It’s Everywhere – Michael King on Naturalistic Planting.

February 21, 2014

in Articles, General Interest

Michael King has just stirred things up again by publishing a post on his blog suggesting we may be finding naturalistic planting a little ubiquitous. Is it all getting a bit samey? (Is the classic herbaceous border a bit samey too, though?) And are naturalistic schemes in danger of simply replicating themselves – planting by numbers?

Michael has been kind enough to give me permission to republish his piece here, so that you can all contemplate the issue. Susan Cohan already has, and her view will follow this closely.

Anne Wareham, editor

Broughton Grange, Walled Garden designed by Thomas Stuart-Smith, copyright Charles Hawes on thinkingardens

Broughton Grange, Walled Garden

Michael King:

I have always been uneasy with the term naturalistic planting, not with what it actually means, but with the way it is used in the media to describe any “new” planting scheme in which perennials together with ornamental grasses are mixed in an informal arrangement.

The true underlying principle of naturalistic gardening is the intrinsic chaos that exists in ecological processes that resolve themselves, through a myriad of outside influences, into patterns and plant communities that are distinctive and that can be recognised and categorised by humans. Using the trigger of association, it is possible for us to create planting schemes that recall memories, suggest relationships and aspirations, that together may kindle a host of emotional responses.

When planting schemes succeed in transporting us on such emotional journeys through their associations they earn the title of naturalistic, but not when they simply conform to a look that fits the name.

Broughton Grange, Walled Garden copyright Charles Hawes on thinkingardens

This is the same garden, actually….

Here, for those of you who missed it, is a copy of something that I wrote on this blog two years ago about the underlying principles and practices of what I think is naturalistic planting. My question is -” could the “new perennials movement”  be in danger of carpeting our public green spaces with the same “new” look”? Already here in Holland you can order perennial mixtures by the square meter to decorate any landscape.

Michael King  website

Michael King, portrait

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