons, toxins, bitterness taste while

mechanical defences include spines or thorns or

prickles! Other problems for humans come from

slip hazards (dropped slippery fruit or leaves) or

drop hazards (falling heavy fruit like coconuts).

Factsheet 09 DANGEROUS.pptx > PDF

Weeds, Pests & Diseases

WEEDS = a plant in the wrong place ! Authorities

have classified weeds as either:

Invasive species

illegal species

noxious species.

Weeds of National Significance (WONS)!

animals-ants/weeds [Nov2014]

Factsheet 10 WEEDS PESTS.pptx > PDF

These factsheets are starting points only and are

not intended to be totally comprehensive.



We have devised a set of terms for archetypes in

an effort to help students of planting design

understand the possible sorts of outcomes that

commonly occur. You can see these terms are a

combination of functionality and visual character

and growth habit.

FEATURE SPECIMEN : Visual stand out due to massed/bold/colourful

flowers, leaves or other distinction, e.g. Delonix,

Jacaranda, Crepe Myrtles, Hoop Pine

SCULPTURAL FORM : Visual stand out due to interesting or weird form

e.g. Dracaena marginata, Agave, Yucca, bamboo

WINDBREAKING : Capacity to tolerate wind while dense foliage

means the lee side is protected, e.g. larger

Grevillea, Hawthorne, Melaleuca pallidus,


HEDGING : Hedges are comprised of shrubs/small trees that

tolerate pruning to keep a regular shape, typically

with small leaves, e.g. many Syzygiums, Murraya

paniculata, Duranta repens, Acalypha compacta

SHRUBBERY / filler : Collations of shrubs (plus possible small trees and

herbaceous plants) that are loose and irregular

compared to hedges; interweaving and mingling of

plants typical, with mixtures of leaf shapes, colours

and sizes, e.g. Acalypha wilsonii, Mussaenda,

Eupatorium megalophyllum, etc.

EDGING : A small height plant placed in a line along the edge

of a bed or border that makes a mini-hedge

boundary; clumping habits very useful here, e.g.

Mondo grass, Liriope, Zephranthes and pruned


GROUNDCOVERING : Plants used enmasse (either mixtures of species or

a single species) to cover the ground in a bed or

border, typically low height up to 1m; spreading,

intermingling habits most effective, e.g.

Philadendron 'Xanadu', Dianella, Variegated Star

Jasmine, Erigeron karvinskianus

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Planting Design Sourcebook WHAT PLANTS CAN DO FOR HUMANS 38

Dense SHADING : Typically trees that provide shade underneath

their thick canopies, mostly all year; thus creating a

'Shade Bath' when extremely dark and cool, e.g.

tropical evergreen fig trees, many Rainforest trees

Dappled SHADING : Typically trees (sometimes vines) that provide

shade under a light canopy or defoliated deciduous

trees/vines (seasonal situation), e.g. most gums are

open canopied, Crepe Myrtles in winter, Delonix


EMERGENT / Silhouette : Tall and interesting forms (trees or palms) that

rise above surrounding canopies or are used along

a ridge by themselves making distinctive

eyecatchers, e.g. hoop pines, bunya pines, tall


Are these terms helpful or are they too

generic? Please let us know what you think.

For more descriptors of planting design terms,

forms and ideas, refer to the GLOSSARY at the

end of this document.

Old Brisbane Botanic Gardens (2009):

emergent Araucaria cunninghamii hoop pine;

hedging of Callistemon 'Great Balls of Fire'; and sculptural

form with verticals with Polyalthia longifolia Indian mast



Plants are AWESOME!

But… we designers are

responsible for selecting the

RIGHT plants for the RIGHT

spot, otherwise they are


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Planting Design Sourcebook MANAGING INFORMATION 39



Getting to know plants is like the most delicious

wallow in chocolate mousse! Except you never

feel sick afterwards because you ate too much.

We find that discovering another plant or finding

out some new bit of insight about a familiar plant is

a joy that is addictive. However, if you don't

develop clever strategies to keep up with new

information, you will quickly sink and drown. This

section is about some of the strategies you can use

to keep up-to-date and in control of potential

information overload.

The other important reminder here is the phrase:

use it or lose it!

If you don't keep your memory primed with names

and plant data, your mind will place it far away in a

remote section that gets dusty, brittle and then

falls apart. It is like trying to remember a person's

name that you have just met. You need to get

those memories laid down properly and securely

and then keep visiting them to keep them alive.

Keeping alive the passion!

Or is that obsession? Engagement with plants is

the key here: keep it alive and thriving! There are

many ways to do this and maybe gardening is not

needed, but we really think it is for the best

results! Playing with plants feeds your inner

curiosity and can feed your tummy! Start

gardening, however small and you will be

rewarded exponentially and continually.

Visit other people's gardens. Look over fences

when you take your dog for a daily walk. Visit well

designed public parks and well labelled botanic

gardens. Seek out historic gardens and

contemporary masterpieces while travelling

abroad and locally.

Observing gardens, landscapes and the whole

natural world is wonderfully therapeutic and very

conducive to reflective practice. Being in the

landscape physically makes a huge difference in

your understanding and the application of

knowledge and experience to design and


Many landscape architects are avid bush-walkers.

Many horticulturists visit open-gardens for the

same thrill and awareness. Some folks do both

sorts of plant appreciation. Experiencing the actual

plants will always trump remote access through

books and magazines or the Interweb. However,

the real experience should be supplemented with

factual research to get all the data you need for

design decisions and creations. Hence, there is the

need to organise your data and your physical


Where once we would recommend a hand-

written journal to record plants that you meet or

observe, nowadays, even a smart phone can help

you write a name and a comment or take a

photograph. Or maybe you find a combination of

tradition and new gadgetry is the winner. The key

is then to organise these bits of data so you can

retrieve them later.

