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Un giardino lungo come un fiume
(You may want to read the English version after this Italian one)

Testo pubblicato in Garten Land NRW 02/2017

The second edition of the EGHN-Magazine is likely to be published in April 2017. The thematic focus will be on “art and culture in parks and gardens”. The “View from abroad” on North Rhine-Westphalia will be written by an Italian landscape architect.

Una riva d'erba, un fiume grande, cavalli sdraiati al sole, una fontana barocca, una lago, un bosco, una stella tracciata nel bosco, una fabbrica, carbone, un prato fino, un tronco senza vita, un campo di grano, uno stagno-specchio, una torre, la corte di un castello, un tiglio dentro la corte, il suo profumo riempie l'aria -sono in viaggio- esco di nuovo alla campagna e poi ancora al bosco, sono arrivato dove il fiume Reno comincia ad aprirsi al mare. Sono lontano da casa mia.

Sono venuto dall'Italia per visitare alcuni giardini della Renania del Nord, guidato da un amico. Tutto ciò che mi passa davanti si fonde nell'immagine di un unico giardino dai contorni confusi che non voglio però ancora definire.

"L'apprendimento avviene per combinazione del nuovo con ciò che esiste già nella mente", così ci dice un amico a cena questa sera.

Nell'arco di una settimana scorrono davanti ai miei occhi 14 paesaggi diversi* che si combinano progressivamente l'uno accanto all'altro in un modo sempre meno confuso. Si combinano fino a creare una preziosa "palette" immaginaria di strumenti compositivi. Strumenti che escono dal loro spazio assegnato -i loro contorni si fondono- senza perdere la propria identità: ognuno di questi strumenti sfuma, forse, per affermare la propria riconoscenza all'altro. Strumenti compositivi che attraversano i secoli e mi raccontano la storia del giardino nella regione a nord del fiume Reno.

Aiutato da uno strano stato di sogno in cui cado ad ogni spostamento, dovuto al caldo di un'estate finalmente arrivata e al comfort dell'auto, confondo nomi e forme e, nonostante il fido quaderno di viaggio, mi accorgo semplicemente di passare da un habitat all'altro, da un suolo sabbioso ad uno argilloso, da un'insolazione totalmente aperta di un campo di grano, alla semi ombra di una stradina di campagna, e la campagna vasta che mi si apre davanti e i boschi fitti da cui tutti i giardini di questa regione sono nati e di cui sembra non possano fare a meno.

Sono in bicicletta ora e scopro il gioco delle spighe di grano dentro i pantaloni; la spiga messa sotto l'orlo dei pantaloni di un compagno; un gioco da bambini mi dice il mio amico Wolfgang; provo e mi grattero' per tutto il giorno: la memoria fissa un particolare insieme alla sua geografia. L'infanzia di altri, il paesaggio di altri dove spero di riuscire ad entrare. È un viaggio lungo alcuni secoli in un giardino grande quanto un'intera regione e ciò che è cominciato è il racconto di un'appartenenza.
Poco mi importano allora i nomi e le forme specifiche dei paesaggi che incontro, quando ciò che emerge agli occhi è una chiara permanenza di segni e una fedeltà ad essi dichiarata nei secoli.
Questo mi racconta molte cose.

I cavalli selvatici sono sdraiati sulla spiaggia del Reno, dormono accanto ad un gruppo di buoi che fa il bagno. Sono nel XXI secolo e per accorgermene li chiamo e li guardo mentre si svegliano e si raccolgono insieme per iniziare un nuovo gioco. Mai avrei pensato di cominciare da una spiaggia assolata...
Ma il punto è proprio questo: come introdurre la Natura nella "forma costruita" della tradizione artistica della nostra storia europea? Come aprire la necessità della forma del nostro creare, ad una natura che non sa tenersi (come potrebbe?) in una forma conclusa?

È questa la forma che nel tiergarten di Kleve era stata data alla collina creando una stella prospettica nel bosco per vedere le mosse dei cervi, forma che ora il tempo ha restituito alla Natura intessendo la sua stella insieme ai rami di splendidi faggi.

Una sfida è contenuta in quella domanda e tentare di dare risposte è la grande opportunità per creare laboratori di un nuovo paesaggio. Gli strumenti sono lì davanti.

Mi distraggo un attimo, sto pensando all'Italia. Troppo intenso è stato il Rinascimento nell'affermazione del valore della forma per consentire ai nostri occhi contemporanei un'apertura indolore della forma alla natura. La rappresentazione teatrale del potere si è espressa al suo apice nei giardini dei palazzi cinquecenteschi diffondendosi nelle infinite sue declinazioni nelle corti di tutta Europa per secoli. Insieme allo spegnersi dello spettacolo dei palazzi si è anche conclusa quella stretta fedeltà alla rappresentazione formale e la forma ha appreso a diventare un po' più disponibile ad aprirsi a ciò che non può contenere.

Fuori di quello spettacolo comincia la natura con la sua forza e la necessità, per noi, di conoscerla. Non è una lezione facile né tantomeno ovunque compresa. Per fortuna tra gli strumenti del fare paesaggio c'è la pazienza, quella necessaria a spiegare che la natura un po' selvatica non deve fare paura e che un'apertura ad essa fa cominciare un'opportunità grandiosa per la definizione di un paesaggio davvero adeguato alle sfide ecologiche, sociali, ed economiche della nostra contemporaneità.

Forse occorre imparare a seguire ciò che del rapporto con la natura più permane ed è più ricco di conseguenze. Penso alla mia tradizione culturale e penso che occorra apprendere da altri luoghi come seguire il filo rosso di tale rapporto e mi ritrovo di nuovo lungo il fiume Reno dove mi si apre alla vista la sfida meravigliosa dell'uso di spazi industriali abbandonati.

Cammino in parchi aperti dove la forma non fa in tempo ad imporsi e lascia il posto alle suggestioni che la natura incontra nel farsi spazio tra gli oggetti di un costruito abbandonato. Parchi che hanno imparato la lezione di nascere intorno a cose preesistenti senza arrogarsi il diritto di assumere senso alcuno al di fuori del proprio semplice esistere in qualità di spazi verdi laddove il passato era stato ostile alla natura. Saranno i cittadini poi a creare il parco con la loro presenza.

Ho la sensazione, per un momento, di una vicinanza in cui questi parchi si tengono, più di quanto forse si immagini, rispetto ai giardini di caccia nati due secoli prima per un bisogno di gioco e liberta' rintracciabile solo nella natura del bosco e anche rispetto ai parchi del IXX secolo dove già la forma non si presupponeva più come poco tempo prima. Kleve accosta una sensazione all'altra in pochi metri.

