The Beth Chatto Symposium Speakers and Organizing Committee (from left): James Hitchmough, David Ward, Taylor Johnston, Olivier Filippi, Peter Janke, Marina Christopher, Dan Pearson, Midori Shintani, Keith Wiley, Andi Pettis, Peter Korn, Åsa Gregers-Warg, Cassian Schmidt, Amy Sanderson

The Beth Chatto Symposium Speakers and Organizing Committee (from left): James Hitchmough, David Ward, Taylor Johnston, Olivier Filippi, Peter Janke, Marina Christopher, Dan Pearson, Midori Shintani, Keith Wiley, Andi Pettis, Peter Korn, Åsa Gregers-Warg, Cassian Schmidt, Amy Sanderson

The Beth Chatto Symposium took place on 30-31 August 2018 at the University of Essex. Twelve speakers and over 500 delegates from around the world gathered to explore the topic ‘Ecological Planting in the 21st Century’, and to honour the lifework of Beth Chatto. It was a tremendous gathering of gardeners, designers and plantspeople generously coming together to learn from one another. The perspectives and insights shared suggest there is no one way to pursue ideas of ecology in planting design, but many ways to reconsider decision-making in our day to day work. We hope that the memories of this event, and the community that has formed around it, give you resolve to carry on your observation and experimentation, to introduce new plants, and to embrace a changing aesthetic. 

In keeping with the mission of the Beth Chatto Education Trust, the lectures and panels were recorded and are being made available for free to all interested in learning more about horticulture. Please consider donating to the Beth Chatto Education Trust in support of future educational programming.

30th August 2018

Putting Ecological Planting in Context: Why, Where and How?

James Hitchmough, Professor of Horticultural Ecology, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

We have consciously been playing with Ecological Planting as a genre for at least 150 years, however because the nature of our species is to forget what we once learnt and simultaneously to re-fashion anew, progress is not always what it might be. This talk tries to put ecological planting into context. Is ecological planting any more than an aesthetic utopian response to human industrialisation and urbanisation, or is it fundamentally utilitarian, or both, depending on context? What is this game that we are interested in and how should it be played?

Pursuing the Aesthetics of Wild Plantings

Keith Wiley, Gardener and Plantsman, Wildside Nursery, United Kingdom

Looking carefully, evaluating and then accentuating various features of wild plantings and natural landscapes can result in spectacular garden effects. Selecting varieties or species of plants that will best represent those original features in a set of specific climatic conditions has resulted in plantings that are not copies but loose representations of wild groupings. Capturing some of the spirit of the wild and creating optimum growing conditions can require major preliminary land-forming but in so doing provides shelter, creates ambience and opens up exciting design possibilities. This is ecological planting that is decidedly aesthetics-led. 

Mediterranean Landscapes as Inspiration for Planting Design

Olivier Filippi, Plantsman, Pépinière Filippi, France

The beauty of mediterranean landscapes are the result of long histories of disturbance and stress from fire, overgrazing, erosion, wind, salt and drought. Learning to value and appreciate the natural evolution of garrigue or abandoned agroforestry landscapes is instructive for gardeners faced with difficult conditions where trees and shrubs are slow growing, and traditional lawns impossible. Olivier Filippi will translate the dynamics and unique aesthetics of these eco-systems into maintenance and planting techniques that aim to modulate the trajectory of evolution in public and private gardens to lead to plantings that are drought resistant, low maintenance and pesticide free.

Stylized Dynamic Plant Communities for the Urban Environment

Cassian Schmidt, Director, Hermannshof Garden and Professor, Hochschule Geisenheim University, Germany

The research at Hermannshof trial gardens includes plant ecology and performance and the coexistence of plants in designed plant communities. Stylized North American prairie and Eastern European steppe vegetation as well as Mediterranean shrub steppe have been modified and enhanced for aesthetic and practical demands. Cassian Schmidt will share economic yet ecologically based planting and maintenance techniques that do not sacrifice aesthetic qualities, making them extremely useful for sustainable public greening projects.

Art and Science in the ‘Wild’ Garden

Moderator: Taylor Johnston, Gardener and Plantswoman, issima, United States

Panel: Olivier FilippiCassian SchmidtKeith Wiley

In an effort to explore the thought processes and decision-making that go into making ecological gardens, our panel of experts will engage in a dynamic conversation to help us understand to what end our fascination with, and interpretation of wild landscapes or naturalistic gestures in the garden, is guided by aesthetic preferences and/or ecological practices and principles.