Contemporary technology has made reflective

practice part of a public realm; blogs and other

social media can be very useful if managed sensibly.

We have found a few of really good gardening /

plant appreciation blogs but this is a volatile area

so we make no assurance that the sources are still

current! Checkout Factsheet #01C "Webs of

Worth" for more.

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Planting Design Sourcebook MANAGING INFORMATION 40

If you are actively gardening, then you must keep a

garden log and/or plant acquisition list. Computer

software that help with such databases includes MS

Access but that is no standard on Windows Office

so using the widely available MS Excel is

recommended – or the equivalent Apple product.

Such digital records enable long term record

keeping and analysis. If you include data about

plant growth problems then such a record is even

more useful. Many designers like to grow new

plants themselves before inserting them in a

planting design for a client.

Keeping up-to-date &


If you want a truly INSPIRATIONAL VISUAL and

INTELLECTUAL FEAST: Tom Lenigas set up a

great Tumblr site that just keeps growing, since

August 2009!

Blogs and newsletters from reliable sources are

excellent sources of the latest news. Some Friends

of Botanic Gardens groups are useful here as well.

You never know when taxonomists will reorganise

the Myrtaceae family! And in the future, more

threats will probably occur just as we found Myrtle

rust or fire-ants in recent years. Commercial plant

production means new varieties and species

available annually. There is a lot of new

information coming in and this will build on the

important foundations laid in your university

studies and beyond.

The key to making sense of all this data is learning

to discriminate between unreliable, derivative,

superficial sources and the tried and true. We will

supply you with the basic indispensable sources, so

you can keep that list growing.

Cultivate your own plant data garden!

Establishing and using a professional library is most

advisable and acquisitions are tax deductible! We

have prescribed several textbooks for DLB320

Landscape Horticulture and that is intentional. We

consider these books to be with you for your

entire career. The list of references for this

Sourcebook is another indication of the breadth of

publications available. Even more are selected for

Factsheet #01A. Buy wisely and avoid the

"fashion-hacks"! Good places to visit and read

these textbooks are our QUT/GP library, Brisbane

Botanic Garden Library (Mt Coot-tha) and Qld

State library. Then decide which ones you can't

live without and buy! Books are awesome!

In addition to these traditional sources of

information there is the ever growing resources

found on the Internet and websites of public

libraries. Factsheet #01C captures some of the

most reliable of these online sources, but

essentially you should seek out the official

government websites of agricultural and

environment departments, as well as big botanic

gardens that have a large research/science agenda.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture)

prepared and administers the Plant Zone system

but also has a gigantic database on plants.

Agricultural departments create useful technical

sources about water, soils, weeds and more and

sometimes it is useful to compare their sites, e.g.

compare NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

The other invaluable sources are created by

specialist plant groups, such as the Society for

Growing Australian Plants, Brisbane Rainforest

Network, Palm and Cycad Society, and Bromeliad

Society, UK's Royal Horticultural Society (RHS),

and so on. Some of these amateur enthusiasts are

so knowledgeable that botanists refer to them!

Some large commercial nurseries also maintain

useful websites rich with plant-data and

increasingly some include social media to get users'

feedback. Some favourites are listed on Factsheet

#01B. This feedback is particularly useful when

experimenting with plants in new locations or new

plants generally.

Learning from other cultures about their

traditional plants that might also be grown here is

particularly useful. Australia's current brilliant

foodie repute is due to the fusion of cultures (and

foods) we have gathered in our society and the

spirit of adventure that says 'give it a go'!

Community Gardens that contain many cultural

groups are wonderful learning places. They often

include wise elders among our Australian society,

like grandads and grandmas with decades of

experience of growing particular plants in the

same climatic situation. Learning from others by

word of mouth is rewarding to all concerned.

Continuing such hard-won knowledge is a

responsibility and a joy.

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Planting Design Sourcebook MANAGING INFORMATION 41

Some useful sources include [access check

November 2014]:

• BCC local government



• Australian City Farms and Community Gardens

Network –

• Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance –

• Brisbane Organic Growers Incorporated –

• Brisbane Local Food –

• Open Garden Scheme –


Keeping data manageable

& accessible

Everyone has different capacities for organisation

and neatness. Some of us are cursed with clutter

because we gather too much. In the end, you have

to find your own comfort zone AND be efficient.

That means sufficient gathering of data that is

accessible. Ultimately there will be a mixture of

sources and technologies: books, magazines, your

own records, apps, blogs and websites.

Some essential tips for managing plant data:

Get a few really good hardcopy publications

that you know will be constantly used. These

are the basis of your professional reference


Keep your best journals and magazines sorted

together in chronological order using magazine

holders. Keep their indexes if provided.

SubTropical Gardening Magazine has bundled

many back issues into CDs which is very space

efficient. There are other publications available

on CD, e.g. Cordyline Society's booklet.

Most journals are available digitally today so

that saves room and we all pray that the

"CLOUD" will survive forever with our

subscriptions intact!

Keep a catalogue of your reference library:

invaluable when you decide to buy a new book

only to realise you already have it or that a

friend has borrowed it and not returned it.

You can also justify this as a part of your

contents' insurance and for replacement


Storing brochures, fliers, nursery pamphlets

and handouts all in one place (e.g. a big ring

binder) is useful. Typically, I keep hardcopies

and digital copies if possible.

