Profile and Overview
In my work I aim to move the consideration of planting design and landscape horticulture from a largely cosmetic, decorative and functional role, to one that is also central to the discussion of how to address the major problems of climate change and sustainability
I am Professor of Planting Design and Vegetation Technology, and Director of The Green Roof Centre, University of Sheffield. I am author of 'Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls' (Timber Press 2008); 'Small Green Roofs (Timber Press 2011); Rain Gardens: Managing Water Sustainably in the Garden and Landscape (Timber Press 2007); and 'The Dynamic Landscape: ecology, design and management of urban naturalistic vegetation' (Routledge 2003).
In addition to managing research programmes in sustainable landscape planting and green roof development, I am active in design and consultancy, and write widely for horticultural and gardening publications.
My main areas of activity are:
Since 1999 I have been undertaking research into green roof plant selection, vegetation and planting design, and the ecology and biodiversity of green roofs. The aim of my research is to widen the range of planting possibilities in the UK. Now, over a decade later, The Green Roof Centre, University of Sheffield, is the leading UK centre for green roof studies across the range of green roof attributes.
I developed the concept of ‘Pictorial Meadows’ to describe the seed mixes that have been produced, following many years of intensive experimental trials, to create very cost-effective plantings with a very long season of display, requiring minimal maintenance intervention. The mixes can be annuals or perennials and are strongly colour-themed.
While firmly in the tradition of 'new naturalism' the research-based Sheffield approach remains distinctive. We have pioneered a 'designed meadow' style in which plants are intimately mingled. The emphasis is on simple maintenance, and a careful consideration of the various layers within a planting, and successional flowering of a planting over a long period. The key element is an understanding of the 'horticultural ecology' of designed plantings, and working with 'plant communities' that are suited to site conditions, and which mimic the processes in 'natural' vegetation.
Rain gardens capture rainwater runoff from buildings and hard surfaces. Relying heavily on rich and dynamic planting, rain garden techniques have great potential for creating beautiful multi-functional designed landscape. In 2007 I published the first book, with co-author Andy Clayden, devoted to this topic, and continue to investigate the creative and planting opportunities that these features offer.
I act widely as a consultant on planting design, water-sensitive design, green roofs and roof gardens, ecological and sustainable design: working with landscape architects and architects.
From 2008 - to the present, myself and James Hitchmough have been the principal planting design and horticultural consultants for the London Olympic Park, and for its transition to the Queen Elizabeth Park
I also work as a designer in my own right. Since 2009 I have exhibited four main show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show, which bring to a very wide audience all of the above areas in which I am active researcher and academic.