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How to Learn More about Plants and Vocabulary for Plants and Planting

Updated: Oct 10, 2021

In episode 12 of Think Big, I share some ways you can learn more about plants (without going back to school). I share some of the ways I learnt about plants and developed my passion over years of working as a landscape architect. I also share some simple examples of future simple and how we can use 'going to' to describe the predicted benefits of plants.

I discuss:

✨How my story with plants began

✨How to pronounce Latin names

✨My top 7 tips for learning more about plants and diving deep into understanding more

✨ The language of speculation (making predictions to describe the future benefits of plants or design features

Recommended episodes:

Episode 11 - Building Smart Zero-Net Carbon Cities: Paris Climate Action Plan and the Language of Cause & Effect

Episode 7 - How to Communicate Your Ideas Better Visually & Verbally with Steven Rubio from Show it Better

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull

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Ready to start making a BIG impact on your English & building the architecture career you want?

You know it's time to make a change and you've got to start somewhere. In the evaluation and action plan, you will get my best tips so you stop the self-doubt and start taking action now. Take me to the action plan


Table of Contents


📚 Oaxaca Journal, Oliver Sacks

📚 Planting: a new perspective by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury

📚 Planting Design: Gardens In Time And Space: Oudolf, Piet, Kingsbury

📚 Australian Planting Design, Paul Thompson 📚 Edna walling book of Australian planting design


Books and Resources




internal greenery - indoor plants or green walls

native bush foods - native s grown for an edible purpose

edible plants - plants are grown to be eaten

common name - not a taxonomic name

botanical name - taxonomic classification

cultivar - a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective ) breeding

(plant) trait - a specific quality or feature of a plant grown for a specific purpose

plant adaptations - special features that allow a plant or animal to live in a particular place or habitat.

native plant - native to a specific region

indigenous plant - origins in a very specific geographical area

exotic plant - a plant that isn't native to a region or cultivar

evergreen - plant that keeps leaves all year round

deciduous - plant that loses its leaves in autumn/winter

spontaneous (plant) - grows without human intervention

screening - blocks out unsightly views

shading - planted specifically to provide shade

topiary plant - manicured or clipped foliage

climber plant - plant that can be twining (requires a support structure) or self-supporting (can support itself without a frame or wires

accent planting - feature planting

wholesale plant nurseries - sells plants to a retail nursery or landscaper (not the general public)

tubestock - small seedling

container size - size of plant pot

drought tolerant - can grow with less water

root ball - the size of the main mass of roots

calliper - the trunk diameter


getting my hands dirty - to do hard work or do gardening

Phrasal verbs

come across - discover

look after - care for something

pay very close attention - be careful

cut (something) back - prune



Quick Find Snippets - Take me straight to these sections


Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to think big Episode 12

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:10

Hello big thinkers and welcome to Episode 12 of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host Tara Cull, landscape architect, English teacher and communication coach for ArchiEnglish. As part of my work at ArchiEnglish, I coach people in the built design profession who speak English as a second language to build outstanding communication skills, and feel more confident to speak up. Now you can learn more about my coaching programmes and upcoming courses at If you haven't listened to the podcast before, and this is the first time you have listened. This podcast, the purpose of the podcast is as a listening resource, and also to think about some of the ways that we use language in the architecture profession, especially if English is your second language, or your third or your fourth, and you would like to build more professional English skills.

In today's episode, I'm going to talk to you about something I am intensely passionate about. And that is about plants and how you can learn more about them without going back to university. So this is going to be the perfect warm-up episode to the next episode, which is an interview with Emmaline Bowman from STEM at landscape architecture, where we're going to discuss biodiversity in landscape design.

I really had to restrain myself a little from talking about plants in the past, but I decided it might be time to start talking about it since Claudia who is a listener of the podcast sent me a message. And she asked me about how to learn more about plants. I also get this question very often from some of my clients, also from architects and landscape architects that I speak to and even interior designers, and I realised I have a lot to share on this subject. Given that landscape architecture was my first degree, I've also studied horticulture and I worked in a nursery, I realised maybe people do want to listen to what I have to say about plants. So that is what I'm going to be sharing on the episode today. This episode will be great for you if you like plants, or if you want to know more about them. Or you also just want to improve your listening comprehension and listen to an interesting topic, and something that I'm passionate about. So in the episode today, I'm going to share my top seven tips, including some resources that I know of and of course, if you're curious, I'd love to hear from you about any of your resources that you have that you would like to share. So you can come and share with them with me on Instagram. Or you can come and comment on the post for this particular episode. At the end of the episode, I'm also going to share some examples of how you use future simple and going to, to explain the benefits of particular plants and what they can do and the function that they perform. Because as you know plants when we plant them, they can be quite small. And we have to wait many years or many months for the full benefit of the plants to be felt. So we're going to use examples of how you might explain to a client what is going to happen, what are the plants going to do or what are they going to provide? So we'll talk about that at the end of the episode. As always, you'll find the key vocabulary and the transcript for today's episode in the show notes at so let's get into today's episode.


