2019 Contemporary

Landscape Planting Forum

Beijing Forum


Day 1


Professor James Hitchmough


Placing contemporary European and American planting design into the Chinese city

Planting design is nearly always a response in some way or other to the cultural and environmental context, so to be successful both in terms of its application and appreciation it needs to understand this context.  This talk will explore what are the big ideas in contemporary Western Planting and how do these relate (or not) to China.  It will also look at some of the cultural, environmental and technical barriers to new forms of planting in China and how these can be overcome. Ultimately the purpose of the talk is to help the audience make more sense of the speakers that follow!

Dr.Piet Oudolf

Landscapes in Landscape (The planting design of Piet Oudolf)

In his presentation Piet will talk about the design principles behind his planting design that have allowed him to create visually dramatic but long lasting and maintainable urban herbaceous plantings in a range of climatic types and cultural contexts. Piet will discuss a range of inspirational past and present projects as case studies to show how his work is designed, implemented and managed in the long term, and highlight what are the key factors that lead to success.  


Tom Stuart-Smith

Planting design as a response to history, local culture, tradition and environment

Tom will talk about large public and private garden projects in the UK and overseas, both projects that are completed and those in planning. These will include several projects for the Royal Horticultural Society including their latest garden near Manchester which opens in 2020, Le Jardin Secret in Marrakech, the Italian Garden at Trentham in the centre of England and a project for a famous winery in France with Architects Studio Mumbai. He will emphasise the importance of working within the traditions of local and national culture.

Professor Cassian Schmid


Pre-designed Mixed Perennial Plantings – New Ways to Green our Cities

Over the last two decades, Hermannshof Gardens a public garden north of Heidelberg, Germany, has broken new ground and set international trends with its innovative blend of ecology, artistry, and imagination. Contemporary plantings in Germany are ecologically based and aim to match habitat with plants. Hermannshof and other research institutions in Germany have developed standardized planting modules for differing habitats for public green spaces or public gardens. The modules have been tested and assessed for at least 5 years before they go on market.

More than 40 different assessed mixes are now commercially marketed in Germany developed for diverse, often problematic situations in urban spaces or private gardens. Every “plant recipe” is well balanced to ensure a long-lived dynamic plant community matched to the site with reduced maintenance. Pre-designed plantings offer the opportunity for clients such as local government to buy and install plantings without the expertise of employing a designer. This also provides a new niche for growers. However, they may need skilled maintenance. For long term sustainability there needs to be a mix of well-balanced proportions of ‘Structural Perennials’, ‘Companion Perennials’, ‘Filler Plants’, ‘Ground-Cover Perennials’ and ‘Scattered Plants’.

John Greenlee

Grasses in the urban landscape, past, present and future


The use of ornamental tussock grasses and native grasses in urban landscapes is a relatively new phenomena in Western urban landscapes, but human relationships with grasses for food and fodder are ancient and profoundly important.  In the C21st city the tussock grass is a major contributor to providing more sustainable plantings, that are easy to manage, good for wildlife, with dramatic seasonal change and which capture the spirit of wild places beyond the city. John will explore the leading role he has played in the selection and evaluation of grasses and his use of them in major design projects.


Day 2

Thomas Rainer


Ecological Memory: Plant Community Strategies for Adaptive, Evocative Urban Landscapes
Plant communities are composed of a diverse species. But certain key species in all ecosystems play a larger role in defining the community’s structural, functional, and visual identity. These core species provide the ecosystem’s “memory” in how it responds to disturbance, works with pollinators, and responds to change. Join landscape architect Thomas Rainer for a talk that explores how to emulate plant communities in urban sites by using a core list of visually dominant species that provides the functional and aesthetic framework for adaptive, evocative planting design.


Claudia Wests


Adaptive Management: Creating a New Planting Culture around Process, Not Just Design

Designed plant communities are sophisticated and dynamic. They frequently overwhelm established, more static installation processes and management techniques. Planting designers, installers, and management professionals need innovative, new processes shaped around the realities of complex planting – to elevate what is currently a luxury for a few, to broad planting culture that truly solves some of the environmental and life quality challenges of our time. Join Claudia West as she explains how groundbreaking changes in planting culture create long-term successful projects. She will present a variety of inspiring projects that set a new bar for ecological and functional planting by building on natural processes and plant-community science.

Professor James Hitchmough


Close to nature; the wilder end of contemporary planting design

James’ work has focused on more literal interpretations of the meadow, prairie, steppe and woodland and how these plant community types might be imagined, designed, implemented and managed successfully in public space, and how these processes might engage positively with the aesthetic values of the urban public.  A major theme in the talk will be how understanding of plants and plant communities in the wild facilitates the creation of this type of vegetation.

Dr. Ye Hang


Putting it all together in the Chinese city; how to make this happen and work successfully?Chinese planting design culture is relatively very conservative, and innovation is inevitably seen as potentially challenging.  The new, no matter how visually exciting or sustainable is not always welcome.  Ye will utilise her privileged position of being both simultaneously within and outside of Chinese culture, and also 10 years of experience working on design projects in China to try to connect the ideas from the international speakers with Chinese aspirations and values.