Tag: landscape ecological design

mykonos 09 towards helipadMy earliest memory is growing a runner bean from seed at kindergarten.This sprouting bean started my life-long passion of plants.

Since building my first greenhouse and tending to my first vegetable patch aged six, I have been designing with plants and am fortunate, truly fortunate, to have practiced my passion around the globe.

I consider inspiration gained from observing natural vegetation communities and an understanding of vertical stratification, plant tolerance ranges, behaviour and symbiosis hold the future for sustainable planting schemes for our gardens, communal landscapes and degraded habitats.


My first dissertation (MA Hons Landscape Architecture) questioned to what extent habitat creation schemes were posing a threat to existing ancient grasslands? Using field surveys I undertook on various grasslands in Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire, academic literature and my own seed mix trials, I fostered an understanding of responsible wildflower-rich grassland creation.

The moral concerns of local genotype pollution., distribution of non-endemic and non-native species, and the misguided view that we can create facsimiles of ancient grasslands are not, in my opinion, aiding our environment.

The study of vegetation communities and self-regulation/competition can, however, be instrumental in creating sustainable planting designs and solutions.

For my advanced diploma (historic environment) dissertation, and my current thesis (archaeology), I am gathering field-name, place-name and primary documentation evidence (Medieval charters, perambulations, land registers) to record the age of certain habitats on certain areas (Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Essex, Middlesex, Hertfordshire) to increase our knowledge of where habitats developed under human influence.

I hope my findings may be of interest to masterplanners and decision makers in how we maintain, manage and enhance our local environments.

mykonos 12 hrh villa

From original survey work of mesotrophic grasslands in East Anglia, to Mangrove Surveys in the Arabian Gulf to studying vegetation communities in the Cyclades, ecological surveying and ecologically functioning planting design have been important in my career from school student to professional.

I always incorporate shelters for wildlife in my garden and landscape designs, and wherever possible incorporate endemic, locally sourced plant species.

Sadly a great deal of scientific literature is ignored by landscape design professionals, and so often the same mistakes are repeated time and again, such as ignoring edaphic (soil) factors and the importance of geophysical modelling in softscape and hardscape specification as well as species selection.

I also consider that ecological improvements implemented through public landscape design and management need to be advertised to the guest or visitor through interpretation and educational awareness. Without fostering a demand for such enhancements, little will be supplied.

Whilst at Greenways Epe (Athens, Greece) I was asked to assist in compiling the Environmental Impact Assessment to select one of three potential routes for a rail line to Macedonia.

The landscape possessed stunning natural beauty, and our recommendations ensured that the engineer’s preferred direct route was massaged to protect areas we considered possessed outstanding natural beauty.

The Sea Change 2030+ organised by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects was an ideas competition, intentionally ‘open’ for any type of landscape / seascape proposal for the Sydney Harbour responding to global climate change and sea level rise.

The solution offered by me and talented graphic designer Kamila Matla was a floating bio-remediation island linked to form modular archipelagos.

The multi-functional structure contains shellfish lines for sewage absorbtion and carbon sequestration, artificial reef habitat, intertidal mud banks with options for a nesting beach, sun bathing beach or mangrove plantation.

This solution offers a short-term staging post for displaced populations until sea levels stabilise and natural / semi natural landforms and habitats evolve.

Considering we were a two person team and the top three teams contained an average of ten people, we were very pleased to be one of five projects featured on the AILA’s web page.

After graduating, I joined the Student Partnership Worldwide charity (now Restless Development) on a 3 month training course in Zanzibar and Tanzania prior to spending a further 3 month ‘outreach’ placement in remote villages of the Usambara mountains of northern Tanzania.

The team of European and Tanzanian students integrated into village existence: living in mud huts and taking water from the river each morning whist setting up tree nurseries, model farms, multi-cropping experiments, teaching in the schools, promoting forest management, water management awareness courses, sustainable management awareness, and whilst trying to learn Kiswahili (with varying success!).

After a bout of tapeworms, malaria, tetanus and hospitalisation, I joined the Kilimanjaro Soil Development Association advising on organic farming practices and erosion control before returning to the Usambara mountains, and then headed north to Kenya and south to Madagascar.


Ecological 03The Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary Buffer Zone surrounds the core zone sanctuary, and extends into The Lagoons project, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The proposed landscape treatment required special attention due to the Environmental Impact Assessment’s wise recommendations. I was fortunate to receive UNESCO scientist and other NGO backing for my proposed native species lists and plant procurement proposal (tissue culture, seed collection, vegetative propagation) procurement methods.

The design and brain storming exercise also included cultural references and numerous geo-physical modeling features for habitat enhancement and ecological functioning as well as the design and location of ‘target species fauna’ shelters and interpretation boards.

mykonos 01The peninsula site facing the island of Delos was developed to accommodate 16 villas set in extensive grounds.

Due to road access requirements, the entire site had been regraded and all existing vegetation removed, which was a major challenge for Greece’s first private, and largest, habitat creation project associated with the games.

By collecting seeds, taking cuttings and selecting specimens with local genetic province, (with a few suitable ornamentals included) we ensured the ecological functioning of the site.

I specified and coordinated the procurement and planting of over 1 million plants with Dr. A. Skordelis, for contract growing in a nursery in Marathon and the young specimens were shipped to Mykonos during the 3 month implementation phase.

The 35 hectare site was planted on time in advance of the Olympic Closing ceremony and was the site of VIP entertainment and post-Olympic celebrations.

The peninsula can be viewed on Google earth, however the planting has integrated so successfully that the boundaries with the adjacent native, undisturbed vegetation cannot be seen, as was our initial hope. The tree and vine planting has successfully camouflaged walls that in places were seven metres high, resulting in dark green lines along the road.