[Chapter No. 1]
The common thread that links the environments we design as landscape architects is plant materials. The common philosophy that guides the selection of plants for the environments is planting design ecology. Planting design is the arrangement of plants to achieve the best aesthetic, functional, ecological and symbolic effect. Planting design is a visual experience, both in how we apply the plants to the landscape and how we interpret it. It is the physical representation of the principles of design and elements of composition as expressed through the use of plants. Planting design as a visual art can be described a s a three part practice: ability, process and product. According to Lois Fichner- Rathus in her book Understanding Art(1989), as ability, it is out capacity as human to create beautiful environments; as process, it is an act of creating; and as a product, art is a completed design.
Trees, shrubs, ground covers, and grasses provide the extensive and complex base of ingredients used to manipulate the spaces around us. We improve living conditions for humans, protect and balance the habitats of wildlife, and prevent the deterioration of the aesthetic environment with the proper selection and placement of plant materials.
It is important, therefore, to begin a study of the elements of planting design with the processes of plants as they occur in natural spaces. Just as planting design is an element of landscape architecture, landscape ecology — both natural and ornamental — is the principle component of planting design. The selection and arrangement of trees, shrubs and other plants in a landscape can be considered as the detailing of the landscape design, although a design philosophy which considers the layout of the landscape together with the plants, hard surface and artefacts is regarded as...