The Mexican architect Louis Barragan says I don't divide architecture landscape and gardening to me they are one and for me the architecture and landscapes which surrounds us really make us who we are. And you can certainly see this through the work of Louis Barragan particularly in his house and his studio. And another example not of Barragan's, but where you can see this is in Casa Azul, which is one of Frida Kahlo houses in Coyoacan, Mexico City. Both of these examples for me show how the experience within the house can be transformed by the landscape which it's surrounded by but it's not just the physical structures that influence our lives. It's the experiences that we have within these houses that marks us and that really rings true for me with my experience. My love of plants started in my grandma's vegetable garden. She lived on this huge four-acre property in the foothills in Emerald in Victoria. And in the heart of this Eucalyptus bush my grandma and grandpa had a log Cabin on stilts overlooking a forested Valley and down, looking down from the balcony was a huge vegetable garden. It was always full of plants was surrounded by passionfruit plants and fruit trees. And we would go on walks to visit the eucalyptus forest. And we would

come across moss and ferns and orchids, and fungus. And my grandma would explain the importance of all these different plants within the forest. And then lastly, we'd visit the vegetable garden, we'd pick the fruit, we'd pick all the vegetables or the salads, and we would eat them. And so I understood the importance of plants. But my, my love of plants really grew this one particular day, my grandma and my sister, we went for a walk around the property. And we had just almost arrived back and my sister was just wanting to get back into the house. And she decided she was going to take a shortcut through the garden. And when she did that, she got bitten by a bullet which is a giant ant. And she was screaming and yelling, and my grandma quickly ran inside the house to see if she could find the the cream or the ointment to help her with the bite. She couldn't find any. And then she had a quick idea to go and get some Bracken Fern from the garden. So Bracken Fern is a native plant to the area, she opened the Bracken Fern and she wiped the liquid (sap) from the inside of the fern onto my sister's bite. And then miraculously, my sister stopped crying and, and she was healed. And so from then on, I remember vividly this, this memory of feeling like how amazing was it that a plant with medicinal properties could save my sister from crying and, and feeling upset. So then my curiosity for plants really grew again when my dad who became so excited by plants as well, so he would volunteer at the local indigenous nursery. And they always bring home native plants to our garden. And so I really came to understand more about plants and to really grow to love them.


Thinking back to my, my grandma's house as well, I actually found a photo of it. And it's been sold a few times since my my grandparents owned it. So I've put a link to the image of this in the show notes. And you'll be able to see this house where all of my my love, where the birth of my love for landscapes and architecture really started. And I think for me, it really helped me to develop this idea that architecture and gardens and landscapes come together so seamlessly. It really makes sense for me to when I decided what I wanted to do at university that I would choose landscape architecture. But I guess for me, what always shocked me was how much I felt I didn't learn about plants. After spending a few years in working as a landscape architect in a multidisciplinary practice. I was working with engineers and planners, and other landscape architects, of course, and urban designers. I just felt like I didn't know enough about plants. So I transitioned to work for a residential landscape design company. And I started to learn more about plants and to understand more about soils and gardening, but I really wanted to know more. So being a lover of learning, I went back to university and I started doing some subjects from the master of horticulture at Melbourne University. And this is where my knowledge grew. So I loved learning more about plants and understanding that well if I wanted to know more about plants, I would have to learn more about soils and the environment and have a conversation with people who knew more about plants and horticulturalists. So I remember a conversation actually, Peter May. He's a horticultural lecturer, or was a horticultural lecturer at Melbourne University in Burnley. And he told me once that he loved landscape architects because they gave him a job. He said that when he was working, lots of people, lots of developers would come to him to say that they need him to fix the landscape job because after 20 years, a plant wasn't working or there were mistakes had been made with the soil or they'd specified the wrong plants for the wrong situation. So it really made me start to think I need to know more about plants if if this is what I'm passionate about. Then I want to know more about plants. So at the time, the company that I was working for my boss was actually a horticulturalist. So I said to him at the time, how am I going to learn more about plants and to become more of an expert?


And at the time, I had started doing my university subjects and he said to me, Tara, you don't need to go back to university. You need to spend time with plants.


You need to be curious. You need to ask questions and learn from experience. And so at the time the company that I was working for we had horticulturalists that worked for us as well. And they would start at seven in the morning. So I used to go to work at seven in the morning and have conversations with some of the horticulturalists or sometimes I would join them on site. And I would help them and then I would do that for an hour, and then I would go into work afterwards.