È questo il filo rosso. Una regione intera lentamente si è aperta alla natura, sfuggendo alla misura geometrica della forma nelle giornate di caccia a cavallo attraverso i tiergarten, e qualche tempo dopo, fermandosi sul bordo di un laghetto a guardare rispecchiarsi le novità d'oltre Manica, e infine giungendo ad insistere su un inutile accidente di ferro e cemento intorno al quale finalmente si e' in grado di aprire le porte al lato selvatico del mondo e firmare un nuovo patto con la natura.

Il viaggio sta volgendo al fine, il fiume scorre ad unire i boschi e la campagna, a rinnovarne quel senso e quella funzione che tiene insieme le città di questa regione. È lungo il fiume che trovo la fonte di ogni combinazione leggibile per gli strumenti della palette da cui nascono i giardini che ho visitato. È lungo il fiume che questi strumenti si manifestano quali permanenze nel territorio: sono quelle stradine lungo i fossi nella campagna, sono i filari di querce, i ruscelli, gli stagni, i boschi, il falco che attraversa il bosco di Alnus glutinosa, tutte figure di una familiarità che dal territorio non possono staccarsi e dal suo uso fedele apprendono a durare, con forme diverse, ma sempre segni costanti di un'appartenenza.
La ragione di tale fedeltà esiste; occorre mantenere viva la sua lettura per non perdere la strada.

Penso di aver fatto bene a svegliare i cavalli sulla spiaggia del Reno. Il mio amico Wolfgang mi ha fatto notare una cosa: i cavalli dormono anche sdraiati; non lo sapevo. Chi racconta che i cavalli dormono solo in piedi forse non ha conosciuto il giardino che nel sonno quelle rive aprono a chi vi si avvicina.
*
Rheinpark, Duisburg
Klever Gartenlandschaft, Kleve (EGHN)
Theetuinen, Millingen (NL)
Schloss Moyland, Bedburg-Hau (EGHN)
Sculpturpark Waldfrieden, Wuppertal (EGHN)
Nordsternpark, Gelsenkirchen (EGHN)
Maximilianpark, Hamm (EGHN)
Botanischer Garten, Münster (EGHN)
Aasee/Promenade, Münster (EGHN)
Haus Hüshoff, Havixbeck (EGHN)
Krickenbecker Seen / De Wittsee, Naturpark Schwalm-Nette, Nettetal-Hinsbeck
Garten Alst, Thorsten Matschiess, Brüggen-AlstNursery Höfkes, Kempen
Nursery Hortus, Peter Jahnke, Hilden



English version

A garden as long as a river
(translated by the sweetest Amelia Linsky)

Text published in Garten Land NRW 02/2017

The second edition of the EGHN-Magazine is likely to be published in April 2017. The thematic focus will be on “art and culture in parks and gardens”. The “View from abroad” on North Rhine-Westphalia will be written by an Italian landscape architect.

A grassy shore, a great river, horses basking in the sun, a Baroque fountain, a lake, a wooded grove, a perpsective star traced in the grove, a factory, coal, a thin lawn, a lifeless trunk, a field of grain, a pool-mirror, a tower, the courtyard of a castle, a lime tree inside the courtyard, its perfume filling the air - I am traveling.
I go out again to the countryside and then to the woods. I have arrived where the Rhine begins to open itself to the sea. I am far from home.

I came from Italy to visit certain gardens of the North-Rhine, guided by a friend. Everything that passes before me is founded in the image of a single garden, the confused borders of which, however, I still do not want to define.

Learning occurs through a combination of the new with that which already exists in the mind”, as a friend tells us at dinner that night.

Over the course of a week, 14 diverse landscapes* pass before my eyes, progressively coinciding, one then another, with an increasingly apparent logic. They combine until they create a precious, imaginary “palette” of compositional tools. Tools that come out of their assigned space - their borders melt - without losing their own identity: each one of these tools fades, perhaps, in order to affirm its gratitude toward its neighbor. Compositional tools that span centuries and that tell me the story of the garden in this region north of the Rhine.

Encouraged by the long-awaited heat of summer, and by the comfort of the car, I fall into a strange dreaming state at every relocation. I confuse names and forms and, despite my faithful travel journal, I realize only that I am passing from habitat to another, from sandy soil to clay, from the open sunshine of a grain field, to the half-shade of a country lane, and the vast countryside that opens up before me and the thick woods from which all the gardens of this region are born, and from which they cannot help but be born.

I am bicycling now and I discover the game of the climbing head of grain; if a head of grain is placed inside the hem of one's trousers, it will climb up to the knee and create an incredible itch! A child's game, says my friend Wolfgang; I tried, and I was scratching for the whole day: the memory fixes a certain totality within its geography. The childhood of others, the landscape of others where I hope to enter in. It is a voyage through centuries in a great garden, as much as a whole region, and what has begun is the story of a belonging. So then the names and specific forms of these landscapes do not matter that much, when that which emerges before my eyes is a clear permanence of signs and a faithfulness to them, declared through the centuries.
This tells me many things.

The wild horses are basking along the beach of the Rhine, they sleep beside a herd of oxen wading in the water. I am in the twenty-first century and to remind mysef of this, I call them, and I watch as they awaken and gather together to begin a new game. Never would I have thought to begin from a sun-drenched shore...

But this is exactly the point: how to introduce nature into the “constructed form” of the artistic tradition of our European history? How to open up the necessity of the form of our creation to a nature that knows not how to hold itself (how could it?) in a fixed form?

This is the form that in the Tiergarten of Cleves was given to the hill, creating a perspective star out of open spaces in the copse to reveal the movements of the deer, a form that now time has restored to nature, weaving its star together with the boughs of splendid beeches.

A challenge is contained in this question and the attempt to find a response is the great opportunity to create, to experiment in a new landscape. The tools are here before us.

I'm distracted for a second, I am thinking about Italy. The Renaissance had been too intense in its affirmation of the value of the form to allow our modern eyes to open easily to the forms of nature. The theatrical representation of power was expressed, at its apex, in the gardens of sixteenth-century palaces, diffusing its infinite variations into the courts of all of Europe for centuries. Along with the fading of the spectacle of these palaces, that strict faithfulness to formal representation was concluded; and the form learned to become a little more willing to open itself to that which it could not contain.