Designing for Plants

Peter Korn, Plantsman, Klinta Trädgård & Peter Korns Trädgård, Sweden

Understanding plants and their different needs helps to create sustainable plantings in any challenging setting. This is the simple explanation for how Peter Korn ended up growing thousands of species in a garden with soil too acidic and low-nutrient for most plants. He will share how he conceives of public and private planting design that is inspired by nature, low maintenance and highly biodiverse.

Building Blocks of the Ecological Garden

Moderator: Taylor Johnston, Gardener and Plantswoman, issima, United States

Panel: Marina ChristopherÅsa Gregers-WargPeter JankePeter Korn

There are inevitable trade-offs in selecting and growing plants in a nursery setting and now more than ever these behind the scenes choices are affecting our desire to garden ecologically.  Join our knowledgeable panelists for this rare opportunity to discuss how they assess garden worthiness, how ecology plays into how and what they choose to cultivate, and how their efforts selecting, propagating, and cultivating plants best serve ecological practices.

31st August 2018

Expanding Our Plant Palette: the Challenges of Sourcing and Propagating Wild Species

Moderator: Taylor Johnston, Gardener and Plantswoman, issima, United States

Panel: Marina ChristopherOlivier FilippiPeter KornCassian Schmidt

This panel broadly addresses the timely question of sourcing new introductions from the wild to create wilder landscapes closer to home. Panelists will describe why certain regions are more likely to produce plants adapted to our changing climates and increasingly urban needs, as well as share their wisdom for getting these plants to sing in modern gardens and the frustrations posed by national and international regulations.

Designed Nature: Contemporary Garden Design for the Eco-conscious

Peter Janke, Designer and Plantsman, Hortvs, Germany

Plantsman and garden designer Peter Janke creates beautiful contemporary gardens for his clients in Europe. He will discuss how strong garden design can be achieved and maintained, without compromising on Eco-friendly practices, using his own and clients’ gardens as examples.

Emulating Nature in the Public Arena

Dan Pearson, Landscape and Garden Designer, Dan Pearson Studio, United Kingdom

Dan Pearson will discuss his work at the Tokachi Millennium Forest in Hokkaido, Japan where the focus has been to draw attention to the ecology of the surrounding environment through the careful integration of a naturalistic garden. Drawing inspiration from the woodland flora, the plantings combine natives and non-natives in a carefully calibrated meadow garden. Closer to home Dan will also reference the principles of working in context with the environment at Lowther Castle in Cumbria.

The Naturalistic Garden in Japan

Midori Shintani, Head Gardener, Tokachi Millennium Forest, Japan

 As can be seen in the expression "plants and trees all have something to say," Japanese believe that trees, plants and even boulders have a soul and say they can sense spirits, or ‘kami’ (‘god’ in Japanese) within them. Midori Shintani will share how this deep connection with nature is at the heart of the current naturalistic garden movement in Japan, and necessary to understanding the existence of the Tokachi Millennium Forest project. Going beyond design, Midori will discuss how her maintenance methods, informed by the local eco-systems of Hokkaido’s native forests and fields, serve a deeply felt sense of beauty in Japanese culture and garden history.

Care and Collaboration: Seeking Nature on the High Line

Andi Pettis, Director of Horticulture, The High Line, United States

The High Line was born of a city that is constantly changing and reinventing itself, and this is reflected in the dynamic landscape built on a mile and a half long elevated railroad on the west side of Manhattan, New York. From the urban location and the linear nature of the structure itself, to the unexpected and sometimes overwhelming popularity of the High Line, there are unique challenges in caring for this park in the sky. Andi Pettis will discuss how a world-class team of horticulturalists strive to manage the artistry, integrity and vision of Piet Oudolf’s planting design, while allowing for the spontaneity and tension present in a living, dynamic system, in what is essentially a collaboration between the gardeners, the designer, and the plants themselves.

Creating Ecological Planting in Public Landscapes by Sowing

James Hitchmough, Professor of Horticultural Ecology, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Sowing, would appear, at least superficially, to be a cunning way of creating vegetation where random distribution of species is desired. This lecture will explore James Hitchmough’s research and practice in turning sowing from a seemingly uncontrolled technique into a design tool, that can be used at all scales in public and private landscapes. Examples will be drawn from James’ practice over the past 20 years.

Immersion and Ecological Garden Architecture

Moderator: Taylor Johnston, Gardener and Plantswoman, issima, United States

Panel: James HitchmoughDan PearsonAndi PettisMidori Shintani

How do we process and characterize ecological gardens through experience and form? Our panelists will discuss the challenges of balancing ecologically-driven design and maintenance practices with the emotional, aesthetic and practical needs of garden visitors. They will also help us untangle the important relationship between designer and gardener, and how cooperation allows designed ecological plantings to reach their full potential, especially where budgets are limited.