Naturalistic herbaceous vegetation is most dramatic when used on a relatively large scale, i. e. in blocks larger than 100 m2. This is most likely to be economically possible when created by sowing, or a combination of sowing and planting (see the section ‘Establishment by sowing in combination with planting’). When naturalistic vegetation is added as an afterthought, as small beds in paving or in mown grass areas, it can appear rather self-conscious, and even untidy. When designed as an integral part of a small space, for example in a garden or courtyard, it is much more successful. It is highly effective when combined with contemporary architecture and ground forms, providing a provocative contrast between the designed and the apparently spontaneous. In such situations, however, it is important to select a plant community that is attractive for as long a period as possible. Overall, however, the greatest range of opportunities for its use are probably associated with the refurbishment of twentieth-century public parks, which are often dominated by large expanses of mown grass that do not have a well-defined aesthetic or functional role (Figure 6.1).
Application to these types of landscape requires careful design and public consultation to ensure that areas selected do not have existing uses unappreciated by the designers. In many cases, plantings will ‘hang’ off the edge of woodland or parkland trees, providing a transition between shade and full sun. This also anchors the vegetation to the ground, although when used on a large scale, meadow or prairie-like vegetation will become the landscape and the visual problem of being unattached disappears. Location should also consider long-term management issues, for
Extensively managed prairie vegetation prior to flowering, acting as a bridge between a woodland edge and areas of mown grass—private garden, Wisconsin
example is it possible to get machinery to the site for cutting, is the site surround by mown grass that could act as a firebreak and so on. Planning for gathering and movement is important, people have an instinctive desire to experience the planting from within, and mown or hardened pathways can help to facilitate this whilst reducing the severity of trafficking damage.
The type of plant community chosen should reflect the likely needs and expectations of users, the overall design context and the environmental conditions. The timeless principle of intensively designed and managed landscapes close to buildings, or where people gather, becoming ever less intensive into the middle and distant landscape, remains a useful model to follow.