Outside of that spectacle begins nature and its strength, and the necessity, for us, to begin to know it. It is not an easy lesson nor yet understood everywhere. Fortunately, among the tools of landscape-shaping there is patience, necessary to explaining that nature that's a little bit wild should not inspire fear, and that an opening to it begins a great opportunity to define a landscape which is truly adaptable to the ecological, social, and economic challenges of our time.

Maybe it is necessary to learn to follow that which of our relationship with nature most persists, and which is most rich in consequence. I am thinking about my cultural tradition and I think that it is necessary to learn from other places how to follow the common thread of such a rapport, and I find myself again along the Rhine river, where the marvelous challenge of using abandoned industrial spaces opens up before me.

I walk in open parks where the form cannot impose itself in time and leaves space for nature's suggestions as it makes itself a space among the remnants of an abandoned building. Parks that learned how to grow around pre-existing things without presuming any sense whatsoever outside of their own simple existence as green spaces, there where the past had been hostile to nature. It will be the citizens, then, to create the park with their presence.

For a moment, I sense the nearness of these parks, more than that which perhaps one imagines, to the hunting preserves born two centuries ago of a need for play and for freedom retraceable only to the nature of the woods, and also to the parks of the ninteenth century, where already the form did not presuppose itself, as it had just a short time before. At Cleves, one sensation approaches another within a few meters.

This is the common thread. A whole region slowly opening itself to nature, fleeing the geometric measurements of form of the days of hunting on horseback in the Tiergarten, and some time later, stopping at the border of a little lake to view the new fashions in greenery reflected from across the Channel, and finally reaching the useless accident of iron and cement around which, finally, it is able to open the doors to the wild side of the world and to sign a new pact with nature.

The trip is reaching its end, the river runs to unite the woods and the fields, to renew that sense and that function that hold together the cities of this region. It is from the riverbed that every legible combination of the tools of the palette for all these gardens is born. It is along the river that these tools have engraved ancient signs in the territory: they are those lanes along which run the ditches of the countryside, they are the rows of oaks, streams, the ponds, the woods, the falcon that crosses the alder grove, all figures of a familiarity that cannot remove itself from the territory, and which learn to endure by faithful use of the land, with diverse forms, but always constant signs of belonging.
There is a reason for such faithfulness; it is necessary to keep reading this Reason in order not to lose our way.

I think that I did well to awaken the horses on the shore of the Rhine. My friend pointed out something to me: horses can also sleep lying down; I had not known this. Whoever says that horses only sleep on their feet has perhaps not yet met the garden which, in sleep, those shores open up to those who come by.


*
Rheinpark, Duisburg
Klever Gartenlandschaft, Kleve (EGHN)
Theetuinen, Millingen (NL)
Schloss Moyland, Bedburg-Hau (EGHN)
Sculpturpark Waldfrieden, Wuppertal (EGHN)
Nordsternpark, Gelsenkirchen (EGHN)
Maximilianpark, Hamm (EGHN)
Botanischer Garten, Münster (EGHN)
Aasee/Promenade, Münster (EGHN)
Haus Hüshoff, Havixbeck (EGHN)
Krickenbecker Seen / De Wittsee, Naturpark Schwalm-Nette, Nettetal-Hinsbeck
Garten Alst, Thorsten Matschiess, Brüggen-AlstNursery Höfkes, Kempen
Nursery Hortus, Peter Jahnke, Hilden





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a Wood called Claudio Abbado




Ready for Christmas 2015 the new born little Wood Claudio Abbado is glooming in the winter fog of my city Ferrara, Italy: pear, apple, quince trees and oak, acer, elm trees to embrace a vulnerable neighbourhood.
Here you will discover what it is all about.
(translated by the sweetest Amelia Linsky)


Thinking about “The Great Clod” by Albrecht Dürer
We are in 1503 and Dürer, at 32 years old, is painting some tall grasses.

Two years later, during his second trip to Italy, Dürer is in Ferrara, where he visits the construction site of Biagio Rossetti's fortifications. He is gathering elements for his study on the defense of the city, to be developed in subsequent years and published in 1527 as a treatise entitled:
Etliche underricht zu Befestigung der Stett, Schloss und Flecken (Some instructions for fortifying towns, castles and small cities)

It is a treatise written for the purpose of defense.

The art of war had changed dramatically with the appearance of firearms, becoming an almost unknown discipline for the first time in centuries. Firearms decrease physical contact and introduce the invisible and the loud. The psychological impact of fear when faced with something invisible and loud is paralyzing.

The appearance of these previously unknown psychological factors was accompanied by another discovery: the old defensive apparatuses for the city, the walls, were suddenly revealed to be inadequate.
The high walls were no longer useful: cannonballs did not go very high, but were more terribly powerful than battering rams had ever been. A low hit, so destructive that one could not resist it, only attempt to soften it, absorbing it into the mass of the wall. In the best-case scenario, this resistance avoided even being hit. The walls had to be relatively low, very thick, and possibly have an uneven profile to be more difficult to hit. A new form, an appropriate form, had to be found.

It is this form that the Duke of Este and his architect Rossetti were discussing, and this form that the young Dürer arrived to study at the construction of the new fortifications of Ferrara.

A thirty-two-year-old man
A 32-year-old man walks in a field of wildflowers, takes up a clod of earth, and brings it to his study to paint it.

Dürer chooses that most delicate of existence, blades of grass, and at the same time mentally cultivates a study (then, perhaps, only a vague idea) dedicated to the defense of cities.

This propels the watercolor well beyond the virtuosity of a still life.

Dürer succeeds in uniting two such distinct worlds: blades of grass and fortifications: that which is dear to us alongside that with which we defend it.

Dürer's times necessitated new defenses of the city, and with such urgency that he dedicated a portion of his life to it. They were times certainly not concerned with environmental crisis, but contemporaneously with that urgency of defense, some fragile blades of grass became his best watercolor.

That small canvas of 31 cm by 40 cm speaks of a profound sense of beauty conceived by an intelligence capable of applying the verb to protect at every scale, from the smallest to the largest.

And this is what brings Dürer's watercolor closer to us than we imagine.

The Great Clod” speaks to us about a suspended state of mind, between a sense of fragility and the urgency of defending it; a state of mind so present and diffuse within us that just a few blades of grass can evoke it. We need to defend something beyond the walls of the city, something that involves the entire environment in which we live: our urgency has become one and the same with our idea of Ecology.

A closer look at “The Great Clod”
As a designer, I concentrate on the watercolor and try to understand what draws me to it.

I believe that it is something related to the order of those blades of grass.

It is in the less-ordered order in fields of wildflowers that I feel comfortable; the less-ordered order where I find my idea of ecological equilibrium. This lesser-order is the means by which “The Great Clod” becomes the most fitting representation of this idea.

