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    Palmstead Nurseries 2013 Soft Landscape Workshop

    Points might mean prizes, but Palmstead Nurseries 2013 Soft Landscape Workshop will be asking: has the drive to hit BREEAM targets in recent years meant the end for good landscape and planting design?

    In recent years the team at Palmstead Nurseries has observed a sharp increase in demand for native and indigenous plants which the team feel is a response by contractors to conform to Biodiversity Action Plans rather than a genuine design led aim to increase wildlife.

    Nick Coslett, Marketing Manager at Palmstead Nurseries in Kent says: “There have been many occasions where the reasoning behind the ‘native’ choice has been driven by gaining points on a green league table or by ‘policy’ rather than by aesthetics. This short term approach has meant that design and providing a suitable landscape have been relegated as ecologists and planners take control of the arena. This is something that needs discussion by the industry at large.”

    The topic of native versus non-native has been chosen for the 2013 Palmstead Nurseries Soft Landscape Workshop. The workshop in its sixth year has proved a popular place for the debate with an annual attendance of 300 landscape professionals.

    Nick Coslett said of the choice of topic: “The case of when and where to use natives and also local provenance needs a good rationale and we know that our speakers for 2013 can help delegates find a way forward. We’re hoping that our choice of topic this year will generate debate on both sides of the argument and also help Landscape Designers  develop rational arguments when negotiating with developers, planners and ecologists.”

    Olympic Park Scheme

    With the meadows at the Olympic Park, the designers were able to get around the biodiversity action plan restrictions by making the case for the games being a very special event.

    Nick Coslett says: “Ironically, the very things that the public responded to in huge numbers: the flower-rich perennial meadows, and the colourful gold annual meadows, will both no longer be present in the park in the same form. In the case of the perennial meadows (which were so effective because they had a very low proportion of grasses in them, and only the most floriferous native species were chosen), are now being over-sown and planted with grasses, and additional less floriferous native species, so that they meet the BAP requirements.”

    Professor Nigel Dunnett, of Sheffield University, one of the design team behind the Olympic Park and a speaker at Palmstead Nurseries 2013 Soft Landscape Workshop says: “If a non-native species is used, its value for biodiversity has to be justified. The use of a native species does not have to be justified, regardless of its suitability or greater wildlife value. For buildings that include a green roof to get BREEAM excellent rating, they are recommended to use at least 16 native species, and non-natives are discouraged. So we are seeing designers specifying species that are not suitable, purely to be able to get a list of 16 native species together.

    “This tick box approach, and simple delivery of a total number of species, regardless of their form and function is potentially disastrous. But more importantly, this approach is misinformed, and not based on the scientific evidence for what makes a sustainable landscape, or what is best for biodiversity. Crucially, it takes no account of the human experience of landscapes. It would be good to explore the inconsistencies in the arguments, and in particular pick up on a lot of the latest scientific research to indicate that this simplistic or ‘one size fits all’  approach is not appropriate.”

    Palmstead Soft Landscape Workshop 2013: Native or non-native?  “Which is best?”

    Wednesday 25 September 2013

    Ashford International Hotel, Ashford, Kent

    For further information on the event and to register for a place please visit: www.palmstead.co.uk (web site open to bookings by Friday 26 April – online registration only and delegate fee of £22.50 incl. VAT). Like previous years the one day seminar / workshop will include an exhibition form carefully selected suppliers into the industry.

    Speakers for the 2013 event include:

    Tony Kirkham from Kew, who will share his favourite recommendations for planting trees with climate change in mind, and how to plant a tree properly. He will also discuss the issues resulting from the European Trade in plants and the disease risks which are here or on their way. He will also help to define “Origin and Provenance” and guide delegates when best to use these.

    Professor Chris Baines , a long term proponent for encouraging wildlife into planted landscapes and a much sought after Government advisor, will add to this debate.

    Professor Nigel Dunnett,  one of the designers behind the successful Olympic Park Landscape is a  Professor of Planting Design and Vegetation Technology, and Director of The Green Roof Centre, University of Sheffield.  He is the author of ‘Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls’ (Timber Press 2008); ‘Small Green Roofs (Timber Press 2011); Rain Gardens: Managing Water Sustainably in the Garden and Landscape (Timber Press 2007); and ‘The Dynamic Landscape: ecology, design and management of urban naturalistic vegetation’ (Routledge 2003).

    Further speakers representing all sides of the argument will be announced via the website, as the speaker list is finalised.



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