The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Planning and Environmental Impact Design: from EIA to EID
Chapter: Chapter 8 Forest design, forestry and sylviculture

The new conifer landscape

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New tree species lead to new styles.

In America, where the tree cover has never been removed from 33% of the land area, forest designers have emphasised a conservation approach which borrows 'form, line, colour and texture from the characteristic landscape' (Forest Service 1972). In Britain, where tree cover once fell below 4% of the land area, it has been necessary to adopt an innovative approach to forest design, inspired by the scenery of the Alps: It is also stated, sometimes, that the new British coniferous forests will resemble the great German forests in character by covering the whole landscape in dark green. The comparison, in most cases, is not very apt because the upper limit of economic tree growth in the hill country of Great Britain is relatively low and it is but rarely possible to plant to the skyline. A more accurate comparison would be with alpine forests in which the trees are seen against a background of higher country (Forestry Commission 1934: 55). The comparison with alpine scenery points to the stylistic origins of the new conifer landscape. They lie in the sublime scenery which Englishmen first appreciated on the Grand Tour (Hussey 1927: 4). Towards the end of the eighteenth century a number of English designers, including Price, Knight and Loudon, developed an Irregular Style of landscape design which drew its inspiration from the Alps, and the wilder parts of Britain. The designers who adopted this style became expert in designing manï¾­made landscapes according to the compositional principles of natural landscapes as interpreted by the great landscape painters of Italy (Turner 1986:101). The Irregular Style was revived by Robinson and Jekyll towards the end of the nineteenth century and has continued to exert an overwhelming influence on designers who work with plants. Robinson was so confident of the Commission adopting his preferred style that he left his estate to the Forestry Commission in 1935 (Forestry Commission 1936: 10). Sadly, it is not managed in the Irregular Style. The drawings in The landscape of woods and forests (Crowe, 1978) depict a method of applying the Irregular Style to scientific forestry [Fig 8.10]. It has been further developed by the Commission's landscape architects and is now implemented using overlays on panoramic photographs (Forestry Commission 1980). Landscape designers are trained to think in four dimensions but the Commission, to its great credit, has pioneered the systematic use of timeï¾­lapse sketches as precursors to plans. The sketch designs in the Landscape of woods and forests are so convincing that it is tempting to regard the Irregular Style as a kind of visual determinism which will produce the only acceptable style for innovative forest design. This is wrong. In some places there are excellent reasons for basing a design upon straight lines, serpentine lines, or other sorts of geometry [Fig 8.11]. Sometimes the landscape has so little existing character that the designer must look to his own imagination and the fine arts for inspiration. It should never be forgotten that Tarn Howes, 'perhaps the best known and most visited beauty spot in the Lake District National Park' (Brotherton 1977), is a manï¾­made lake in a manï¾­made forest, designed in the Irregular Style [Fig 8.12].