I ask myself if the representation of an idea can succeed in defending that same idea.

The history of the garden is the history of a continual alternation of forms that represented the unique urgencies of those who created them. The more coherence between urgency and the form that represented it, the more able the garden to take on meaning, and endure.

If there is coherence between urgency and form, the representation of an idea can defend that same idea.

What form can best represent our own urgency? What idea of form and of order do we have when we imagine a park?

Lingering on that watercolor
If “The Great Clod” is the most fitting representation of my idea of nature, maybe its composite character: that not-very-ordered order, can become an instrument in its design.

Nature offers us an opportunity to enter into contact with a beauty whose forms are not traceable to the usual idea of order because they follow the logic of plants. Plants, when left free to develop, spontaneously form vegetal communities of great richness. We should follow the model of these landscapes.

We must learn to design without falling upon the page from above, but penciling on paper as though following a path near to a tree-trunk, following its crown of foliage and imagining it in twenty, forty, one hundred years... what will happen when the elder leans against the oak in three years? Almost as though designing were the description of some place, who knows when or where it was seen, in which we were happy (these are the layered landscapes, escaped from the control of design, a hundred, two hundred years ago, where the park has been returned to a vaster Nature and its vegetation to Ecology).

The risk of ignoring the urgency of ecology is that the city parks in which we live will no longer represent anything for anyone. The risk is that the urban vegetal landscape multiply in forms around which there is no sense of belonging because these forms do not defend that which is most dear to us. And if the sharing of social habit weakens, it is also the sense of community held within it that weakens.

The garden most able to represent our urgency will be a garden able to mimic existing vegetal communities, a garden capable of following the logic of plants.

The birth of the Bosco Claudio Abbado Project
Now it is necessary to introduce three ideas learned during my years of study at college in London.

1 – On arboriculture: voluntarily abandoned woods; an area of temporary experimentation meant for the study of the future development of existing vegetal groups left in a state of abandonment.
2 – Urban woods: abandoned areas that have become woods, managed by the London Wildlife Trust.
3 – Gilles Clément's sanctuaries of biodiversity: urban areas not involved in the building market or the city infrastructure that are populated with a great variety of plant species.

These three experiences bring to light a phenomenon: the Apex of biodiversity.

Now it is necessary to introduce the meaning behind Ecological Succession, the phenomenon according to which plant species, in colonizing a virgin terrain, succeed each other in the fight for light, water, and minerals: from the first state in which lichens and mosses are the pioneers, one moves to an intermediate state of grasses, perennial weeds and shrubs, to a final state in which the forest takes form with its dominant tree species.

Over the course of this succession the richness of biodiversity, that is, the richness of the present varieties of animals and plants, which is not always the same, grows to a peak. This peak is the apex of biodiversity, or the highest level of variety of plant and animal species that are present in that place. This state corresponds to a set of perennial weeds, shrubs, and trees similar to that which one finds in the forest edge, that is to say in the first 20 meters between woods and countryside, the strip of woods richest in light and air.

This apex of biodiversity is a temporary state; the level of biodiversity, in time, will degrade (into the dominance of some species over others) until it reaches a condition of stability.

If one permits plants to develop according to their own logic, allowing them to form their own vegetal communities, green spaces will succeed in autonomously generating the maximum level of biodiversity within themselves.

It is interesting to ask if it is possible to create a vegetal space able to reach, in a relatively short time, such an apex of biodiversity and if, having reached this state, a stable maintenance of this richness is possible.

The Bosco Claudio Abbado is proposed as this type of landscape.

A strip of forest edge, 26 meters by 40 meters, imagined as a unified landscape capable of translating the qualities of a woods into the urban environment. The Bosco Claudio Abbado combines two of these units for a development of 80 meters along the margin of Ferrara which is most vulnerable to the effects of pollution, where the Barco residential quarter meets the industrial area northwest of the city. A linear wood of 80 meters capable of combining the value of environmental relief, expressed by a high density of planting, with the vocation of a public park guaranteed by the high permeability of walking paths criss-crossing the 26-meter width.




The vision of the wood
The vision of the wood for a landscape intervention in the urban environment is certainly an emotive suggestion. A suggestion, however, that developed in the understanding of the ecological dynamics of the wood. Learning the grammar and the syntax of the woods little by little, one discovers that there exists a fundamental principal which defines the wood: the density of planting, that is, the relative distances among the plants that comprise it. This principal informs the quality of the wood independently of its dimensions: it does not matter whether it is a “vast wood” or a “small wood”, as soon as one learns of this fundamental of composition from which stems quality. Conveyed in this project, this principal of composition allows us to propose the true quality of a wood at various scales of intervention, permitting the urban space to accommodate a landscape of great richness.

The beauty of it: it's contagious
Like the beauty of “The Great Clod” from which the Wood is born, this rather wild beauty can become a visual habit, its principals a common heritage, and thus a less-ordered order can arise from the green rectangle of the Bosco Claudio Abbado, to enter into our gardens and enrich the fragmented private spaces to transform them into a greater unity. If, in fact, we imagine a bird's-eye view of the city of Ferrara, we no longer notice the walls between garden and garden; we see a single garden that spans the entire city.





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The European project Hybrid Parks ended with a Final Report.
You may want to have a look at its pages and if you bump into the Epilogue you might recognize my writing hand. The Epilogue (the text published below) is my contribution to that Final Report.


Hybrid Parks 2/2
Text written for the final conference of the project Hybrid Parks, Colonia 14, 15, 16 Settembre 2014
(translated by the sweetest Amelia Linsky)


We have always been hybrid

In these two years the Hybrid Parks project as sought the most approriate management for the public parks which comprise a territory more or less as vast as that of Europe. An ambitious project begun with the faith of the enthusiastic; a project that closes, now, with the same faith, but with the discretion that comes with the knowledge of a long and unknown road ahead.

No one of us, at this point, would presume to believe that the Hybrid Park model which he sought exists.

And this is the true success of the whole project: to have removed the seductive tendency to simplification, and to have demonstrated the complexity and the fascination of the European territory.

If the problem to confront is the ecological question, then it is easy. We have all the knowledge to create green spaces adapted to the slow, progressive decline of climatic and ecological variety, the trend of rising temperatures and the scarcity of water.

Technically, it is easy. All we need is attention to the sustainability of plant choices, along with informed planning regarding naturally occurring biological systems, in the creation of somewhat self-sufficient plant communities. Sturdy, resistant plants placed in a plan which mimics natural landscapes, so that the dynamism of those ecological communities enters into the landscape of our cities.