But I realised that my boss was right, studying horticulture subjects gave me a good understanding of plants gave me a good understanding of where to start. But actually, my real learning came from just getting my hands dirty. And I literally did get my hands dirty those times when I was out on site with the horticulturalists. And I was speaking to them about plants and trying to understand more about the maintenance of plants and why we plant certain things together. That's when I really started to learn. And it's a bit like what I say to people, if you want to be better at speaking, you have to speak. And if you want to know more about plants, then you have to really make friends with them. And so that's exactly what I did. I started working as a landscape architect in a plant nursery in Melbourne. So I left my job where I was working in residential landscape design.


And I was then working in a plant nursery while I was actually studying teaching. So when I was in the nursery, half the time I was designing landscape concepts for residential landscapes, or I was doing things like internal greenery for offices and restaurants, and the other half I was in the truck, so I would get into the truck and I would go and pick up plant orders from wholesale plant nurseries, or I would be speaking to wholesale plant growers, or running small workshops, or I was out on-site and also planting the plants I was setting them out, and also doing maintenance. So I remember a couple of times I would go out and do maintenance, and I would be speaking to the client or the customers about how they can look after the plants as well. One time I was even out shovelling mulch and putting wheelbarrows of mulch onto the garden. All of these things really helped me to understand more about plants. And in my last job before coming to France, I actually designed a small courtyard space using all just native bush foods, which are now coming into to be more cultivated at the moment. I absolutely loved my time at the nursery, it's not necessarily a job that all landscape architects will do. But for me, it's how I really learned about how to deal with people, how to communicate ideas about plants, to people who don't necessarily know as much as you do. And I think I really appreciate it even more. So now, because I saw how it helped me with so many different skills, communication skills, understanding more about what's available commercially, all of those sorts of things which are useful. And I think it's also been a job which has allowed me to be able to work on jobs from France. So jobs in Australia from France, because I have kept a client base that I had when I was there. And so that's why I really wanted to share some of those ways that you can learn more about plants without going back to university so that you feel more confident no matter what your level of understanding is. So you might be an architect, a landscape architect and urban designer. Being able to develop your vocabulary around planting is always a good idea.

But first I wanted to answer some questions I'm often asked and the first one I'm often asked is What is your favourite plant? Now for me, I think that's really, really hard to answer because I think that plants go in different situations in different contexts. But I think because at the moment of me recording this, I have a diffuser on in the room, and it has a citrus smell so it's making me think of citrus plants. So for me, the first one would be Corymbia citriodora which is also known as a Lemon scented gum. And it's a magnificent tree with a beautiful white trunk. But I also like plants like Gingko biloba because I think it has a fascinating story behind it because there is a male plant and a female plant so the way you can tell which is which is the female one has a different leaf shape to the male one. So that's how you can tell the difference. I also really like edible plants, I think, you know growing up with my grandma's vegetable garden, I really came to appreciate how much I love edible plants. Citrus australasica is one of my favourites which is the Australian finger Lime


and then also citrus hystrix, which is a Kaffir Lime because I love cooking with Thai food or cooking Thai food. And then another one that's my favourite, which is just looking at me right now outside in my window is the cactus, which is the Euphorbia Tetragona and that one really reminds me I have very fond memories of my visit to Mexico. So I went to the Oaxaca Botanic Gardens. And it reminds me of my visit to Oaxaca Botanic Gardens and reading Oliver Sacks, Oaxaca journal. So a lot of these things for me, a lot of plants really are embedded in memory as well. So I also like ferns, I have some indoor plants in my office, I have a couple of ferns, and they really remind me of my grandma's garden back in Emerald. Now the second question I get, and this is probably the most common one is how do I pronounce botanical plant names? And I can tell you now it's a challenge even for people that work within the industry.

Often when people would call the nursery or even when I would have to call to make orders, people would ask for plants using the common name. And this was sometimes tricky because the common name can be the same for many different plants, or a particular plant can have four or five different common names. You might know it as one common name, but I might know it as a different common name. So the important thing to know about plants is that there is one common language which we can all use and understand. And that is the Latin classification system. So where we use botanical names, Carl Linnaeus, who is a Swedish botanist, came up with this naming system for naming organisms for classifying organisms in 1758. And he proposed this system in his book Sistema Naturae. So for me, it's so poetic because I guess no matter what language we speak, we have a common language. And that is the Latin naming system that we use to classify plants and organisms. So going back to the original question about pronunciation, there's a couple of things I want to talk about before I go through that. And that is we have two parts of the botanical name, we have the genus, which is the first part and we have this specific epithet. So the genus would be for example, Eucalyptus, Acacia, banksia, Korea, all of the Australian plants that I'm naming, and then the specific epithet would be the second part. So scoparia cognita elber. And the interesting thing about this specific epithet is if you know anything about Latin naming system is the specific epithet will tell us more about the plant. So for example, we have Korea elbow, which elbow in Latin means white, or we have banksia serrata. So serata means serrated, and the Banksia serrata has serrated edges on the leaves. So often, the specific epithet will tell us more about the plant. And then together these two parts of the botanical name, the genus and the specific epithet, make up the species. So often people will say to me, or the species is Acacia, but that's incorrect. The species is the name is the genus, and the specific epithet coming together, so don't make that mistake. So for example, the species would be Acacia cognata or Eucalyptus scoparia, or Correa alba.


