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From Native Prairie to Meadow Gardens – an outdoor seminar for landscape architecture students

November 16, 2020 — 

On Tuesday, September 1, ten landscape architecture students and their instructor John Harper demonstrated their enthusiasm for plants in an accelerated planting design seminar as they began an unprecedented journey. For four days they met at sites in and around Winnipeg to see and discuss plants and planting design. They wore their masks, they distanced themselves from one another, and they learned about plants from Angelica to Zizia all while the COVID-19 pandemic continued. Of course, safety was the primary concern, and everyone traveled accordingly. All meetings were conducted outdoors except for two online meetings via zoom, which served as bookends to the field trips.

The objectives of the course were to identify landscape types based on planting design characteristics, demonstrate an awareness of historical precedents to contemporary planting design, develop a vocabulary based on key ideas of planting design, identify new plants in the field, and prepare a plant list suitable for a planting plan.

After eleven assigned readings and collective discussions, students were able to identify a variety of landscape types according to their design characteristics and to demonstrate an awareness of the relevance of certain historical precedents to contemporary planting design. They practiced a vocabulary based on the key ideas of planting design and identified plants in the field. All the students in this seminar had previously completed a woody plants course and so the focus was on learning more about herbaceous perennials, grasses, and ferns.

Because this was a seminar based on field trips, students did not complete an entire planting plan, but did prepare a formatted plant list with scientific plant names, plant sizes and other specifications. Students read a series of assigned readings to prompt their thinking about planting design. In addition to the series of readings to prompt their thinking about planting design, they took a plant identification quiz on site in a garden, analyzed a contemporary planting design in situ, and completed a field journal.

The work students completed through the duration of this seminar will provide them with information and ideas for landscape architecture design studios and will better inform them when they go to work as landscape architects.

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