Botanic Gardens Planting Design
Here are some basic ideas about how to present plant collections as a design issue. Botanic Gardens planting design maybe forgotten by old-school curators and managers, but recent experience shows that we can enhance the visitor experience and learning potential by being clever and creative with planting arrangements. The extraordinary success of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay project and RBG, Cranbourne outside Melbourne are recent success stories. There is a downloadable file on this topic at the bottom of the page.
Designing for Display: remembering purpose of collections
Botanic Gardens are places of learning and horticultural excellence. They are curated museums of living plant collections. Designers and curators can help reveal the values of these plant collections by careful and appropriate arrangements. Here are some of those values:
- Plants as treasured genetic resources: scientific values
- For their usefulness to people: economic values
- For their landscape design uses: design + horticultural values
- For their traditional associations and meanings: historic values
- For their healing qualities: medical + spiritual values
- For their visual interest: aesthetic + spiritual values
How plants are viewed: at a distance or close-up
Having sufficient space around large plants is essential if visitors are to see overall form. It is a luxury of space that most private gardeners never have. Massing plants together mingles forms and foliage. Showing both overall views and massed plantations provides visitors with optimum opportunities to understand the usefulness and character of plants.
Planting Collections: types and themes
For more on types of plant collections refer to the “Botanic Gardens in World History” Talk downloadable file here: Defining Botanic Gardens
Assemblages of Plants
- Massed plantings of many sorts of species!
- Variety of arrangements: regular, irregular, mixtures
- Variety of layers: one layer (arboretum), 2 layers, 3 layers…
Designers learn from nature when we observe the layering in natural plant communities, also called plant formations by some scientists. When displaying plants we can arrange them as in nature or we can contrive something different. Which approach is most appropriate in different circumstances is the fun part of the design challenge. Comparing planting arrangements in botanic gardens and arboreta is also worthwhile.
New ways of seeing: planting presentation and display
Here are some extra ideas about botanic garden planting design beyond these structural types.
ways to see 1:
- SKYWAYS: tree canopy walkways
- TOWERS: aerial views across landscape. Lookouts for outlooks!
ways to see 3:
- ROCKERY, ROCK GARDENS, wall gardens
- RAISED BEDS: bringing the ground closer to the human eye
ways to see 5:
- BUILDINGS for plants pergolas, arbours, trellises, shadehouse, glasshouse
- EPIPHYTES plants growing on other plants
ways to see 2:
- DECKS: raised boardwalks through heath/bog gardens
- BRIDGES: walkways over water to view water plants from above
ways to see 4:
- SLOPES, MOUNDS or TIERS planting beds to maximise plant visibility
- CONTAINERS: pots, planters, hanging baskets, moveable or fixed, podiums
ways to see 6:
- AQUARIUM glass-sided containers for water plants
- CUTAWAYS through bed/pot glass-sided for viewing roots
For more on Botanic Gardens Planting Design download this presentation: >>> JSIM Planting Design for Botanic Gardens