Imagine if a whole city were to be thought of as a garden, what would it look like? How would it feel? How would it be managed? Throughout our blogs we have considered Green Infrastructure’s role within our urban environment and for the most part they all would provide vast benefits for the city and for people living there. SuDS, Green Roofs and Urban Pocket Parks work quite well individually, but to met their true potential they need be integrated. One solution might be the creation of a City Head Gardener.

 

The primary role of a Head Gardener is to facilitate, then maintain a garden. In a traditional garden, on the land of a stately home, for example, they would be expected to maintain existing areas, and potentially establish new types of gardens to provide additional interest. They would manage a team to facilitate the on-going seasonal maintenance and also work with other professionals from other disciplines, such as landscape architects and builders, both would be essential requirements of a City Head Gardener.

Due to the nature of gardens which are ever-changing, from season to season, and even throughout the day, role of the Head Gardener is to facilitate, at least in the short term, is to take advantage of these changes. In the long term, the role branches into two, some head gardeners aim to maintain a garden with the same plants, year after year, however more often than not, the role is more varied to keep the garden evolving. This is particularly the case where there was one founding designer who established their garden, where the Head Gardener aims to follow their vision, rather than their planting plans. A City Head Gardener is likely to be faced with an ever changing environment.

To be sustainable, the long term success of urban gardens need to be ensured, which in an ever-changing urban environment, is not guaranteed. It is not enough to place a garden in an urban environment, for it to be completely replaced in five years time, it is a waste of money and any biodiversity that would have built up would be instantly lost. Designers are often in the situation where they complete a design, set a maintenance plan in place, and may pop back from time to time, however have no real control of the garden as it matures. In traditional gardens, plants may be planted in a certain place and die, yet thrive in another, but it take a couple of seasons of experimentation to work this out. A City-wide Head Gardener, would be able to monitor plants either themselves or through their team and a deeper knowledge would be developed pushing the horticultural industry forward.

One of the potential downsides of a City-wide Head Gardener might be the limiting of creativity. Cities attract a wide variety of creative talent, which should be a shame to limit if there were a solitary person in charge of the city’s landscape design. It would be vital, therefore, that the person who would take on the role would, like a traditional Head Gardener, be a manger of people and teams, rather than someone who wants to express their own ego.

The implementation of a City Head Gardener would create a unified urban landscape that is managed in a coherent way that enables long term development of a variety of spaces for different uses, as well as a way to push the ever-increasingly important profession of horticulture to a new level.  

 

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