The corollas of dried flowers for insects and birds, to be pruned only in winter, with a notable reduction of expenditures, will bring beauty to cities which no longer expect it, a new aesthetic, in which the plants can finally express their whole life cycle.

Sustainability in the choice of the species, sustainability in planning, and sustainability of management.

We are talking about a culture of green spaces that opens up to a beauty that we're no longer used to, a beauty constructed of formal, yet unusual solutions.

And here the ecological issue opens up a vista that goes beyond the purely aesthetic.

As I was writing I realized that thinking about these unusual methods of planning, capable of following the plants in their natural development, led to another, parallel thought which very gradually took form. I realized that I was looking at plants in a way that I was no longer used to. I realized that concentration on the plant forms necessarily led to thinking about social ones, and that the way of looking at plants became a sort of suggestion of how to open my eyes wider.

Perhaps the understanding of biodiversity contributes comprehension of the social diversity in our cities.

We discover that that new aesthetic is capable of exceeding the confines of ecology, and tells us something about our parks' potential to adapt better to the dynamic social fabric of our cities; parks capable of allowing that dynamism to express itself without being impoverished.

An aesthetic of ecology which is totally new, simply because only recently have we learned to notice the abandoned patches behind our house, where the plants occupy the space best adapted to them.

At the Ferrara conference last November, I hinted at the risk of not heeding ecological urgency in planning green spaces: the risk, beyond the obvious ecological issues, that the landscape in which we live would cease to represent anything for its inhabitants and that its forms would no longer generate any sense of belonging.

I asked myself, then, what form our landscape should have.

talked about how, in the first half of the fourteenth century, the frescoed Allegoria del Buon Governo painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti at Siena, exemplified the representation of the landscape most suited to contemporary ideas of well-being, social cohesion, Peace.

In these two years, Hybrid Parks has sought to represent the landscape most reflective of our idea of Peace.

And at the end, the project admits a sort of wistful diffidence, and asks if it must necessarily develop a specific sort of “laboratory model” super-park, or if, instead, we must think about a park privy of predefined form, a park to redefine every time, capable of adapting in any moment, always responsive to what happens inside and around it.

Contemporary Peace, as is now evident everywhere in the world, lives in the successful management of ecological integrity and social cohesion.

A territory's social cohesion depends on the sharing of common values formed around life's fundamental necessities, needs which are the most direct expression of our relationship with the environment.
Sustainability and Peace are identical.

Public spaces are definitively most appropriate to allow the formation and maintenance of urban cohesion because it is therein that sharing may express itself in all its myriad forms, growing without weakness.

The multiplicity of forms in which this sharing manifests itself becomes an important tool for us.

If, at the technical level, as we have seen, the differentiation of management of the green zones guarantees the quality of the biodiversity of a natural environment, then responding to the various needs of those who will use and share public spaces is required. In other words, it is required to to differentiate the opportunities for use of those spaces.

From plants we have passed to people, because society and environment share the same destiny, and both can function only as a unified system.

It is possible to create differentiated public spaces only if one draws on a multiplicity of management techniques capable of satisfying as many needs. This is the spirit of the Hybrid Parks project – the synergy among crafts, businesses, technicians.

Thus we see that “hybrid” and “biodiverse” are effectively synonymous. The same spirit animates them, teaching us to resist every temptation to specialize our gaze. The gaze must maintain its bird's-eye view of the differences, it must remain capable of taking in the diversity of things by seeing them as a unified entity without any reduction or impoverishment.

If we imagine seeing a city from above – as I said back then at Ferrara – blessed with a bird's-eye view, the fragmented totality of its gardens reveals itself as a single garden. Birds do not notice dividing walls between gardens, or whether a plant is in one garden or another... they fly above a single garden as large as the entire city. The rich biodiversity of this single garden is due, simply, to the random variety of the larger and smaller habitats which comprise it, not to the presence of model super-gardens specially designed for biodiversity.

Thus Hybrid Parks did not arrive at a formal model, but the bird's-eye view of the unified totality of each of our material and spiritual needs.

The fact is that we need to dust off our imaginations. At least this is what certain events, as you will hear shortly when I talk about Palermo, have taught me to do.

I believe that Italians may more naturally understand something that other, more orderly and precise cultures have difficulty in recognizing, if they even remember it.

This summer I traveled to Sicily. My plane flew in to Palermo. It was the first city I visited. A masterpiece!

Visiting Palermo is like going to the psychologist: the more you walk, the farther away you drift from familiar things. But at the same time, you feel as though you're coming home, only with a clarity that you never had before.

Walking around historic Palermo, one slowly learns to welcome the chaos of its streets and facades, and at the end of the day, what you see – in a mixture of reality and transfiguration – is a unified totality of formal richness, become a sort of sensation of belonging.

What I called chaos on the day of my arrival, the day after, I called multiplicity. The city appeared to me as a palimpsest. Palermo is a leaf of parchment on which is written a text written upon a preexisting text, scribed centuries earlier and then scratched away to fix a new text upon the sheepskin, without the previous writing being completely lost. The traces remain upon the transparent sheet for us to find.

In Palermo one perceives the resemblance between our lives and that palimpsest where the signs are left upon the surface, all rich with significance. At present those signs appear confused, all in their own space, all with their own fragment of sense, all abiding together and ready to tell us something. One only needs the patience to read them.

And perhaps we, who have begun to notice the beauty of the unkempt lawn behind our house, are becoming more capable of that kind of patience.

This is nature, this is the city, this is us.

Cities have always endured by their care for pre-existing things. The richest and most long-lived civilizations cared for multiplicity. In Sicily, the Normans did it with the Saracens, and the Saracens with the descendants of the Greeks. To deny complexity meant death, to welcome it welcomed also prosperity.

We have always been hybrid.

And so it is necessary to re-train our gaze to the habit of complexity. It must relearn to be hybrid; only then will it be able to see the hybridity of the space around it and able to plan it so it's truly adapted to material and spiritual needs of those who inhabit it, against the temptation to reduce that which we hold to be important in fixing upon a form that presumes to be exemplary.

A palimpsestic landscape capable, too, of losing things by the wayside because, as this experience demonstrates, what is needed often manifests itself outside any planned project.

And so a model hybrid park, a hybrid park par excellence, does not exist. There exist ecological and social needs that must be attended to together, within the specificity of the conditions in which they exist, until the form of the park that is born is their most coherent representation.

Perhaps the hybrid park is that which allows such uses to settle upon the urban layout, a park that takes on meaning just as a formal opportunity for the layering of use, a park able to return the spaces of the city to the needs which present themselves.

