Dynamic process

The vegetation of ‘heemparks’ are part of a dynamic process, with patterns changing continuously in space and time. However conscious the choice for a certain vegetation or plant species may have been, the initial design can only be the start of a process that gains its momentum in time. Plant groups, and even individual plants, will change position and arrange themselves in new, often unforeseen, patterns. Instead of being considered as disturbing changes that require correction, the fluctuating, spontaneous elements in ‘heempark’ vegetations of any type are seen as essential and explicitly valued characteristics. In as far as a design as such is applied, its principles are completely different from those used in traditional plantings. Firstly, the designer should possess a considerable amount of botanical and ecological knowledge and experience. Without this, the design will soon prove incompatible with the natural demands and opportunities of the environment and the plant material chosen. In practice, designers hardly ever possess this knowledge. Secondly, it is evident that a design formulated as a one-off cannot comply with the processes inherent in the character of ‘heempark’ vegetation. Since it is generally impossible to maintain the initial image the designer constructed of a planting in perpetuity, neither is it possible to formulate any ‘final’ image. To demand this would be to apply a theoretical abstraction, which is incompatible with natural processes. It is exactly the process itself that unfolds through time and which will always, within the limits one sets or expects, keep surprising one to a certain extent. At best, all that can be done to maintain a desired image is to apply continuous watchful-management and, if necessary, adjustment of the vegetation in the hope that this will achieve the desired effect. In addition to the aforementioned botanical and ecological experience, a lasting involvement of the designer and the park manager with the management of the vegetation is often required. For the average designer this, in itself, is a highly atypical approach and requires a certain degree of restraint and even modesty which many traditional designers will find difficult to cope with. This type of process management does not allow the designer to put his own personal stamp on the design in the way he is used to. It will, rather, be a process consisting of careful, continuous and often subtle small-scale interventions at the right place and the right time, with the appropriate tools, in order to create intensely detailed and refined vegetation, a profound harmonious effect or an evocative landscape.