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Plant communities create style, emotion and story in landscapes

Plantings play a vital role in creating style and feeling in the landscape.  Given the same hardscape and architecture, you can create many different moods based on the mix of plants that are selected. Plants work in conjunction with each other to form plant communities; there are four aesthetic genres: Environmental, Estate, Gardenesque, and Agricultural.

Environmental: inspired by wild places, works well with modern design, plant communities inspired by actual environmental zones, there are sometimes flowers, but the flower itself is small compared to the gardenesque genre, lends itself well to alternative horticultural techniques, this genre feels free, natural, healing, relaxed, individualistic, and, at times, other worldly, at times, rugged.

Environmental genre - wild, unrestrained and distinctively unselfconscious

Estate: composed mainly of mature woody plants connected by grass although there can be agricultural or garden-esque components, these are usually cordoned off in their own area.  Estate genre feels old world, elegant, spacious and spare, there is an undeniable psychological connection to the historic estates of old Europe and the culture and wealth that went along with them.

Estate genre- old world, serene & mature

Gardenesque: flowering plants, especially perennials usually with a larger sized flowers than flowers in the environmental genre. This style is somewhat out of favor at the moment with maybe the exception of being strictly contained in a structure. The feeling, at its best, is lush, abundant, cultivated, but at this moment in time can feel over-cultivated, fussy, saccharine, floriferous.

Gardenesque genre - cultivated, floriferous, abundant, energentic

Agricultural: functional layouts that are typically geometric, abundance of one type of plant is not unusual, there is a grounding, honest, salt-of-the earth feeling to agricultural landscapes that is comforting if there is a human space from which to view it, without human-scaled viewing spaces, the feeling can be uncomfortably vast.

Agricultural genre - functional, salt-of-the-earth, productive and abundant
Agricultural genre in a different climate zone

Within these 4 overarching genres, there are countless subtleties that each create a different feel, style, or story. For example, you can combine any two genres for a combined effect, for example, environmental/gardenesque would be a more stylized version of the natural environment, (think of the woodland garden in England), populated long ago with flowering and long-lived ground covers from the garden. or estate/environmental for a feeling that a long-lived landscape is being gracefully inhabited by wild plants.

Environmental / Gardenesque - a stylized version of a natural environment
Estate/Environmental - this interesting genre creates a great story...

These genres create emotion and set the mood of a place because, as humans, our unconscious mind is instinctively attuned to our environment and because different types of environments also have shared cultural meaning. These two things work together to create a story about a place based on the plants we see there while at the same time, the environment is impacting our experience directly and unconsciously. Just think about the difference between being in a thick woodland where visibility is limited versus being in an open meadow.