This park which welcomes and increases multiplicity of use, by means of an internal differentiation of forms, becomes an instrument of social cohesion. Diverse members of society find the space most appropriate to them because that park reflects them as though it were the form of a habitual use. There, common values express themselves.

I like to think that our hybrid park already exists. It is different from every existing park and yet takes the best of all of them, in a Europe that we know is not more complex than fourteenth-century Siena in the eyes of its citizens.



Hybrid Parks 1
/2
Testo scritto, come relatore, in occasione del workshop del progetto Hybrid Parks, Ferrara 6, 7, 8 Novembre 2013
(translated by the sweetest Amelia Linsky)

Hybrid Parks
and The Allegory of Good Government 
or “Comb your grasses at the end of the season...”

Our topic is Hybrid Parks; in Italian, Parchi Ibridi. We can even push farther and think about translating the phrase from spoken language to a visual one, as did Ambrogio Lorenzetti when he painted The Allegory of Good Government on the walls of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, in 1338.
Some sing and some dance, some go about their business. A city opens up to the countryside, the people go in and out, some hunting, some bringing in goods. The city changes into countryside through a strip of orchards and vineyards adjacent to the walls. It is the image of Peace, an image of diversity and harmony, variety and color. It is The Allegory of Good Government. On the opposite wall, an indistinct blot, the gray and brown of devastated woods and abandoned fields, is The Allegory of Bad Government.

The landscape becomes a way to represent the condition of the city. But, through the power of allegory, something more happens. The allegory is comprised of certain elements: the laughing, dancing girls, the open windows of the houses, the shops, the cultivated fields. We identify these things with Peace; they are Peace. The allegory establishes the shared identity of Peace and its Landscape, inspiring a sense of familiarity and belonging in us, the viewers. This is the power of the allegory: the creation of an indissoluble unity out of that Landscape and our basic needs. In that room in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena, Peace and the city of the fourteenth century have found their perfect Landscape.

In Ferrara from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, the great economic and military power of the Estense dukes assumed a double form. First, technologically advanced weapons to use and to sell to Europe's great powers; second, the Delizie, landscaped palaces in which the court lived during part of the year. The garden, in an age of war, grew out of power and came to represent it.

The presence of these green areas in today's city has remained, for the most part, intact. A bird's-eye view reveals the northeast part of the city colored in unbroken green, and here transpires an interesting experience. Here one wanders through a rare fusion of the sacred and the profane set amid medieval gardens. Within the perimeter of the walls, the countryside maintains its proper use, not only its formal persistence as a venerated area between the Christian and Jewish cemeteries that have protected its longevity.

Perhaps Ferrara is particularly suited to host a discussion on Hybrid Parks since it is familiar with ancient ways of managing public green spaces in such a way as to make them sources of inspiration. Here we find, almost incidentally, some roots of the idea of Hybrid Parks. This concept, fitting itself into Time, takes on a patina of normalcy, of obviousness, which restores to us the evidence of its most authentic character and richness: diversity. The Ferrarese perception of normalcy in this regard renders the idea of the fusion of the urban and the agricultural more familiar, more customary, and therefore readier to settle, like rich sediment, into the minds of everyone crossing these fields. Thus, we aim to reach the end of the workshop with a sense of rediscovery regarding the visual and attitudinal obviousness around the meaning of hybrid, and, with it, the aesthetic need for this type of landscape. Belonging tout court.
The plans and projects to be undertaken in light of this rediscovery, of course, must yet be invented.

A garden – and every Park is a garden – takes a form which represents the urgent concerns of he who creates it. Thus, the history of a garden is a continuous transformation of forms and ideas. It is a theater of representation with changes at every performance.

We all know that the urgent concern of ecological change is the dominant idea of our time. And so it is that we must find an answer to the question: what is the form of garden suitable for performing this urgency? I like to think that the garden capable of performing the things closest to our hearts has an uncommon form, following the plants during their natural development.
The beauty of it is, in accounting for ecology, one arrives at a point of never being able to forget it... On the 21st of December, 1978, the most adventurous of English gardeners, Christopher Lloyd, wrote that it is a “question of upbringing”: if you grow up running in tall grass, nothing less will do. Nothing less than a Beauty coming to light in forms no longer traceable to a conventional idea of order, but synonymous with biological diversity
(Read the page below: Drifts / Fillers (Matrix) / Natural Dispersion / Intermingling with accentsSuccessional Planting / Self seeding and watch the video of Piet Oudolf's "Potters Fields Park" in London)

This involves the creation of a green culture open to solutions for the slow, progressive decline of climatic and ecological variety, addressing the trend of rising temperatures and the scarcity of water. Attention to the sustainability of plant choices, along with informed planning regarding naturally occurring biological systems, in the creation of ecologically based, designed urban long term, somewhat self-sufficient plant communities. Hardy and enduring plants set into the heart of a project which, mimicking natural landscapes, can conduct the dynamism of biological communities into the urban landscapes of our cities. The management of these spaces will yield, in autumn and winter, food for birds and insects which eat the heads of dead flowers, as well as the formal beauty of perennial grasses in their winter phase, intervening only in their pruning, resulting in reduced expenditures. And so even the grassland communities may be open to maintenance as no-mow zones, where public use permits it, leaving them to their natural development. In this case, too, expenditures are reduced by entrusting end-of-season mowing to farmers to use for grazing their animals. Sustainability in the choice of the species, sustainability in planning, and sustainability of management. Thus “sustainability” becomes synonymous with “diversity”, that same diversity which makes up the Landscape of Peace in the Allegory of Good Government fresco, but for a totally new landscape.

The risk of not heeding ecological urgency, not translating it into the forms most consonant with it, is that the landscape in which we live might cease to represent anything for anyone, and instead presents repeating forms that nevertheless do not contribute to a sense of belonging. And it is belonging which creates a City. If Good Government and its Peace had found, in the fourteenth century, the appropriate pictorial representation in that perfect Landscape, we must ask ourselves how the twenty-first century's ecological urgency, our Peace, can be adequately represented.
What will our allegory be?

Ferrara does not have great economic resources, but it is equipped with a tool for the management of public green spaces which allows innovation. It is called Adozione Verde; in English, Green Adoption: a non-profit association of private citizens who adopt from the City Council, for five years, an area from 20 square meters to 2000. Differentiated use of pubblic space is thus spread throughout the entire city, enriched by the most varied contributions from private citizens. At this point we arrive to the importance of awareness and the culture of citizenship in protecting the quality of the adoptions and this workshop addresses the culture of citizenship since it can establish agreement for the building of broad public consent in different countries.

