1 May 2024

Gardens are not a set and forget component of the built environment. Common complaints from develops and builders is that they are having to spend too much money looking after gardens that are implemented in their developments. This demonstrates not a problem with the garden itself, but a lack of understanding of the root of the issue. Gardens are in a constant state of change and therefore require ongoing maintenance to ensure they are ushered through these changes without becoming liabilities.

Start as you mean to go on

Getting off to a good start is essential when installing gardens at a city scale. Teams of landscape architects spend significant amounts of their time and their clients’ money designing planting schemes for projects that aim to fulfil the 3D designs. All too often those involved are severely let down when they get to site for the inspections and the plants are all struggling or dead. Most often this is caused by ruthless construction programs that forces builders and landscapers to install plants into active construction sites.

There are many risks associated with plants being installed into sites too early. Plants can be under-watered, due to irrigation systems being temporarily shut off for construction or simply through human error. With a myriad of different construction workers walking through sites, plants are often trodden on. Fine layers of construction dust coats onto the leaves of these plants and stops them from photosynthesising.

This is why timing on installing plants onto major urban projects is so important but sadly little understood. Landscape architects must be involved in helping to advise on the appropriate timing of plant installation. They need to act as the voice of reason between the builder and the client which will ultimately lead to less plant and money loss.

Maintenance plans will help protect the capital expenditure and over time will need to be tweaked and refined to meet the changing conditions of the market and climate. There are regular maintenance requirements for gardens that extends beyond the curation of plants; inspections of soil chemistry and testing of irrigation systems, for example.

Setting Gardens up for Success

Having the money to facilitate beautiful gardens in amongst urban developments is not only desirable but has the power to influence the environment. However, thriving gardens are not built on one down-payment. They need ongoing maintenance to ensure they are resilient and fulfil initial plans.

It’s crucial to remember that plants live and die; they need ongoing care throughout their life cycle. The end of a plants’ life can be brought on by tired soil or failing waterproofing. However, with regular maintenance, many of these factors can be mitigated and managed, extending the lifespan on these plants.

Gardens, no matter their type or location, can be managed throughout seasons of change. More importantly, gardens should be designed to align with the ongoing expenses required to maintain them. Achieving this synergy requires a more open dialogue between a landscape architect and their client to fully understand what the client is willing to pay for ongoing maintenance. Defining this part of the budget will inform larger design decisions, right down to the species selection.