Landscape architecture tree stamps

by Tom Turner @ 6:58 pm February 7, 2012 -- Filed under: Garden Design   
Tree stamps were once a key technology for landscape architects

Tree stamps were once a key technology for landscape architects

On my first day in a landscape architecture office the kind lady at the drawing board behind mine asked ‘What have you done before?’. I told her, modestly, ‘degrees in philosophy and landscape architecture’. ‘Ah’, she said, wisely and with a soft Scots accent,’an apprenticeship in the post office would more use – the main thing we do here is tree stamping’. So, in memory of that happy day, I give you a scan of a very high-class set of tree stamps, which belonged to my former colleague Michael Lancaster. A very good designer and draughtsman, I can’t think what he used them for. The largest stamps were unused until I had a go with them recently. Just think how much use they could be for retrospective planning in Chinese cities!


  1. Tree stamps, one of my very favourite things! (Beautifully arranged Tom, an artwork in their own right.) They are also excellent for architectural plans to demonstrate a green soul! Do they come in species specific categories? Confession time, my use was very intuitive – rather than this stamp represents this species of this size which approximates a tree of a particular age…

    So Tom please elaborate on the philosophy of tree stamping!

    Comment by Christine — February 8, 2012 @ 3:35 am

  2. I feel more nostalgia than love for tree stamps. The great virtue was that they encouraged designers to show the surroundings of buildings but they encouraged ‘pattern making’ instead of serious design, as computer programmes also do. So my philosophy would be (1) sort out the technology of the landscape design first, probably with cross sections and cigarette card sized diagrams (2) use a soft fat pencil to develop the pattern of external spaces (3) use tree stamps, or their AutoCAD equivalent, to render the plan.

    Comment by Tom Turner — February 8, 2012 @ 6:44 am

  3. Woow, they makes me think of a box of tree chocolates! White, black and milk with nuts in it…^.^

    Comment by Jerry — February 8, 2012 @ 9:46 am

  4. If one is a lookout on an arctic convoy in mid-winter, then chocolate is a good food. On all other occasions, it is best not to think about chocolate.

    Comment by Tom Turner — February 8, 2012 @ 10:47 am

  5. I never worked in an office that used tree stamps – I found that they always made drawings look stylistically underdeveloped – but your set is very beautiful indeed. What I do get nostalgic about are Rotring pens, the old, black ones they used to make before the patent restrictions ran out and the market opened up to competitors. I couldn’t find a picture, but they were the iPhone of the pen world with their minimalist, elegant design, and it was always a pleasure to take them in the hand. I still have my set. I also, like many draughtsman from the old school, have several permanent, small tatooed points (I have 5) on my hands and my fingers, from accidentally stabbing myself while shaking the pens to get the ink running.

    Comment by Lawrence — February 9, 2012 @ 3:26 am

  6. Mmmm. All (as Tom has demonstrated) is down to the hand of the artist. Tom’s set has a particularly zen quality to it. However I am reminiscing about presentation drawings with tree stamps and coloured pencil and tree stamps and yokens – they could be quite beautiful – and atmospheric in their delft touch in a way a computer rendering is not.

    Another way of getting a good rendering of the environment was to photocopy photographs of the surrounding and render them in felt pen on tracing with the new foreground design. This could then be copied onto paper and coloured.

    All these techniques undoubtedly would have their electronic equivalents, although recent electronic renderings still lack something of the depth of early coloured pencil and yoken renderings which aimed for photo realism.

    The best approach is to design the expressive style to suit the medium. So computer artistry will have its own flavour (to borrow Jerry’s chocolate analogy).

    Comment by Christine — February 9, 2012 @ 4:29 am

  7. I know what you mean about Rapidographs – and I used to be an expert in keeping them going – but I have more sad then happy memories of them. A friend chucked his full collection into the bin. Then took them out, Then jumped on them. Then put them back in the bin.

    Comment by Tom Turner — February 9, 2012 @ 10:21 am

  8. Is that ‘yoken’ as in ‘The act of hit the Gas then Brake in your car’? I had to look up the meaning of the word!

    Comment by Tom Turner — February 9, 2012 @ 10:23 am

  9. Perhaps you are more familiar with Pantones?[ ]
    Yoken seems to be a Japanese brand of professional art markers.

    Comment by Christine — February 11, 2012 @ 4:27 am

  10. Aaaah, Yes. I still have some (working) Pantone. Before that, we used Magic Markers, with fat little bottles and amazing precision. And, before that, the amazing Flo-Master – an expensive cast aluminium pen with replacable nibs and tins of coloured ink for re-filling the pen. The Flickr comment says ‘mid-60s’. I had my first Flo-Master well before that!

    Comment by Tom Turner — February 11, 2012 @ 4:39 am

  11. [...] stamps” which, as one commenter aptly put it, looks like a box of tree chocolates. It’s almost too cool for words. Share this:TwitterFacebookRedditStumbleUponPinterestLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

    Pingback by Tree stamps! | — February 20, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

  12. How wonderful. How very, very beautiful! I’m sure they would be a pleasure to use but how lovely they are to look at as a set too!

    Comment by Lucy Corrander — February 20, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

  13. Love this set of stamps! My father was an architect/landplanner who used these in his work. As a kid, I loved making pictures with them. If only I had them today, I can think of so many ways to use them again. Would you have any idea where I might be able to buy a set like this? I have tried to find some online but have had no luck. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for the fun memories.

    Comment by Serafina Montgomery — April 6, 2012 @ 10:49 pm

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