And so hybrid loses every connotation of size and becomes a habit of thought, and thus it can push beyond the idea of the Park to enter our homes, enriching our fragmented private green spaces in order to transform them and include them in a greater unity. If we imagine seeing the city of Ferrara from the air, blessed with the sight of its birds, the fragmented totality of its gardens reveals itself. Birds do not notice dividing walls between gardens, they fly above a single garden as large as the entire city, whose richness comes from the variety of the many smaller habitats which comprise it. It is not a question of scale so much as one of approach, and it has a name: once again, it is “diversity”. If this vision matures, Ferrara, like many other cities, may not need a Hybrid Park, because it is already a Hybrid Park, in that it already functions as such. It is only necessary for it to mature, that is, diversify, in the functioning of its green spaces as a whole, while each piece is valued for its unique particulars.

In Ferrara, multiplicity maintains the unity between the present and the medieval within an unexpected chronological jump. Perhaps we must think to a spatial multiplicity capable of perpetuating the little garden and the great park, making them work together, rendering intervention at every scale more fluid, more adaptable; or rather, making our Allegoria more attentive to the fragile unpredictability of our times.






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La piccola Incanto
una storia per una bambina di nome Emma


La cosa che piu' di tutte le piaceva era chiedere: “Perche'?”
C'erano tante cose nuove nella vita di Incanto... ah gia', la nostra piccola amica si chiama cosi'... lo so, e' un nome da bambino, ma lei era stata chiamata cosi', chissa' perche'.

      Dunque, c'erano tante cose nuove nella vita di Incanto e davanti ad esse la cosa che piu' di tutte le piaceva era chiedere: “Perche'?”. Questo accadeva di continuo, era piu' forte di lei.
Quando si sedeva a tavola: “Perche'?”
Quando giocava: “Perche'?”
Qando faceva il bagno: “Perche'?”
... poi finalmente andava a letto e allora, proprio mentre chiudeva gli occhi: “Perche'?”
E questo capitava non solo a casa, ma anche nel parco davanti alla lucertola e in cortile davanti al gatto del vicino.

      Un giorno che era nel parco Incanto stava saltellando in una pozzanghera con gli stivali nuovi quando ad un tratto si fermo' e disse: “Perche'?”.
L'acqua che si raccoglieva al centro della pozzanghera approfittando di un po' di quiete, rispose: “Perche' cosa?”
Ma Incanto era saltata sul prato e gia' stava correndo verso il grande albero. Questo albero era un albero di noci pieno di palline verdi alcune delle quali, piu' mature delle altre, erano cadute a terra e formavano un bel tappeto. Incanto arrivo' ai piedi del grande albero, si fermo' sul tappeto e guardando in alto disse: “Perche'?”.
Noce – questo era il nome del grande albero – allora disse: “Perche' cosa?” e stiro' i suoi rami piu' sottili nell'aria attendendo una risposta.
La bimba pero' non lo stava ascoltando, con una noce in una mano e una noce nell'altra, giocava.

      Sembrava che ad Incanto non importasse nulla di una risposta ai suoi “Perche'?” e in effetti le sue non erano delle vere e proprie domande del tipo:
Perche' c'e' l'acqua per terra?” oppure
Perche' ci sono tante palline sotto il grande albero?”
Semplicemente lei diceva: “Perche'?”. Era fatta cosi'.

      Alcuni giorni dopo venne una giornata di sole, di quelle in cui i bambini vogliono solo correre e giocare e Incanto volle andare a saltare nella pozzanghera e giocare con le palline ai piedi del grande albero. Aveva messo gli stivali nuovi anche se c'era il sole.
Perche'?” subito, prima ancora di saltare nella pozzanghera, “Perche'?” di nuovo e comincio' a saltare, ma qualcosa era cambiato, l'acqua non c'era piu', al suo posto c'era una pappa di fango. Come gia' aveva fatto l'acqua anche il fango le chiese: “Perche' cosa?”
Ma Incanto stava gia' correndo verso il grande albero.

      Quando arrivo' ai piedi di Noce si accorse che anche qui qualcosa era cambiato, l'erba era diventata molto alta e le noci erano quasi tutte scomparse: “Perche'?”
Incanto prese una prima noce che trovo' in una mano e una seconda nell'altra e questa volta si sdraio' sull'erba. L'erba era cosi' soffice che Incanto socchiuse gli occhi.

      Il sole era alto sopra di lei. Si muoveva tra le foglie e diventava bianco, giallo e verde e dentro quei colori Incanto si addormento'. E comincio' a sognare. Sognava di essere sdraiata sui rami piu' alti e piu' sottili del grande albero, quelli che piu' sentono l'aria e si muoveva insieme a Noce che cosi' comincio' a parlare:
Incanto – che bel nome per una bambina – posso farti una domanda? Come mai chiedi “Perche'?” senza aggiungere che cosa vuoi sapere?”.

      Il sole bianco, giallo e verde abbagliava Incanto che si sveglio' proprio mentre stava per rispondere a Noce.
Che bel sogno” penso' e le venne voglia di fare una cosa... anzi le venne voglia di fare tante cose.

      Corse dal fango: “Perche' non c'e' piu' l'acqua?” gli chiese,
poi corse dalla lucertola: “Perche' non hai la coda come le tue amiche?”
e dal gatto del vicino: “Perche' fai Miao?”
e alla fine, alla fine di questo lungo giro torno' da Noce e guardando in alto chiese: “... Uff... Noce, perche' non ci sono piu' tante palline?”
e: “... Uff... Uff... Noce, perche' il sole diventa bianco, giallo e verde dentro di te?”
e: “... Uff... Uff... Uff... Noce, perche' non hai aspettato la mia risposta?” –
– insomma tutti i “Perche'?” che le venivano in mente sempre piu' numerosi proprio perche' c'era sempre qualcosa di nuovo da aggiungere.

      Alla sera di quel lungo giorno Incanto era davvero stanca e dopo il bagno gli occhi le si chiusero che lei stava gia' sognando e sognava le risposte dei suoi amici l'indomani.


English version
(translated by the sweetest Amelia Linsky)

Little Incanto
a tale for a child called Emma


The thing she liked best was to ask “Why?”
There were many new things in Incanto's life... and yes, that was indeed the name of our little friend. I know it's a boy's name, but that's what she was called, and who knows why.

