The development of vegetations within a heempark must be considered as a sliding scale, from simple to complex, and from young to old. In the same way daily maintenance is, in many respects, done on a sliding scale. As such, we work within the laws of nature. Natural processes are not only cyclic but also gradual. As stated before, the management of a heempark is characterised by the attentive and empathic guiding and following of processes, and for one to be able to do so a broad and open consciousness of context—in time and space—is of vital importance. For instance, the practice of rejuvenating vegetations is, in fact, setting back the clock of natural succession, and to be able to do this in the right way one should truly know the whole range of succession phases. Such dynamic movements are considered by the manager as being ‘a game of to and fro’, of ‘now this, then that’. He takes all this into account, moving with the current, as experience has taught him that it is useless to go against it, but that going with the flow gives the best results with the least exertion. Thus, he learns the game of playing chess with nature: now it is his move, now his opponent’s.
For this reason, it is also crucial that staff are skilled not only in extensive, mechanical management, but also in a wide range of traditional, small-scale horticultural techniques.
This will enable them to apply these skills in a versatile, discriminating way, adapting to its complete gradient, from more global and large-scale management up to selective and individual small-scale maintenance— depending on the character of the vegetation at hand and the intentions of a planting scheme. Often among laymen, the idea seems to persist that ecological management would generally and principally imply overall extensiveness, global management and a certain spontaneous disorder. It cannot be stressed enough that, in such general and absolute terms, this is a serious misunderstanding.
Besides lacking ecological insight, fixation upon theoretical standards and unilateral management considerably reduces the range of possibilities for natural differentiation. As a principle, the apparatus should embrace the complete gradient from vegetation management up to a refined and individually adapted species maintenance.
From the above it may be clear that maintenance of high-quality naturalistic green space requires even more continuity than highquality green in general. The process character of naturalistic vegetations requires expert personnel, both on the levels of specialised staff and management. It is of crucial importance that gardeners with appropriate craftsmanship are employed. To date, it has been difficult to find them. Horticultural training institutes provide no specialised courses, necessitating one to instruct new staff oneself. In general, it takes five to six years to form a fully skilled quality heempark gardener. Most of the required craftsmanship is learned in daily practice. Just as the park itself, practical knowledge in this field can only be accumulated over the years. Training of this kind requires an in-depth investment.
At first sight, and looking from the outside, what has been explained in the preceding paragraphs may seem complicated and even out of reach. In this respect, it is like nature itself. It may be a reassuring thought that the Amstelveen heemparks were also started small and simple. Practice will, in time, and even much sooner than one might expect at the outset, bring knowledge and expertise, as well as promising results. One has to start small, but starting is the operative. In a way, the process is like sowing seeds. One finds oneself engaged in a process that keeps on generating new and inspiring perspectives. Perspectives which, precisely because of their highly natural inspiration, can express the quality of a living culture!
Nothing of importance can be created in an instant, just as grapes or figs cannot. If you tell me that you wish to have a fig, my answer is that it takes time. The tree has to flower and bear fruit first, and the fruit has to ripen.