Then you also have another part to that which would be sometimes in a name in a botanical name, you see the name in brackets, and that name in brackets is the cultivar or inverted or in commas, I should say inverted commas. So that would be the cultivar. So for example, we have Acacia cognata is the species and then the cultivar, which is bred for a desired trait. So it could be different colours, different plant adaptations, then that is known as the cultivar. And then often the cultivable have plant breeders rights, which means the person that developed this cultivar


gets royalties every time that that cultivar is used. So it's protecting the the genetic, the genetic information of that plant. So we have the species and then we have the cultivar as well. So when it comes to pronunciation, there isn't necessarily one standard pronunciation. Sometimes this will change depending on where you're from or where you're working. But I think the most important thing is that you're speaking


Thinking, when you're speaking to somebody that they understand the name, what have you called it and they know what you're talking about. So if you were asking about a botanical name, or you're talking about it, you can use both the botanical name and the common name. But I always say it's important not to separate the common name from the botanical name, because as I was saying, sometimes they can change and they can also change depending on the country as well. So to learn more about pronunciation, you can either do a number of things, some more common plants, if you type them into Google, somebody will have made a video about how to pronounce it. Or you could be listening to different videos or different things about gardening, and you might hear someone say it. The other thing you can do is something that I used to do before I even finished my Landscape Architecture degree was, I would take lists of plants, and I would take them to the nursery. And I would ask them to tell me, what's the name of this plant? How do you pronounce this, and it was a little bit it for me, it wasn't so embarrassing, because I didn't want to make that mistake, when I went to work in my first Landscape Architecture job. So it wasn't so intimidating to take the list to a nursery. So that's another way you could do it. I still remember for many, many years is a plant called Westringia fruticosa. But for many years, I was pronouncing it with Westringia fruiticosa because I didn't really pay very close attention to the spelling. And I realised my mistake in my very first job my my boss told me Are we going to use a Westringia fruticosa in this design, and it clicked, suddenly clicked for me, I'm not pronouncing it correctly. But at the end of the day, people are going to understand you it's quite similar, but they might just correct you in tow. Actually, it's not like that.

7 Tips for learning more about planting

So now I want to share with you some of my tips for how you can learn more vocabulary about planting. And if you have any questions about this episode, and you want to know more, then I'd absolutely love to hear from you. You can either send me an email, you can post a comment on the post from from this on Instagram. And I will try and get back to you with your answers. Okay, the very first tip, if you want to know more about plants and vocabulary about plants, is to first understand the origin, the form and the function. For me, when I do a design, and I'm working with a client, I always begin with the form and the function of the plant. And of course, I also need to have an understanding of the origin. So I don't design with specific species in mind, I always try and think more clearly about the form and the function first. So when we're talking about origin, we're talking about is it native, so if it's native, it comes from the same area or the same country. And is it indigenous. So indigenous is slightly different to native in that it comes from a very specific area. So a very small area within that within that country or within that geographic space. So indigenous a plant might be indigenous to say, regional Victoria, or it might be indigenous to a small part of France, but it might be native to France. So it's part of the bigger picture, then we have exotic, so exotic can be can either come from another country, or it can be a cultivated species. So it could be a cultivar, which is an exotic cultivar. And these plants are often


they're often bred for their traits that are more favourable for the environment. So just because a plant is exotic, doesn't necessarily mean it's bad, but it's not native or indigenous, so it doesn't naturally grow in that space. So we've had to make some changes to the plant. And then we have weeds and weeds are very controversial in that some people might consider something a weed, and others might consider that it's not a weed. But we say that a weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation. So it's a plant in the wrong place. So a native plant could be a weed in a certain environment depending on what you want the plant to do so because if it's not a native plant or not an indigenous plant, it might might have no competitors, so therefore it grows really easy or spreads really easily. And so we might refer to that as being weedy. So if it's it spreads quickly and easily or it has traits that allows it to survive and grow spontaneously, then we might refer to it as weedy. So a plant that is native can also be weedy, as well. So knowing where it comes from is easy.


