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Working together

Working together

Public urban gardens like those at the Barbican can help combat ‘nature deficit disorder’


Sarah Morgan and Adam White on industry bodies collaborating


Having met at a number of industry events and awards over the past year, we have discussed our similar values when it comes to garden and landscape design as a profession. As representatives of the SGD and LI, we have also met with BALI and APLD to look at ways all of us can pull together to improve professional standards in landscape design.

In law, a garden designer has exactly the same responsibilities for health and safety as a landscape architect, and they have the same requirement under their respective code of conduct for correct professional appointment.

The skills one needs for garden design are transferable, and overlap with the skills required to be a landscape architect. Professional garden designers and landscape architects, therefore, often find that their field of work overlaps, and whether you come from a garden design or landscape architecture background, choosing a career in the profession poses similar challenges and opportunities. It makes sense that both organisations share best practice and promote each other’s work to a much wider audience.

Witnessing the many changes and developments in the wider industry, we must acknowledge that we cannot stand still, sticking with the same skills as before – constant learning and up-skilling propels us forward and keeps our work fresh. It is important to be challenged and prodded to stretch into new fields of knowledge, and to admit when we could do better by adopting new methods or processes.

Attending industry events, such as the SGD and LI conferences, as well as seminars and courses, trade shows and CPD days, is the best way to stay up to date and continue to grow. That is why both organisations have a CPD requirement for Members.


Sustainable steps

We are all working within a changing environment. All landscapes, large and small, are important to sustain us physically and emotionally. Whatever we do in our work, we will have some impact, good or bad, on the environment, now and in the future. Being mindful that during our short careers we have the opportunity to carefully select materials, plants and practices that work in harmony with nature and her inhabitants is a responsibility worth embracing.

Relaxation of planning laws and building regulations should be challenged by all of us who care about landscape, and we need to insist that best practice in sustainable building and landscape design go hand in hand. We can achieve this by adopting consistent good practice right through the industry, through universal specifications and contracts, good communication with contractors and realistic budgets.

Linking gardens and wider landscapes for a common environmental purpose involves close collaboration across the industry. Finding flexible solutions to the changing climate and biological systems will challenge us all to dig deep to research and adopt best construction and management techniques. Each of us in the industry can decide which problem we are going to tackle, and it is together that we will find a solution.

This all feeds into a big challenge for both our organisations: changing the way people interact with outdoor space. The majority of the UK population lives in an urban environment and people are getting more and more detached from nature. Author Richard Louv defines ‘nature deficit disorder’ as “what happens when people, particularly children, spend little or no time outside in natural environments, resulting in physical and mental problems, including anxiety and distraction”.

Time in nature is not a luxury; it is essential to a healthy society. We need to promote what poets and philosophers have known for decades – place matters. We must continue to uncover and celebrate the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. Public spaces and private gardens should be seen as essential requirements in any strategic development plan.


Looking ahead

One of the most important issues we both wish to address is educating the young about and encouraging careers in the industry. It is vital that we tackle the growing skills gap and inspire and encourage more young people to choose a career in landscape. The LI’s new campaign, #ChooseLandscape, is a step in the right direction. The campaign makes clear the range of opportunities in landscape for all kinds of people – from someone who loves creative design to a science enthusiast, from those who are passionate about tackling climate change, to those who just love using the latest digital technology. All of these passions and skills are needed in the industry.

The SGD is working closer with FE colleges, attending career events, and meeting with the RHS to discuss a smoother transition from horticulture and design courses to the many excellent garden design courses in higher education. Working with schools to sow the seeds of opportunity in landscape design, so that students can make the right choice first time round, is an area that both organisations feel passionately about, and presents a challenge worth tackling together.

Whether you are a garden designer or landscape architect, a horticulturist or contractor, we all need to work together and collaborate. We have far more in common than not, and can do so much more together than apart. Gardens may have boundaries, but that doesn’t mean our related professions should.


Sarah Morgan is Chair of the SGD

Adam White is President of the Landscape Institute


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