      Anyway, there were many new things in Incanto's life, and upon meeting them what she liked to do best was ask “Why?” This happened all the time; she couldn't help it.
When she sat down at the table: “Why?”
When she played: “Why?”
When she took a bath: “Why?”
...and when finally she went to bed, even as she was closing her eyes: “Why?”
And it happened not only at home, but also in the park with the lizard and in the courtyard with the neighbor's cat.

      One day, in the park, Incanto was jumping in a puddle with her new boots when suddenly she stopped and said “Why?”
The water pooling in the puddle, taking advantage of the moment of quiet, responded, “Why what?”
But Incanto had already jumped out and was running towards the great tree. This tree was a walnut tree, full of little green balls, some of which, the more mature ones, had fallen to the earth and made a beautiful carpet. Incanto arrived at the foot of the great tree, paused on the carpet, and looking up she said, “Why?”
Walnut – this was the name of the great tree – said then: “Why what?” and stretched its slenderest shoots up into the air, waiting for a response.
But the girl was not listening. She was playing with a nut in one hand, and another nut in the other.

      It seemed that it didn't matter whether anyone responded to Incanto's “Why?” And in fact, hers were not real questions, like:
“Why is there water on the ground?” or
“Why are there so many little green balls under the great tree?”
She simply said “Why?” That was who she was.

      Some time later there arrived a beautiful sunny day, the kind in which children only want to run and play. Incanto went to jump in the puddle and to play with the little green balls at the foot of the great tree. She had put on her new boots despite the sun.
An immediate “Why?” even before jumping in the puddle, and another “Why?” and she began to jump, but something had changed. There was no more water. In its place was a mush of mud. As the water had done, the mud asked her: “Why what?”
But Incanto was already running towards the great tree.

      When she arrived at Walnut's feet, she realized that something had changed there as well. The grass had grown very tall, and the walnuts had almost all disappeared: “Why?”
Incanto took the first nut she found in one hand, and the second in the other, and this time she lay down on the grass. It was so soft that her eyes began to droop shut.

      The sun was high above her. It moved between the leaves and turned white, yellow, and green, and among those colors Incanto fell asleep. And she began to dream. She dreamed that she was lying on the highest and slenderest branches of the great tree, those which feel the air the best, and that she was swaying along with Walnut, who began to speak:
“Incanto – what a nice name for a little girl – may I ask you a question? Why is it that you ask 'why?' without saying what it is you'd like to know?”

      The white, yellow, and green sun flashed, and awakened Incanto just as she was about to respond to Walnut.
“What a nice dream,” she thought, and felt a new desire to do something... actually, to do many things.

      So she ran to the mud: “Why isn't there any more water?” she asked it,
and then she ran to the lizard: “Why don't you have a tail, like your friends?”
and to the neighbor's cat: “Why do you say 'meow'?”
and in the end, after she had finished this long circuit, she returned to Walnut, and looking up she panted: “...Uff... Walnut, why are there no more little green balls?”
and “...Uff... Uff... Walnut, why does the sun turn white and yellow and green in your leaves?”
and “...Uff... Uff... Uff... Walnut, why didn't you wait for me to answer?” –
– in short, all of the “Whys?” that occurred to her, more and more of them, because there was always something new to ask.

      It was a long day, and in the evening Incanto was very tired. After her bath, as soon as her eyes had closed, she was already dreaming; and she dreamed of her friends' answers, which she would hear on the morrow.


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"garden me" / A writing about a wished frontier for the natural gardening

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Ecological Planting Design

Ecological Planting Design

Drifts / Fillers (Matrix) / Natural Dispersion / Intermingling with accents/ Successional Planting / Self seeding
What do these words mean? Some principles of ecological planting design. (from the book: "A New Naturalism" by C. Heatherington, J. Sargeant, Packard Publishing, Chichester)
Selection of the right plants for the specific site.
Real structural plants marked down into the Planting Plan. The other plants put randomly into the matrix: No. of plants per msq of the grid, randomly intermingling (even tall plants). Succession through the year.
Complete perennial weed control.
High planting density. Close planting allows the plants to quickly form a covering to shade out weeds.
Use perennials and grasses creating planting specifications that can be placed almost randomly.
Matrix: layers (successional planting for seasonal interest) of vegetation that make up un intermingling (random-scattering) planting scheme: below the surface, the mat forming plants happy in semi-shade, and the layer of sun-loving perennials.
Plants are placed completely randomly: planting individual plants, groups of two, or grouping plants to give the impression of their having dispersed naturally. Even more with the use of individual emergent plants (singletons) that do not self-seed, dispersed through the planting.
An intricate matrix of small plants underscores simple combinations of larger perennials placed randomly in twos or threes giving the illusion of having seeded from a larger group.
The dispersion effect is maintained and enhanced by the natural rhythm of the grasses that give consistency to the design. They flow round the garden while the taller perennials form visual anchors.
Allow self-seeding (dynamism) using a competitive static plant to prevent self-seeders from taking over: Aruncus to control self-seeding Angelica.
Sustainable plant communities based on selection (plants chosen for their suitability to the soil conditions and matched for their competitiveness) and proportions (balance ephemeral plants with static forms and combinations such as clumpforming perennials that do not need dividing: 20% ephemeral, self-seeding plants, 80% static plants) of the different species, dependent on their flowering season (a smaller numbers of early-flowering perennials, from woodland edges, which will emerge to give a carpet of green in the spring and will be happy in semi-shade later in the year, followed by a larger proportion of the taller-growing perennials which keep their form and seed-heads into the autumn and the winter).
Year-round interest and a naturalistic intermingling of plant forms.
Ecological compatibility in terms of plants suitability to the site and plants competitive ability to mach each other.
Working with seed mixes and randomly planted mixtures.
Perennials laid out in clumps and Stipa tenuissima dotted in the gaps. Over the time the grass forms drifts around the more static perennials and shrublike planting while the verbascum and kniphofia disperse naturally throughout the steppe.
Accents: Select strong, long lasting vertical forms with a good winter seed-heads. Select plants that will not self-seed, unless a natural dispersion model is required.
Planes: if designing a monoculture or with a limited palette, more competitive plants may be selected to prevent seeding of other plants into the group.
Drifts: to create drifts of naturalistic planting that are static in their shape over time use not-naturalizing, not self-seeding, not running plants.
Create naturalistic blocks for the seeding plants to drift around. For the static forms select plants that do not allow the ephemerals to seed into them.
Blocks: use not-naturalizing species, in high densities, in large groups.
Select compatible plants of similar competitiveness to allow for high-density planting (to enable planting at high density in small gardens).
Achieve rhythm by repeating colours and forms over a large-scale planting.