Similarly, brochures and handouts that are

digital should be kept in one place (plus

backup!), such as a USB devoted to plants and

gardening: name it PLANT DATA for easy

recognition. You can keep your garden

database / log and plant photographs on this

USB as well.

Keep any plant tags (those plastic labels) you

get from personal garden purchases, but they

can be tricky to sort into logical groups for

future access. Remember they have data on

both sides so you can't stick them down on a

page! Using clear (no glue!) photographic

albums is one way to keep back and front

visible and enables sorting the pages into

groups that might reflect the garden beds

where the plants are growing.

Establish your own set of plant profiles and

planting lists. Again, these should be saved

digitally and in hardcopy form: in your PLANT


Collect images of successful planting schemes,

either from the Internet, magazines or your

own photographs. Similarly, Expand your

library to include published books on specific

collations of plants, focused on foliage, colour,

microclimate, etc.)

When you are designing, all this data is available

for you to peruse. You can actively research a

particular plant or go searching by ambling through

the images and get inspired that way.


Find your own comfortable and

effective strategies to keep and

acquire data about plants.

Reflective practice helps with

maintaining and increasing

design skills and remembering

plant data!

And you might find your career

is connected to professional

blogging about plants and

planting design!

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Planting Design Sourcebook PLANTING DESIGN DRAWINGS 42





Plonking plants anywhere on a site, without a

design prepared beforehand, usually comes back

and bites you, even in a small domestic garden.

Some garden and park managers may seem to

operate without reference to a plan, but the best

of them have the design intent etched on their

minds and follow through on a daily basis.

For professional designers, drawn designs are a

vital mode of communication to use with clients,

government officers, other consultants and

contractors. However, we use a different graphic

language for convincing a client or our professional

colleagues compared to informing a landscape

contractor what to plant where.

There are several key publications to help you

learn graphical languages for the different stages in

the design process. Former staffer at QUT Glenn

Thomas compiled his SAD book about Site

planning in 2002, which contains lots of examples,

especially of site appraisal, concept and sketch

design stages. The other mainstay reference is by

Grant Reid called Landscape Graphics. Although it

has an old fashioned hand-drawn feel to the

drawings and a temperate climate/USA bias

regarding plants, it has some great basic truths and

ideas. You might also like to review the other

American publication that has been around for

decades: Booth and Hiss 2011 (the sixth edition!);

still relevant to graphics discussion despite focus

on residential design.

This section is about learning skills that help us

design as well as help communicate with others

about our designs and our decisions or rationale.

Landscape architects vary our landscape design

drawings generally, and for planting designs.

(1) Site Appraisal Plans

Typically, we begin with a plan that describes what

exists on site: the SITE SURVEY. This gives us the

important size, character and conditions of the

place. For planting design we must know what the

soil is like, the microclimates or shade or sunny

areas, wet, boggy areas or dry wind-ravaged areas.

We need to know what is already on site,

including built structures and existing vegetation,

and extent. We need to identify what that

vegetation is, especially if it is weedy or showing

signs of damage and distress. Even if the land has

been cleared of everything down to the subsoil,

we need to research what the local indigenous

vegetation would have been. This will help us

make decisions later in our design process.

(2) Functional Diagrams

We can draw to help us design: making sketches

(plans and sections) of our multiple attempts to

bring all the threads together. These can be very

rough and quick and are not intended to be

readable by anyone but ourselves. We often begin

with diagrams that describe broad functions,

trafficways or problems like eyesores or potentials

like glorious views. These are called


Thomas, Glenn 2002. S.A.D. = Sustainable and

delightful : a designer's guide to sustainable site

planning. Brisbane: School of Design and Built

Environment, QUT.

Available from QUT Library as online electronic


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Planting Design Sourcebook PLANTING DESIGN DRAWINGS 43

(3) Conceptual


Next we start the sketching of possible outcomes,

the CONCEPTUAL DRAWINGS. These kinds of

drawings can be very diagrammatic as well. They

can be very useful to show clients to capture the

essence of a scheme, but they don't attempt to

show detail. They are the visualisation of the big

design intent you have settled on. Sometimes we

use 3D models to express these ideas as well.

(4) Sketch Design


Next we start making the intent fit the site, so

understanding the scale and orientation of the

place is vital. These drawings are called SKETCH

DESIGNS but are still comparatively loose and full

of character. We can even make models to show

the three-dimensional character and conditions of

design ideas. At this stage, we start listing the

preferred plants in a plant schedule which can be

used as part of the legend. Once we have a final

solution, or perhaps a couple of options, we can

work up the sketch designs to be more evocative

for the client. Colour rendering is typically at this

stage and depictions of people in sections and

three-dimensional views are useful to get the client

to understand the scale of your design ideas.

(5) Implementation


Finally, all the decisions have been made and the

client agrees and we've checked the plants are

available. So now we start producing drawings that

will communicate to the landscape contractor

exactly what plants go where. We used the term

WORKING DRAWINGS in the past. Now we use


(which includes drawings and written

specification). There will be further information in

the specification about our expectations as the

designer. The planting design drawings at this stage

are very simple and should be easy to read. The

final planting schedule should contain the vital data

that is needed for purchasing the right plants and

in the right number.

In previous years, the designers would tally the

required number of plants to ensure we got good

coverage and the right size of plant. Some

professional offices now recommend listing just

the spacing required and letting the contractor

tally up the required number of plants.