Really important because the client or the person that you're working with might have a specific, a specific goal in mind. So often the clients that I work with, they want to have native plants or indigenous plants. And in the next episode, I'm going to be speaking to Emmaline Bowman in an interview, and we talk a lot about how she uses indigenous and native plants. But in some of my some of my concept, I would also use exotic plants as well, but I use them less. And if I'm going to use exotic plants, I'm going to be thinking about the environmental reasons as to why I'm using those exotic plants. So they might be a plant that has a requirement for less water. And so therefore, I'm going to use that instead of something that needs more water. So thinking first about the origin, but then thinking about the form and the function. And and you'll understand why I think this is important to think about first before thinking about species in a moment. So when we're thinking about the types of form, if you are, say, an architect, and you're trying to get an understanding of the form that you want to create, then you can communicate that with the landscape designer or the landscape architect. So having that vocabulary will be quite important. So with trees, we have deciduous trees that lose their leaves in winter. And then we have evergreen trees, which would keep their leaves all year round. And then you might also have semi deciduous trees, which only lose their leaves for a certain period of time, not just a full season. And then the form of the tree could be weeping. It could be fastidious, it could be broad, could be oval shaped, or a column could be broad, could be conical, so like a triangle shape. And then we also were thinking we might think about the function of the tree as well. So is it going to be used for screening for shade as an avenue? So in a line, are we going to use it for hedging? Are we going to use it as a windbreak? So as an environmental protection?


Does it need to be a coastal plant because it needs to withstand wind? Or is it a topiary plant so it needs to be manipulated and maintained into shapes. So a way that you can understand more about this if you want to build your vocabulary around that is to use either wholesale tree nurseries or nurseries, where you can use the search functions. A lot of these wholesale nurseries have search functions on their websites where you can search for the different classifications. So you can look for trees that have a more weeping form or amorphous vestigial form. So it's something that I use quite often. Obviously based in Australia, there will be different ones all around the world, is speciality trees. So I've put a link to that in the show notes, where you will be able to see the different forms that they that they sell of their trees. Then we have shrubs, so we have small, medium, and large. And again, you might have shrubs for the purpose of screening shrubs, maybe they're for shade, maybe it's to create an avenue. So we have different forms and different different sizes. Then we have ground covers, so the plants that will sprawl across the ground to cover the area. And then you have things like grasses or tufting, plants, or sedges. And often some of these plants will be the types of plants that can withstand inundation, which means they can withstand long amounts of or lots of rain, or they can withstand periods of dry so they can survive without too much water. And then we also have aquatic planting. So you might be doing a wetland design, and you need to have different plants for different zones within the wetland. And then we also have climbers. So climbing plants would be you could also have deciduous climbers or evergreen climbers. So a good example of a deciduous climber that we often see is the Virginia creeper or the Parthenocissus quinquefolia or the Boston Ivy Parthenocissus tricuspidata or you have evergreen climbers, so there's many different ones obviously, one that I have on my balcony at the moment is a Mandevilla sp. and it has a red flower on it.


Also, there's one that I really like is the Ficus pumila. And that's an evergreen climber. Now you with climbers you also have this classification which is either twining or they're either ones that are self supporting. So if it's a twining climber, it requires some form of support. If it's a


self supporting climber, you


It may have little suckers on the back of the leaf so it will stick to a wall on its own. And then interestingly with the the Ficus pumila, which is the the Climbing Fig, that one needs to be maintained, we need to cut it back to keep it in a juvenile state to keep it in a young state, so that it sticks to the wall because afterwards after its gets into its teenage years, and it becomes grown-up comes a more mature plant. It starts to lose its suckers, and then it will come away from the wall. So often when I was doing maintenance, I would go into people's gardens and they hadn't maintain their Ficus or their Ficus. And it was just coming off the wall so we had to explain to them how to keep it at a juvenile state. Next we have accent planting. So accent planting might be cactus succulents, like Agave's also what's it called a cycad. So you might have those types of plantings or even in my street, for example, I have big palm trees, then we have fruiting plants. So you might have fruiting or productive planting. So vegetables, Herbes, salads, for example. So lots and lots of different forms. So my first advice would be to understand more about the forms and what function you want them to serve within the landscape. As an architect, if you can explain that to a landscape designer, then that's going to help you make sure that you make the landscape and the garden grow together. And that's something obviously, as a landscape architect, I'm very passionate about making sure that when I'm working with an architect, I'm understanding what they want to achieve. And I'm explaining what's possible with the plants or I'm explaining what's possible with the design and we're working together. Tip number two is to start local. So when I say start local, start with the plants that are around you and your local area. So a way that you could do that is by understanding what are the wholesale plant nurseries that are available to you within your area within your geographical region and understanding what's on the market. So a big thing that I learned when I worked in the nursery was that you need to understand what's available you can't just go onto the internet, pick a plan and say that's what's going to be in my design or that's what I want because it might not actually been commercially grown it might not be available at the time. So if you know some wholesale plant nurseries Have a look at what they have on their in their catalogues and what they are, what they are growing at the time.


