talking urban landscapes

October 23, 2011

Following on from Talking Trees, we (staff and students studying Advanced Planting at MA + Diploma Level at University of Greenwich), wandered around 3 sites in the city to look at tree planting in the urban environment. At More London, the Quercus rubra appear to be suffering. Not surprising as the floor plane is packed with services, balancing chambers and large spreads of hard landscaping and all the hidden engineering materials and bases that are necessary for the support of tall buildings and general pedestrian movement. These Quercus should reach to 20m in an ideal environment and More London is hardly that. It is possibly the worst environment. The trees look stressed generally with one looking dire. There’s little space for the root zone and consequently nigh impossible for the trees to thrive. All the built items look good and well-managed – excellent use of water to bring a sense of movement and vitality in a somewhat dead environment. The Shard rises above – it’s all about architecture and that’s where the money goes.

A few paces on in Potters Field, a multi stem birch, one of a pair within the hard landscaping, showed the contrast with thin canopy and lack of moisture, to those positioned within the soft areas. Kids love these trees so they receive a fair bit of pulling and unwanted attention. Lower branches are often torn or damaged beyond repair.

This is what can happen:

In the Perennial Borders, seed heads and full autumn tones. Much discussion on whether this style of planting worked in this situation. At Mile End Park, a visitor, in the Arts area. That’s the first heron I’ve seen in the East End . .

This part of the park received favourable comments from our group as against the unkempt and distressed appearance of other areas – Green Bridge, water features and decorative terraces and the trees generally – all lacking in a reasonable level of maintenance and management.

At Jubilee Park, in Canary Wharf, in the heart of money land, we found a pretty good level of maintenance for this well built landscape. Considering this is in essence a roof garden, the trees (the deepest root zone) look to thrive  – Metasequoia glyptostroboides shown in these images and, also, multi stem prunus and evergreen Quercus x turneri – as do the twiggy plantings of Fagus hedging, Camellias and Osmanthus heterophyllus.

These grassy spreads of Pennisetum setaceum look quite stunning against the rather beautiful cut stone walls. I still love these walls 10 years on. An unfair contrast to Mile End but this park has a sense of magic and is functional to boot so the users flock here to relax, eat, chat, play and do much what they want.

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them
into paper, That we may record our emptiness. Kahlil Gibran   Sand and Foam

2 Responses to “talking urban landscapes”


  1. […] . . . fine details can be experienced as well as ‘in yer face’ items. We were here last year. […]


  2. […] landscape projects, . . . . we’ll be doing it all again with the MA students – click here for this. We covered the semi circle ending at Tate Modern – another potential site – […]


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