Designing on paper or on

the ground

The standard professional way to approach design

and decision making is to capture the results as a

plan, or similar mode of representation. The idea

being that this becomes the contractual document

that guides landscape contractors who implement

the design on the ground. Time and experience

has shown this is the best way to go in most

circ*mstances. However, as a practicing gardener,

the immediacy of responding to dynamic

landscapes includes designing without paper.

When to apply the on-ground design approach

takes critical judgement. It could be easily part of

the regular maintenance regimes of pruning,

weeding, and perennial management, where

replacement infilling of gaps in beds and

shrubberies are needed.

As a guide, if the on-ground design includes major

changes such as the placement of paths or lines or

groves of trees, or repopulating an entire garden

bed/border, then you need to go back and make

decisions recorded on paper BEFORE

implementing on ground, even if you are your own

client/user. The main concern is that changes to

the original design need approval from the

client/user before they are carried out. Some

design ideas maybe difficult to describe on paper,

especially if there is some clever maintenance

regime required to make the design a reality. Most

likely, the solution is a combination of traditional

representation plus written notes or specification.


Graphical representation of

ideas, especially landscape and

planting designs, comprises a

range of communication

purposes that require

appropriate and variable

languages to be successful.

Getting the right language for

the right purpose is vital!

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Planting Design Sourcebook CONCLUSION 44


Putting together all the ideas examined in this

Sourcebook contributes to finding a personal

planting design process.

The most experienced designers, horticulturists

and gardeners know that we never stop learning

about plants. Never ever! New ones are

developed by skilled propagators and botanists find

new ones in the wild.

There are so many plants in the world and only

one lifetime, so we stand on the shoulders of all

the passionate 'phytophiles' that have preceded us

and extend the knowledge for the next generation.

Lifelong learning is the key to understanding

Landscape Horticulture. And as Thom Lenigas, said

so passionately, plants are awesome!

Ficus benghalensis (banyan) aerial roots battling through precious 1860s cast iron railings = contested conservation

values! Old Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Alice Street boundary.

(JS 2003).

More Information: DLB320 FACTSHEETS (for 2015)

factsheet 1A REFERENCES

factsheet 1B NURSERIES

factsheet 1C Webs of Worth

factsheet 02 OBBG sample

factsheet 03 OZ ICONS

factsheet 04 OLD FAVS

factsheet 05 palm bamboo

factsheet 06 cordylines

factsheet 07 broms succs

factsheet 08 toxic

factsheet 09 dangerous

factsheet 10 weeds pests

factsheet 11 useful

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Planting Design Sourcebook REFERENCES 45

REFERENCES Refer to the illustrated version in Factsheet #01

which also has reliable Internet sources and

recommended magazines and journals.

Adams, C.R., Early, M.P. and Bamford, K.M. 2008. Principles

of Horticulture. Fifth Edition. Oxford: Butterworth-


Adams, Charles, Early, Mike, Brook, Jane and Bamford,

Katherine 2015. Principles of Horticulture: Level 2.

Abingdon/New York: Routledge.

Austin, Richard L. 2002. Elements of Planting Design. New

York: John Wiley & Sons.

Beck, Travis 2013. Principles of Ecological Landscape

Design. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Booth, N.K. and Hiss, J.E. 2012. Residential Landscape

Architecture: Design Process for the Private Residence,

6th edition. Boston: Prentice Hall.

Brickell, Christopher (ed) 2010. RHS Encyclopedia of Plants

and Flowers. London: Dorling Kindersley.

Capon, B. 2005. Botany for Gardeners. London: Timber Press.

Chen, Gang 2012. Landscape Architecture: Planting Design

Illustrated, 3rd Edition. Irvine, CA: ArchiteG Inc.

Clarke, I. & Lee, H. 1998. Name That Flower, Melbourne:

Melbourne University Press.

Dickson, Gordon & Murphy, Kevin 2007. Ecosystems, 2nd

edition. London: Routledge.

Dunnett, Nigel and Hitchmough, J.D. eds 2004. The Dynamic

Landscape. London: Spon Press.

Gardening Australia 2004 [2003]. Flora: the gardener's bible,

2nd edn. Willoughby, NSW: Global Book.

Harden, G., McDonald, B. and Williams, J. 2006. Rainforest

Trees and Shrubs: a field guide to their identification.

Nambucca Heads, NSW: Gwen Harden Publishing.

Hitchmough, J.D. ed 1994. Urban Landscape Management.

Sydney: Inkata Press.

Hobhouse, Penelope 2004. Plants in Garden History. London:


Jellicoe, G. and Jellicoe, S. (1995). The Landscape of Man. 3rd

ed. London: Thames and Hudson.

Jones, David L. 1996 [1984]. Palms in Australia, 3rd edition.

Port Melbourne: Reed Books.

Kuck, Lorraine E. and Tongg, Richard C. 1960 [1955]. The

Modern Tropical Garden: Its Design, Plant Materials

and Horticulture. Honolulu: Tongg Publishing

Leiper, G. et al. 2008. Mangroves to Mountains (Revised

Edition): A Field Guide to the Native Plants of South-

east Queensland. Brisbane: Logan River, Society for

Growing Australian Plants (Qld region)

Lesczynski, N.A. 1999. Planting the Landscape: A

Professional Approach to Garden Design. New York:

John Wiley.

Low, T. 1991. Wild Food Plants of Australia, Australia: Angus

& Robinson.

Mabberley. D. J. 2008. Plant-Book: portable dictionary of

plants, their classifications and uses. Cambridge: CUP.

McMaugh, Judy 1994. What Garden Pest or Disease is That?

