For any who missed my seminar at Futurescape, here is a brief summary of my main points.
To begin with, here are some easy definitions of some of our industry jargon.
Green urban infrastructure: the science (and art) of trying to squeeze plants into places otherwise dominated by concrete and tarmac. It goes beyond individual measures and sites to provide a linked-up approach to drainage, biodiversity and many other considerations over a wider area.
Ecosystem services: all the million functions plants provide that help to solve our physical, mental and environmental problems which we should be taking advantage of.
Ornamental: beautifying, cosmetic, without function.
I don’t think anyone would argue with the idea of a beautifying landscape, but I do want to challenge the idea of any plants being entirely without function.
Sometimes this ‘function’ makes people think of wild or scruffy looking spaces that are not aesthetic at all, but it doesn’t have to be one or the other, it’s just about finding clever ways to maximise the performance of your planting and not missing out on opportunities.
and the building users as well. How are you going to reduce surface water runoff? Is the site prone to flooding? What are the biodiversity targets and habitat action plans?
And, to take this a step further, do you have options to use planting on the buildings themselves rather than restricting yourself to traditional ground planting? This crossover between edifice and landscape is sometimes problematic if you have them entirely separated from one another, but the point of environmental problems is that they cover all parts of the site.Looking at the site’s needs together with all the possible solutions, you’ll get an idea of what the most important or useful ones are and can then prioritise. How will these fit together in your scheme? Are there extra costs? Will a wildlife roof help to compensate for an extremely manicured lawn? Will a rain garden help reduce costs of other water management measures and gain you extra planting budget?
Once you are aware of how important your sustainable planting measures are to the whole site’s performance, you have something very valuable: if anyone should look you in the eye and say “sorry, we’ve had to cut your landscape budget because we spent too much on the windows, and the planting is just the cosmetic finish to the site” you are armed with evidence of how your landscape is really contributing to how the whole site functions. The fact that it happens to look spectacular too is just a bonus.