Innovation in Plant Biosecurity

Biosecurity and plant health is an awkward area for landscape architects to engage in: we tend to be generalists and biosecurity is a fast-changing and highly technical field with environmental, political and economic implications. Nevertheless, it’s an essential strand to what we do and understanding how our designs and actions affect biosecurity is a challenge.

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Right plant right place

Finding the right plant for the right place is one of the biggest challenges for landscape architects. Henrik Sjoman’s paper on matching the range of tree species to urban environments shows how to do this with trees, and with the recent publication of the BSBI’s distribution database, we can start to use UK data to help us. There are loads of potential applications for this, whether it’s drawing up plant lists for meadow restorations, highways verges, SuDS schemes, street trees and community woodlands…

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Botanising holoparasites

The language botanists use can be off putting for those trying to get to grips with the subject- even the very best texts on the subject require diligent study (my edition of Stern’s Botanical Latin is never far away) but once you do start to learn the basics, the whole world starts to make a bit more sense. The first landscape architect I worked for told me that the first hundred plants would be the hardest to learn: the next thousand would be easy. I was sceptical at the time but it seems to make sense.

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Westonbirt Arboretum

I made a brief trip to Westonbirt a few weeks ago and as you might expect, the Rhododendrons were magnificent. However, on this trip I was particularly interested to look at the structure of the arboretum, rather than individuals- in particular, I was interested to note the narrow width of the avenues (typically 12-15m) and the level topography. In a landscape that is laid out at such a large scale with the object of celebrating trees, a level topography is something of a curse because you are always looking up at the trees and rarely get a chance to see the perspective view or landscape panorama. To deal with this, it seems that the circulation is very guided with relatively few opportunities to explore off the beaten track: views are very carefully managed with the emphasis on the Picturesque landscape design techniques of curving walks creating suspense intersecting with the grand reveal along huge avenues.

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Tollesbury Wick

Earlier this summer I returned to Tollesbury for the wedding of two old friends- it was a magical weekend, seeing people I’d long lost touch with and walking again through the marshes. For any who are interested in botany, birding, naturalism generally or indeed just like long walks, I can’t recommend Tollesbury Wick highly enough- just check out these satellite images. The marshes are fascinating at any time of year and when I lived here, I’d happily spend an afternoon watching the subtle changes in colour (and temperature) and the rise and fall of the tide. Happily, the wedding coincided with the flowering of perhaps my favourite marsh plant, Common Sea-Lavender.

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