Sydney: New Holland.

Nelson, William T. 2004. Planting Design: A Manual of

Theory and Practice, 3rd edition. Champaign, IL: Stipes


Oakman, Harry 1990 [1975]. Tropical and Subtropical

Gardening, 2nd Edition. Milton, Qld: Jacaranda.

Ogden, Scott and Ogden, Lauren Springer (2008). Plant-

Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants,

Place, and Spirit. Portland: Timber Press.

Olin, Laurie 1988. "Form, Meaning, and Expression in

Landscape Architecture," Landscape Journal 7 (1).

Read, I.G. 1994. The Bush, Sydney: UNSW Press.

Reid, G.W. 2002. Landscape Graphics. NY: Whitney Library

of Design

Robinson, Florence Bell 1940. Planting Design, Whittlesey

House Garden Series. London: Whittlesey


Robinson, N. 2004. The Planting Design Handbook, 2nd

edition. Aldershot: Ashgate. [revised 2nd ed. 2011]

Ryan, Michelle 2003. Wild Plants of Greater Brisbane,

Brisbane: Queensland Museum

Scarfone, Scott C. 2007. Professional Planting Design: An

Architectural and Horticultural Approach for Creating

Mixed Bed Plantings. New York: Wiley.

Sim, Jean C. 2012. Design basics: an introduction to

rudimentary design ideas and sources. Available at

Simonds, John O. & Starke, Barry. 2006. Landscape

Architecture : A Manual of Site Planning and Design

4th Edition. Blacklick, OH: McGraw-Hill

Smith, K & I. 1999. Grow Your Own Bushfoods, Sydney: New

Holland Publishers.

Spencer, Roger and Lumley, Peter 2007. Plant names: a guide

to botanical nomenclature. Melbourne: CSIRO

Thomas Christopher Editor 2011. The New American

Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable

Gardening. Portland: Timber Press.

Thomas, Hilary and Wooster, Simon 2008. The Complete

Planting Design Course. London: Michael Beazley.

Thompson, Paul 2002. Australian Planting Design. South

Melbourne: Lothian.

van Wyk, Ben-Erik 2005. Food Plants of the World: An

Illustrated Guide. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

Walker, Theodore D. 1991. Planting Design, 2nd edition. New

York: John Wiley & Sons.

Wöhrle, Regine Ellen and Wöhrle, Hans-Jörg 2008. Designing

with Plants. Basel: Birkhäuser.

Young, Chris editor 2013. The Royal Horticultural Society

Encyclopedia of Garden Design. London: Dorling


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Planting Design Sourcebook APPENDICES 46



For landscape designers, we often think in short

cuts about plants, which is why many design

schemes are reduced to three sorts of plant

groups: trees, shrubs and groundcovers.

However, we can learn from botanists to see a

wider range of types, e.g.

[Above: Bailey 1885,vi & below: Hill 1875, xi]


Plant formations in Australia (Read 1994,31):

Freshwater Wetlands

Coastal Heath

Tidal wetlands

Dunes & Headlands

Open Shrublands /spinifex understorey*


Closed/Open Scrub & Heath

Open Woodlands


Open Forests

Closed Forest (Rainforest) tropical or temperate

Alpine Herblands


* = has wide open spaces


Read, Ian G. 1994. The Bush: A guide to the vegetated

landscape of Australia. Sydney: UNSW Press.

Broad Vegetation Groups in Queensland


Broad vegetation groups (BVGs) are a higher-level

grouping of vegetation communities. Queensland

encompasses a wide variety of landscapes across

temperate, wet and dry tropics and semi-arid to

arid climatic zones. Broad vegetation groups

provide an overview of vegetation communities

across the state or a bioregion and allow

comparison with other states.

SOURCES: Bailey, F.M. 1885. Catalogue of Plants in the Two Metropolitan Gardens, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Bowen

Park…, Brisbane: Government Printer.

Hill, Walter 1875. Catalogue of Plants in the Queensland Botanic

Gardens. Brisbane: Government Printer.

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Planting Design Sourcebook APPENDICES 47


Here is my version of plant forms with examples

of the sorts of plants that would be found in

Queensland. This checklist of plant forms is

arranged under three basic plant sorts: trees,

shrubs and groundcovers.



e.g. Eucalypts


e.g. Brush box

Columnar (top point) e.g. Cook Island

pine(if very narrow = Fastigiate)

Columnar (blunt top)



e.g. Liquidambar, blue spruce


e.g. Poinciana


e.g. Weeping Willow


e.g. Cedar of Lebanon


e.g. Banksia



e.g. Crotons


e.g. Sacred bamboo Rounded

e.g. Westringia Open

e.g. Hovea, Leptospermum


e.g. Bougainvillea, Spiraea Irregular/twisted

e.g. Banksia, Poinsettia

Tufty / spikes

e.g. Yucca, Pandanus

Speading / horizontal

e.g. Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon'

GROUNDCOVER [herbaceous]

Upright / bushy / large e.g. Strelitzia,

Musa, Alpinia, Dracaena, Philodendron


e.g. Gazania, bromeliads Carpet

e.g. Erigeron, native violet

Clumping / rosettes

e.g. Canna, Agave, Aloe, Clivia

Tufty / spikes

e.g. Liriope, Dianella, ornamental


Vertical climber/twiner

e.g. wisteria, creeping fig Horizontal trailing

e.g. Star jasmine, Monstera


If you can think not all plants fit easily into this

categorisation, then you are wise! There are

epiphytes like Staghorn and Elkhorn ferns that are

not readily slotted into the herbaceous

(groundcover category) since they want a tree

trunk or wall as a growing location. The category

Upright/bushy/large is for non-woody specimens

like Strelitzia nicolai or bug shrubby gingers!

