Sunday, December 28, 2008

Working for the council ..... again

Another big planting scheme for Bristol City Council. This time at Brandon Hill, an early C20 park around a monument commemorating the fact that a Bristolian was the first European to land in the Americas (since the Vikings). So roll over Columbus. The existing planting is all very much overgrown dwarf conifers and once-fashionable shrubs. Nice atmosphere though, and a very much loved public open space. A whole bank of shrubs has been cleared away and the idea was for me to create a big perennial planting - slightly odd site though as there is little direct public path access to the site, but it is visible from a variety of angles - but with quite a distance.
So, I thought it needed something very visible and graphic, colourful obviously, but also strongly structural. And given that this is Bristol with a very balmy climate, I thought I'd go for lots of South African thingk like kniphofias, which will have the all-important graphic quality for months, crocosmias, agapanthus, plus lots other things but with a visual matrix of lowish grasses like Stipa arundinacea, deschampsia and the shorter molinias. So something that might look like a southern hemisphere montane grassland.
The general idea is for me to turn up before the planting crew, who arrive at 8am, set out as much as possible, and then hope we get it all planted in time. Setting out is very intuitive, I try to do all the larger and or very structual stuff first, filling in with less strongly structural. It is blended intermingled planting, virtually no groups of things, so quite difficult to get a large area done and then let the guys on to plant - you don't dare let anybody plant stuff before you have finished an area as otherwise you can't see what you have done and you cause a lot of confusion to the planting team. So you have to work real fast, and make instant and irrevocable aesthetic decisions.
very stony, had to use a pick axe in places but we managed to get 1365 plants done in 20 man hours.
We are all looking forward to what its going to be like in the summer.


VP said...

Oooh I must go and have a look at the result. Since I started blogging just over a year ago, I've started to notice how bad most of our public planting tends to be round here. It would be great to see examples elsewhere to compare and contrast.

Do we have bad public planting because there's insufficient budget as it's considered to be a 'nice to have' perhaps?

If that's the case, then I'm wondering if there's a close connection between poorly designed public space and subsequent levels of vandalism.

Is the design brief given often requesting low maintenance (so whoever looking after it in the longer term spends minimum cash) above all else, so designers tend to go for those dense evergreen, small leafed shrubs to fulfill that brief as seems to be the case here in Chippenham?

And how much discussion is there between the designer and the organisation that will be taking on the maintenance? In the case of e.g. housing estates (not council ones), is the designer's client different to the eventual maintainer? What issues result if this is the case?

As you can see I'm beginning to find this subject a fascinating one and I have lots of questions!

I'm intending to blog about the good, the bad and the ugly quite a bit more during 2009...

Lia Leendertz said...

It's one of my favourite haunts, and as you say, a wonderful atmosphere, sort of Victorian gloom. The overgrown shrubs kind of suit it though, alongside the original old lamposts and vertiginous rickety paths (nightmare for prams). Sounds as if your planting will certainly shake things up a bit - i will look out for it.
apologies for commenting on this so long after the event!

HappyMouffetard said...

I used to love Brandon Hill as a student in Bristol. A wonderfullunch spot in summer or winter, with birds (robins, blue tits, chaffinches) that would feed from your hand. I will have to make a trip back down in a couple of years, once the planting has settled in.