Another one you could look at is retail nursery. So retail nurseries are very accessible to everyone. You go in and you can have a look at what plants are being grown at the moment and what is available. You can also have in lots of nurseries people that work there are so helpful when it comes to trying to understand more about what you can plant in different situations. I used to spend a lot of time before I worked in a nursery I used to spend a lot of time going in speaking to the people trying to get as much information from them as possible. And they will always so helpful and it helps to just buy a plant at the end as well. Another thing to start local is to have a look at indigenous nurseries if you have any around you. So they will be growing tubestock sizes or small examples of indigenous plants, which are indigenous to the area. And they will often be quite different to what you would see in a retail nursery. And they will often also have lots of information about the plants and how you can grow them. You can also have a look at say indoor plants, suppliers and specialist plant suppliers. So if you're an interior designer, I'm sure this would be very useful for you and florist as well. So having an understanding of the types of plants that go in different lighting conditions as well. It's exactly the same as what I was saying about having on the wholesale plant nursery website. A lot of these indoor plants suppliers will also classify the plants depending on the different light conditions that they need. So when I worked at the nursery, I made a big guide for different plants that could survive in different light conditions. And that helped me to explain this to the people that came into the nursery, but also to explain it to my clients as well when they weren't wanting to know what indoor plants that they could put into their into their designs. Also, many councils or cities will have guides for different planting for new developments. And they will have lists of plants that they would prefer


In their, in their development. So they've obviously done a lot of work in the background to understand what plants work in the environment, and also what plants are available. There are also lots of guides, for example, for green wall painting for green roof planting. So there's some companies that also do these independently. And they will have examples of plants that they use within their, their designs and their, their systems. So I know a couple in Melbourne, obviously not as many in outside of Melbourne. But, for example, the growing green guide in Melbourne is something that I used a lot, which is how to incorporate plants into green mould and green roofs. And then also something that I have seen before to the urban tree manual in the UK. So try and look for manuals or different guides for different planting within your local area. And that will help you to understand more about what's native what's going to be suitable for the different situations different environmental conditions that you need for the plants for.


Tip number two is to make a schedule of different plants under each category. So once you have an understanding of both the origin, the different forms and the functions, you can create a schedule of plants under each of the different categories. And then keep adding to this schedule as you learn more. So this is where you can start to put the specific species into your schedule. And then you can add information to the schedule such as growth habit, the height, the form and the shape. When does it flower? Is it drought-tolerant or not? Is it light tolerant? Is it wind tolerant? What soil type does it survive in? What environmental conditions does it survive in? And so you kind of populate this schedule to understand more about the plants. Often,


when landscape architects first start working, they have a very specific schedule of plants, will they they come to know, a specific schedule of plants. Something that I like to do is just to keep adding to that schedule, so I understand more about those plants. And something that I was just thinking about too, as I'm speaking is that the word schedule is often people ask me, How do I pronounce schedule? Is it scheduled or schedule. So the difference is, is that schedule is British, and schedule is American and Australian pronunciation. So you can choose whichever pronunciation is more suitable to you. Even in Australia, you will hear people say schedule or schedule. So we have two different pronunciations, I guess, but the official one for Australia is schedule with the K sound.


So in terms of putting together the schedule, I've put an example in the show notes with a few examples of plants to show how you can do it. And if you're working as an interior architect, for example, you could do the same thing for interior plants. So as I was saying, When I worked in the nursery, I created this visual image that shows the images of different plants in the forms and also their tolerance of light. So it was on on a tolerance of light scale. So I was able to use this to communicate to my clients where they could put particular plants and what they could, what they could use. Then when you specify plants on drawings, or just when you're talking about them with a client, you'll have this schedule with you and a better idea of what you're talking about. So really bringing it all together, it can help you to understand what you're talking about. Another thing about specifying plants to something that I realised a few of my clients asked me about was when you're specifying trees, if you're a landscape architect, obviously in your schedules you are going to be specifying important information such as the container size, which is the size of the pot. So container sizes can range from 14 centimetres to 50 litres to 50 centimetre to 100 litres to 200 litres. It can be any lots of different sizes. And in Australia we tend to use millimetres or inches and litres. In America they use inches and litres and in Britain they use millimetres or inches I think and litres are not 100% sure about that though. So anyone who who does know can let me know. The other thing that you'll need to know is the height of the tree. So how tall is the tree when the pot or the root ball so the root ball being how big the roots are when they're cut away from either the pot or sometimes trees are grown, and we have to take them out of the ground when we're going to instal


So how big is the root ball and how tall is the tree, we also need to know the trunk calliper. So the trunk calliper is the diameter of the tree trunk. And then as I was saying the root ball is how big the roots are in total, so it looks like a ball. So these are really important when we're approving the quality of the planting stock. So if you are going outside on-site to inspect a tree, you're going to see the tree and say, is it the right container size? Is it the right height, and is the trunk calliper? Correct. Because we want to make sure that it's a good, healthy specimen, so it's a good tree.