What about the traveller's palm

Ravenala madagascarensis? Looks

like a solitary tree when it is

managed that way, but check the

rapidly expanding clump in the

OBBG near the top pond. Planted

in about 1960 it is wild (unpruned

for decades) and may yet take

over the world! Image: .

BTW Botanic Gardens Conservation International

has Ravenala as its very gorgeous logo:

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Planting Design Sourcebook APPENDICES 48


Other ways horticulturists and gardeners describe

plant types are according to their origin and their



Exotic Plant: originally evolved in another


Native Plant or Indigenous Plant:

originally evolved in this country (e.g. Australia)

Endemic Plant: specific location of origin locality

known (maybe limited to area) (e.g. Fraser Island

or Lamington Plateau)


Evergreen = long lived, keeping leaves in winter

Deciduous = long lived, shedding leaves in


Perennial = moderate/long lived, herbaceous

Biennial = 2-3 years of life, herbaceous

Annual = short lived, herbaceous

Pioneer = 5-8 years lifespan as cover


disturbance to permanent


TAXON (singular), TAXA (plural)

= general term for a taxonomic unit (one part of

the system) e.g. species, variety.

HIERARCHY (from big groups to smallest units):





Just to give you a fright here are some factoids:

There are over 1235 taxa within the OBBG!

RHS Plant Finder 2004-5 lists 75,000 plants; Aussie

Plant Finder 2004 lists a mere 35,000 plants

available from local nurseries!!! And Wikipedia

estimates 300,000-315,000 plant species

altogether in world!


Summary of possible plant uses or purposes:

EDIBLE fruit / foliage / roots [which?]

FORAGE food for animals






SHRUBBERY / filler




Provides dappled SHADING

EMERGENT / silhouette value

Toxic REMEDIATION (filtering)

Attracts BIRDS


DANGER: thorns, prickles

DANGER: heavy drops of fruit, cones, fronds

DANGER: slip hazard fruit / nuts

DANGER: toxic / poisonous

And ? … what else ?

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Planting Design Sourcebook GLOSSARY 49

GLOSSARY These are terms commonly used in planting


ARBOUR: small gateway or shelter or bower over a seat, often an archway framework covered with plants (e.g. creepers).

AVENUE (Allée French, similar): 2 parallel rows of trees, typically with a pathway between the rows; variations include double rows of trees on both sides of path as in fig trees in Hyde Park, Sydney.

BED: garden bed for cultivation of plants (mostly herbaceous plants, groundcovers and shrubs); comes in several forms, see massed and mixed beds/borders.

BORDER: garden bed of plants, usually linear in form, often at the edge of a space or beside a path.

Plan view BORROWED LANDSCAPE: including the plants and landforms over one's boundaries within the visual limits of one's own garden thus visually extending the boundaries.

BOSCO (Italian) and BOSQUET (French) plantation of trees regularly arranged (on a grid) e.g. two plantations of Harpulia pendula at QUT/GP.

CANOPY: tree or large shrub foliage overhead, that can range from very dense (closed) or dappled (open); Cover used more for smaller shrubs/ groundcovers.

CARPET BEDDING: (bedding out) seasonal display of low-growing plants, often small succulents to form patterns of colours and foliage; plants propagated in glasshouses ready for outdoor transplanting when all frosts are over. Mosaïculture Fr. very short/fine carpet bedding.

CLIMBING PLANT: various means of reaching great heights: twining stems, sucker discs, tendrils, hooks or trailing stems; can be trained over arbours, archways, banks, pillars, pergolas, walls, fences etc.

CLUMP: Grouping or massing of trees or shrubs within a larger area of lawn or pasture; Guilfoyle made glorious subtropical clumps at RBG Melbourne.

CLUMPING HABIT: plant with several stems (bamboo has culms) arising from one root mass (alternatively, running bamboo); thinning out required after several years e.g. herbaceous perennials

COMPARTMENT: A distinct area within a garden sometimes fenced or hedged; a room (Symes 1993,37).

COMPOST: yum! decomposed dead plant and animal matter that provides food for living plants by enriching soils; ultimate in recycling materials and dealing with waste. Aerobic composting is odourless, processing material runs hot and fast (weeks or less); anaerobic composting is smelly, runs cool and slow (months).

CONIFER: gymnosperm (no flowers; has cones); e.g. pines, cypress, cycads, etc.

CONTAINER PLANTING: planting receptacle not the ground e.g. using pots, urns, planters, hanging baskets, window boxes and podium planting is really a large scale version of container planting.

COPPICING: woodland trees that are cut to near ground level every few years and then grow again from the stool for another crop. Part of traditional European forest management regimes.

COPSE: variant spelling of coppice; a woodland managed this way

DRIFT: elongated bold sweep of massed planting (often the same species/variety).

Plan view

ECONOMIC PLANT: botanists term to describe a plant that provides a useful product e.g. food, fibre, drugs, dyes

EPIPHYTE: plant that grows on another plant, but is NOT a parasite (does not take nourishment from host plant) e.g. many ferns and orchids!

ESPALIER: usually a fruit tree trained into a flat fan or other shape against a wall or fence to maximize space & crop DBH: tree trunk diameter at breast height; 1.3 or 1.5 m from ground

EDGING: planting (or hard landscape) marking the outer edge of a bed, often low height (150-450mm)

FORMS OF PLANTS: Weeping (habit if branches hang downwards), dwarf (short version), standard (main plant grafted on rootstock which forms pole-like trunk or pruning one plant to form lollipop on a stick)

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Planting Design Sourcebook GLOSSARY 50

FOREST: In Australian usage, a natural plant formation that has taller trees (with varying canopy closure from closed to open) and varying understorey planting.

