24 Oct 2013

When I was a young apprentice gardener in England, working on a country Estate, it was evident all around me the surrounding countryside had all been landscaped as far back as the 16th century. The estate, where I learned my trade, was more than 400 years old, and, had itself, enjoyed the skilled hands of many a good landscape gardener.  The word Architect was used, but many architects were simply gardeners with a proclivity for design.  In fact, one of England’s most famous Garden Architects lived during the 18th century and was ordered to beautify England, county by county.  A decree by the monarch of the time.  The architects name was Lancelot Brown, otherwise known as Capability Brown.  England’s landscape had been denuded of trees for the building of a Navy, leaving the countryside barren.  So the King wanted it spruced up.  Capability landscaped vast acreages of land with trees, shrubs, paths and waterways. Now, he must have had an amazing knowledge of the habitats of plants in order to achieve all that he did over his lifetime.  In fact, he had to imagine the final results of the view hundreds of years into the future; because the landscape would only come into its full glory long after his death!

The same knowledge can be attributed to parks designers of landscapes like Hyde park and the many urban parks in and around our land.  Emulating nature is the key!  Yet, designing it to the scale befitting its natural surroundings is the goal.  For example, in college I was given a design task on the 7th year of my apprenticeship, and I was asked to project the design 15, 50, and 100 years into the future in order to prove we knew about the growth habits of the plantings we were to use.  This principle is what a good landscaper will use when designing any size garden and should be adhered to faithfully!  If you are wanting the garden, you live with, not become unmanageable in five or so years; trees should be thoughtfully placed in a space where they have enough room to enhance the garden, without blocking all of the light.  Privacy screens should be the same.  Every landscaper I have met has his or her own niche and all of the successful ones have taken the time to really learn what is proportionate and what the growth habits of the plants they choose are.

Nowadays, with modern horticulture,we can take advantage of the technology that allows us to have dwarfed or slow growing trees and shrubs that fit into our space.  Such advancements, however, are not always as reliable as one may think.  I have seen Mugo pines (a dwarfed species) grow 8 to 10 feet when left unchecked, completely ruining the scale and proportion of the original gardeners intended design.  Modern landscape architects have many more tools of the trade to work with, but eventual size is still a very important consideration for them when adding plants to a landscape structure.  So, remember, when going out to the nurseries and purchasing those lovely items that are on sale at this time of year,its all about the eventual size.

Have fun with it.

DD

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