Tip number four is to visit public gardens, landscapes and nurseries and make an image library. So the key to learning about plants, for me back to what my boss was saying is to make friends with them, it's to be curious. So I have 1000s upon 1000s of photos in a library that I created across all the jobs that I've worked in, and also when I worked at the nursery, and I've organised all my photos into different photos based on different forms. So like what we talked about earlier, I have folders for trees, folders for deciduous trees for for evergreen trees, all the different categories that I talked about earlier. And then I also use a doe bridge to assign different keywords and metadata to my photos, so that if I want to I can search for photos. So I can say for example, if I wanted to look for a climber that has purple flowers, then I would type in some of the metadata or the keywords that I've assigned to each of my photos. And I like to use these images a lot, particularly when I'm explaining precedents to clients to show them what the pilot will look like. But not only do I show them what the plant will look like on its own. I also try to show them the bigger picture and what it looks like in the surrounding context. So in my library, I have a heading of places as well. So sometimes I've taken photos of different landscapes that are visited or different Botanic Gardens. And then I try and take photos of mixes of plants so that you can see which plants are going together. And by doing that I started to notice which plants you see often together as well. And every time I travel, I always make a point to always go to the Botanic Garden first, it's always the place that I would visit. So I think it helps us to understand more about the history as well of the plant. And of course in the Botanic Garden, you have the benefit of labels, you have the information and sometimes you will have the maintenance team that will be working on the garden and you can either ask them questions or just observe what they're doing.


A few of my favourite gardens to visit Firstly, Hobart Botanic Gardens for me is one of the best Botanic Gardens in the world. Probably also because they have the best scones in the world in the cafe. So if you ever get a chance to visit the Botanic Gardens in Hobart, please do in Tasmania in Australia.


Oaxaca Botanic Gardens was also a very special garden for me, because at the same time as visiting Oaxaca, visiting Mexico, I was also reading Oliver Sacks Oaxaca Journal. And so I was really seeing a lot of the things that he was talking about and experiencing a lot of the things he was talking about. So it was very special to see it in person. And I have some great photos of some amazing cactus as well. Barcelona Botanic Gardens is another one of my favourites. Again, a really great experience going around and seeing the whole gardens with my family. Stouffer freer in Lisbon is another of my absolute favourites. It's got lots of tropical plants, lots of lots of different plants and it's it's almost a hidden gem for me in Lisbon. It's not, there's never very many people that when I visited and of course, one of the best Botanic Gardens of course, the Kew Botanic Gardens in England. But then the best experience I've had in terms of gardens and visiting places was in 2013 I think I visited the Chelsea Flower and Garden Show. And at the time, the company that I was working for won the gold medal and it was the first Australian landscape designer to do so. And so it was a big part of my work for the year and also such a great experience to be part of the team and to see the garden for real. So it was a big water feature with lots of Australian native plants and it was just so fabulous to go and see it and to walk on it and to to see it for real as it was


I think one of the most important things when it comes to wanting to improve your plant knowledge or your knowledge about planting design is to spend time with the plants and just to see them and to analyse them, take notes, do sketches if you need to. All these things help you to build this vocabulary around planting.


Tip number five is to get books on planting design. Planting is so much about local context so I couldn't really possibly tell you about all the great books out there that are going to be suitable for you. So start with books that are more general, but then also think about books at a more local to what you need. For example appeared order of star garden isn't going to work everywhere, but you can still learn about his process of planning and designing with plants. Because different stars also require different processes and different plants. But also when you understand the form, you can start to take some of the ideas from different planting designers or different ways and styles of planting. So a couple of books that I really like


Planting: a new perspective by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury


plan planting designs, planting design gardens in time and space which is also by paid off and no Kingsbury naturalistic planting design, the Edna walling book of Australian planting design, and also Australian planting design by Paul Thompson. So I'd love to hear from you what is some of your favourites that you have read and that you have got a lot out of I will put a list of all the books in the show notes so you can have a look at them as well. Tip number six would be to live it to just do it to have your own garden. And if you can't have your own garden, go to someone else's garden. As I was saying visit other people's gardens. There are things like open garden days where you can go and visit designers gardens on specific days of the year. Something else you might think about doing is volunteering as well. So you might volunteer in a school. I for one year or two years I volunteered in the school in a kitchen garden programme. So I learned a lot about how to teach kids about plants and how to get them excited about plants and looking after them. You might do some tree planting volunteering, you might volunteer in a local nursery. Lots of indigenous nurseries, for example, in Australia have volunteers. I know when I lived in England, there were some nurseries that had volunteers coming to work in the nurseries as well, if they were more local nurseries spend as much time as you can trying to do it. If you don't have the space to be able to do it outside, get some indoor plants and have them inside and look after them and watch them and see what they do. Weirdly enough, I'm notoriously bad at not looking after my plants, I get a bit distracted sometimes and I forget to water them and I learned my lesson that's for sure. So have them around you leave them and and be around them to see what happens and observe what they do. Finally, tip number seven, if you really want to push yourself but you don't want to go back to university think about doing some short courses on planting design. So there's a number of different short courses you could do just to see how you could grow your knowledge. So for example, London College of garden design in the UK, or online and in Melbourne. So they have a school where you can do a number of different certificates. So because of I guess because of COVID a lot of things are more available online, so you can check out some of their courses. You've also got the Royal Horticultural Society which has some courses in person, but also some courses online. There is a website called garden and sometimes the London School of garden design has some of their courses through they're also having a look at Kew Botanic Gardens. On their website. They're associated with the IHS as well. They have some short courses.


When I was at university or when I finished and was working as a landscape architect. A lot of people were doing a particular course called discovering horticulture through Melbourne University in Burnley. So that was a face to face course. Possibly they have it as an online course now I'm not sure but a number of different universities will have short courses are either on planting design or on understanding more about horticulture. Because as I was saying earlier, too, it's not just about the plants. It's not just about understanding about the plants. It's understanding more about the soil, about the environmental conditions about what makes plants what makes plants survive. What are the traits that makes that make plants survive?


There's lots of different things that you can learn as well as understanding more about the plants. But there's certainly lots of ways that you can do it. So there my top seven tips, obviously, they might be more, there's many ways that you can learn more about plants. If you would like to share your ways of learning about plants, then let me know always love to hear from other people.

Language of Speculation

Before we finish today's episode, I wanted to share some examples of the language of speculation. So when we have to speculate or tell a client about something that we predict might happen, we might use various degrees of certainty. So if we're certain we would be using the future simple, so we might use will or won't, or it's going to, for example, the tree will provide shade, or the tree won't provide shade, or the climber is going to provide shade, or it's not going to provide shade, then if it's possible, and we're not 100% sure, we're not fully certain,


you might say something like using modal verbs like might and May, we can say, the tree might provide shade if it grows well in this location, it means you're not 100% sure, or the tree may provide shade, if it grows well in this location. If it's impossible, then we can use can't, or won't. So for example, if we plant this tree here, it won't provide much sunlight to the rest of the backyard, because it will block all the light. Imagine you have to explain to a client the benefits of particular parts of your concept, maybe a plant in this case, and you have to explain the form and the function and what's going to happen in the future. So you want to make an educated guess and you want to be quite definite about what you're saying. So for example, the tree once established, is going to provide shade in summer, and allow light to penetrate in winter.


Or the mix of colours will create a garden that is always changing.


Or the climber will become a green backdrop to the rest of the backyard.


This shrub is going to screen unsightly views of the future development from your house. We can also use adverbs when we speculate. So for example, if you're very certain, you could say, the tree is definitely going to provide shade. Or if you're not a certain you could say the tree will probably provide shade. When we're talking about the language of speculation, we're also thinking about making decisions about something based on evidence. So for example, imagine that I go to somebody's house and I'm looking at their garden or their landscape. And they're showing me part of their garden. So when we use deductions in the present, or the future, we use must. So for example, if I'm looking at this particular plant, I might say, oh, there must be a problem with the soil since the plant is not growing. But then if we're thinking about it in the past, I might be looking at that same plant and say, well, there must have been a problem with the soil, since the plant is not doing very well. So I'm trying to speculate about what may have happened currently or what's happening currently, and also what's happened in the past. So there's some examples of the language of speculation. Let me know if you found these examples useful.

I hope you enjoyed today's episode, remember to share it with somebody who may find this useful. In the next episode, I'll be speaking with Emmaline Bowman from STEM landscape architecture. And we'll be talking all about biodiversity in landscape design, so I look forward to sharing that episode with you very soon. To access the transcript from today's episode go to

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1 Comment

Oct 20, 2022

Both books and working in a garden center are great sources of knowledge and I will add searching the internet and You Tube videos. Even better than a garden center would be a nursery, where the plants are grown, rather than simply watered before sale. The most expensive place you can find will usually carry the largest variety of plants as well as a good selection of books to browse during your breaks. I was fortunate to work in one of the most exclusive nurseries in the USA where I was encouraged to read through their extensive library. Because I'm a voracious reader, I was able to pick up an incredible amount of knowledge very quickly. Being forced to answer…

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