GLADE: opening or clearing in a wood/forest (open space surrounded by plants)

GRAFTING: The inserting of a small part of a plant (scion) into a full plant (stock). (Symes 1993,59); vegetative propagation of plants typically one for root stock and one above that provide best flowers/fruit; can have many grafts on top creating space saving trees with multiple types of fruit (same genus).

GROVE: grouping of trees usually of the same sort; bigger than a clump, more like a mini-wood, set within grassland/paddock so it has a distinct visual grouping.

HARDWOOD tree: Hardwoods are not necessarily harder than softwoods. In both groups there is an enormous variation in actual wood hardness, with the range in density in hardwoods completely including that of softwoods; some hardwoods (e.g. balsa) are softer than most softwoods, while yew is an example of a hard softwood. The hardest hardwoods are much harder than any softwood. There are about a hundred times as many hardwoods as softwoods.[Wikipedia]

HEARTWOOD: dead old wood in the centre of a tree trunk; sapwood contains living tissue. Image source:

HEDGE: closely planted line of shrubs or small trees, usually of the same species/variety; often used as a physical and/or visual barrier; height can vary (short/tall).

TAPESTRY HEDGES comprised of different species for colour and/or texture effects.

STEP-OVER HEDGES: short ones (?400mm height). Maybe more likely to be trampled by visitors!

HERBACEOUS PLANT or Herb (botany sense): vascular plant with no woody material (secondary growth), typically ephemeral, annual or perennial duration.

HERBACEOUS BORDER/BED: mixture of plants, mostly herbaceous perennials & annuals, bulbs, etc., often with background permanent structure plants (hedges).

HERBLAND: In Australia, a plant formation without any woody plants; comprised of sedges, grasses, etc.

ISLAND BED: garden bed of plants in the middle of a lawn or paving; if contains mostly taller trees & shrubs, then better termed a clump in a visual sense; beds you should be able to see over and/or through an island bed.

Plan views

LABYRINTH: puzzle path (or meditation route) with single route through and no dead ends; can be made of plant hedges or built with multicoloured pavement. Classic Cretan Labyrinth

LAWN: ground covering with matting grass, mown short; large open spaces to small areas.

LIFTING A CANOPY: careful pruning of lower branches of trees or shrubs to reveal more trunk or provide head-room for pathways.

LITHOPHYTE: like an epiphyte but uses rocks or stony soil as host site instead of other plants.

MALLEE HABIT: multiple stems from a swollen woody base (e.g. several types of Eucalypts evolved as a fire survival adaptation); not strictly the same as a clumping habit.

MASSED BED/BORDER: single species or variety in a bed; much favoured by minimalists and Modernists.

MAZE: puzzle path with multiple routes through and dead ends; made with plant hedges of various heights; Hampton Court maze Solved using the 'hand-on-wall' method.

MEADOW GARDEN (Flowery Meads): mixture of grasses and herbage usually not mown (maybe once a year for fodder), changing with seasons, dying down in winter, self-seeding and growing anew in Spring.

MIXED BORDER OR BED: mixture of species, varieties and forms of plants (mingling, was term used in 19

th century)

MULCH: (1) inorganic (inert, like gravel or scree) or (2) organic (dead plant or animal materials e.g. sugar cane, lucerne or bark chips); ground covering material that protects soil from rain compaction, light penetration (thus preventing weed seed growth), insulates from heat/cold) AND may breakdown to feed soil of an organic mulch 75-100mm just right depth (too thin and too thick are problematic).

ORNAMENTAL PLANT: in botanist's sense, as distinct from economic plant, these are for decorative purposes

PALISSADE (Fr.) or Palisade (English): hedge of trees; Palissade á l'Italienne means the lower branches are pruned away leaving a hedge on stilts

PARTERRE: flat terrace adjacent a residence with regularly arranged hedges/edgings, garden beds, graveled areas and/or lawn to create decorative patterns, best viewed from above (e.g. upper floors or roof). Parterre de broderie Fr. very elaborate, curly (fashionable in France 17


th C)

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Planting Design Sourcebook GLOSSARY 51

PLEACHING: entwining, interlacing, plaiting etc. plants (even tree boughs) to form arbours or archways; usually a support trellis or frame is required, e.g. using hornbeam, beech, apples, pears, grapes, wisteria etc.

POLLARDING: heavy pruning back of trees to restrict height every year or 3-5 years; once common in European urban spaces and even Australia

POTAGER: Fr. ornamental vegetable garden particularly favoured in France; tends to mean a set of plants mature all at once instead of providing a sequence of supply of food; often a structure (e.g. non-productive box hedges) planting takes garden form through non-growing season.

PROCUMBENT PLANT: horizontally spreading plant or a lazy climbing plant!

PROSTRATE PLANT: spreading form, some layering or rooting from stems and others more woody that rarely produce ascending stems e.g. Juniperus horizontalis.

PRUNING (including Tip Pruning, Thinning Out, Deadheading, Opening Up): cutting back branches, leaves, or flowers to encourage new denser leaf growth, more light penetration into middle of plant or removal of spent flowers before fruit/seeds can be formed. Even native shrubby plants should be tip pruned to encourage more growth. Some fruit trees need defruiting (if not harvested already) before next flowering can occur.

