by Ryan Ives, RLA, and Michael Ledbetter, RLA, ASLA
This post provides two perspectives from two landscape architects—Ryan Ives and Michael Ledbetter, who are adapting their planting design, implementation, and post-construction plant management strategies to the new norms: climate change, reduced biodiversity, shrinking budgets, and clients’ expectations for new methodologies. We hope to see more posts like this from them and others who are trying out new sustainable design techniques and strategies.
Ryan Ives, RLA
Living and working out of Durham, NC
Stepping into your Post-Wild World
My own journey into a post-wild world began in 2016, when I saw Claudia West speak at the New Directions in the American Landscape conference at Connecticut College. I was blown away by West’s presentation of the then recently published Planting in a Post-Wild World, co-authored with Thomas Rainer, ASLA. West and Rainer synthesized decades of sophisticated European and American planting methods with contemporary views and experience (West comes from the post-Cold War East German landscape perspective and Rainer from the wilderness lost legacy of the U.S.). Their arguments seem particularly well-suited to our current moment of climate change and urbanization. The book they produced is a guide that gives the rest of us a methodology and conceptual framework to build upon. If you spend any time on landscape architecture Instagram, you will see that I am not the only person who has been inspired by this book.
Even after reading the book twice, it took me several years to get to the point where I was ready to jump in and start applying West and Rainer’s methodology to projects. Prior to becoming a landscape architect, I worked in landscape maintenance and I was anxious about taking risks with planting design. No one wants to develop an inspiring planting concept that includes claims of low maintenance after establishment (I mean management!), only to see it fail. There is also the issue that many clients, whether because of negative past experiences or word of mouth, believe that plantings will be expensive and difficult to maintain. Essentially, there are a lot of incentives to avoid taking risks, particularly if you are not entirely sure which risks you should take. The concepts expressed in Planting in a Post-Wild World felt like the missing piece that I needed to give me the freedom and guidance to create meaningful, beneficial, and manageable plant designs.