Non-naturalistic ecological woodland plantings

These might involve using a multi-layered vegetation structure typical of natural wood or scrub whilst imparting formality through context and layout. Arguably, the deployment of flamboyant exotic species can also make a multi-layered woodland planting look more designed; but this approach depends on the viewer’s ability to recognise the species as exotic. Ecological planting using woody vegetation arrayed in a formal as opposed to informal spatial arrangement is rarely seen, but is likely to be equally valuable as wildlife habitat. This approach is largely untested in recent years but certainly provides interesting possibilities for innovative new designs. There are, however, numerous historic instances, for example at Versailles, Schonbrun and the Boboli gardens in Florence, where the great vistas are carved out of straight-edged blocks of woodland. The interior spaces within these woodlands could well have had a very naturalistic feel to them.

Given our lack of experience with these types of plantings in contemporary urban landscapes one cannot predict public reaction with any certainty. Woody vegetation has a potentially large physical presence in the landscape and a corresponding ability to conceal potential attackers. Thus, it seems likely that formal layout and context, and the use of exotic species, may not necessarily make such plantings feel any safer than their naturalistic counterparts, though it may render them more appropriate in an urban setting.