QUINCUNX: planting arrangement of five plants to form a cross or a square with last one in middle; great way to display rare tulips in 16

th & 17

th centuries; as in five-spot on dice or cards

QUINCUNCIAL LOZENGE: planting arrangement that is really based on diamonds (joined equilateral triangles). Frontispiece to The Garden of Cyrus (Thomas Brown 1658).

RAISED BED: using walls or other built edgings (from 150mm to 1200mm height) to provide space to build up soil, improving soil composition and drainage, has easier access and less bending, etc.

ROCKERY, ROCK GARDEN: (a) Alpine Garden or (b) raised bed using rough rocks.

"Nature made perfect": William Soutter's bush-house design created near Bowen Park and around the Exhibition Building. Note epiphytes and rough stonework (rockeries). Source: The Queenslander, 15 May 1897, p.1066.

ROOTS, AERIAL: these roots are born above ground and can find their way to the ground. e.g. Banyan figs.

ROOTS, BUTTRESS: these are projections from the trunk of some rainforest trees that provide extra stability for tall trees in shallow soils e.g. Moreton Bay figs.

ROOTS, STILT OR PROP: above ground roots that support the plant e.g. Pandanus, corn.

ROOTS, AERATING (pneumatophores): enable gas exchange when plants are inundated, aka knee roots, e.g. Mangroves; swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) from Florida.

ROOTS (other – Bulb, Rhizome, Tuber, Corm): are various kinds of herbaceous plants that typically die down in winter (back to this underground part); some are climbing plants; some are not deciduous.

SAPWOOD: is the younger, outermost wood; in the growing tree it is living wood, and its principal functions are to conduct water from the roots to the leaves and to store up and give back according to the season the reserves prepared in the leaves [Wikipedia].

SCULPTURAL FORMS: Distinctive (eye-catching) plant forms e.g. agave, yucca, Draceana draco, Strelitzia, Gingers.

SHRUB: a woody plant usually not above twenty feet [c.6.6m] in height of which apical dominance is replaced at an early growth stage by lateral branching so that no single stem is dominant [Debenham, C (1971). The Language of Botany. SGAP]

Shrubbery: a garden bed that contains mostly shrubs, edging or groundcovers; can be effective medium sized spatial definer, but softer looking than hedge.

SHRUBLAND: In Australia, a plant formation that has shrubs as upper canopy (up to 8m height, varying from open to closed canopy coverage).

SOFTWOOD tree: The term softwood is used to describe wood from conifers. It may also be used to describe these trees, which tend to be evergreen, notable exceptions being bald cypress and larches. [Wikipedia]

SPECIMEN PLANT / TREE (aka feature plant): Single plant placed as a visual focus in a space or perhaps at the end of a vista

SUBTROPICAL BEDDING: term coined in 19th Century in

Europe to describe seasonal displays in garden beds of lush herbaceous plants from warm climes, e.g. Musa, pampas grass, Cordylines, palms.

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Planting Design Sourcebook GLOSSARY 52

SUCKERING HABIT: tendency for tree or shrub to sprout new stems/trunks from root mass, especially if roots damaged e.g. Lagerstroemia indica or Nandina domestica.

Topiary figures

TOPIARY: art of clipping and training trees and shrubs (esp. fine-leaved plants) into specific shapes (geometrical cones, balls, squares or figures of animals)

TREE: a woody plant that typically has apical dominance creating a single trunk, but may also have multiple trunks shooting from a shared root mass.

TRELLIS: constructed framework for supporting creepers or climbing plants, usually vertical, maybe used with horizontal frame (pergola). Elaborate ones Treillage (Fr.) or Trelliswork.

TUNNEL-ARBOUR: vaulted (or flat) roofed trellis over pathway to shape plants or support creepers thus recreating shady route; also used to grow vines with hanging flowers e.g. wisteria, laburnum or hanging grapes, gourds or cucumbers.

TURFED SEAT: special sort of raised bed that has grass (or chamomile) as ground over and thus creates a sittable 'upholstered' garden seat.

TURF WORK (Gazon coupé Fr.): when turf is cut away to create various decorative shapes then bare areas filled with sand/gravel; needs thin edging (plastic or metal strips) to keep grass from invading shape.

TUSSOCK: e.g. grasses, Liriope, etc.; tufty plants similarly shaped that can be massed as a ground covers or as a lineal edging or singly; large scale tussocks are better used as specimen plants or in lines as screens like hedges

UNDERPLANTING / UNDERSTOREY: planting under trees e.g. shrubs and groundcovers, generally part/shade tolerant

WEED (includes Invasive species): any plant that is in the wrong place! Some are so problematic to agriculture or protection of natural habitats that they have official government weed status and it is illegal to plant or grow.

WOOD (woodland): In Australia, woodlands are plant formations that can range from closed to open canopy coverage, but usually have shorter trees with distinct spacing between trees and often with grassland understorey (like a savannah)

XEROPHYTE: a plant that is adapted to low water situations, thus able to tolerate most droughts, e.g. many cacti.


Symes, Michael 1993. A Glossary of Garden History.

Princes Risborough, UK: Shire Books.

All images drawn or photographed by J. Sim except

where noted.

Source for coppicing, pollarding & suckering pics:

Rackham, Oliver 1995. The History of the Countryside:

the classic history of Britain's landscape, flora and

fauna. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Rackham, Oliver 2006. Woodlands. London:


The end


We want to plant a special tree to mark

50 years of landscape architecture education at


What native Queensland species

should we select?

And where should we plant it?!


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