The representation of vegetation is an illogical necessity but not unreasonable.

By Bruno Gadrat, School of Landscape Architecture, University of Montreal -
July 2000 - rev 26/07/2000
Communication for CELA 2000 - 3 to 6 August
Version française 20000710fr-vgtl-illo.html

*[arbre structure] Should we learn how to represent plants ? On one side, it seems illogical to develop a know how that does not belong to the discipline of the landscape architect *[Balby] and on the other side the demand from our clients is explicit in this respect.
*[Pin salé] The reasons behind this demand are supported by the shortcoming of diversity in plantations, a weak viability and an explicit lack of respect for life in numerous landscape projects.
*[Edmonton] A hope for solution has been given by the re-enactment of the representation of nature. The genetic improvement of plants contradicts this trend. *[Lotbinière] Furthermore, biological diversity provokes a destruction of the garden's imagery as well as its representation of the world.
*[herbier] The study of representation systems provides a better appreciation of the complexity of quality control mechanisms in planted landscapes and of the necessity to know how to represent plants.

Should we have to learn the ability of how to represent plants?

*[Poissy] Should the teaching of plant representation change?
The principal theme of the CELA 2000 Conference focuses on "Changes" in Landscape architecture. The garden is the representation of the world as it should be. *[carte GIS] The world is changing and along with it, is our view of a better world. But does our teaching should change ? Certainly but carefully in regard of plantations.

*[Larix contre-jour] Represent the ideas behind a garden with plants and represent plants are two different things.
The vegetation of the garden is an element in the representation of our world. But these plants are not this world. *[Larix cylindre] This metonymy would be an abuse. To draw a representation with plants, we don't need to represent plants themselves.

*[Alternanthera] For our clients, we must know how to represent plants even though it is not our job.
[They are Alternanthera. We made a mosaïculture in the exhibition Mosaïcultures International Montréal 2000 which holds all summer long on the old port of Montreal. The mosaïculture is interesting because it is the prototype of the drawing with plants.] *[2 coeurs] The clients of the landscape architect require that he or she know how to represent the vegetation. This is a primary condition before entrusting him or her with their project. *[Uckange] However, a fair number of professions represent vegetation. In many instances, they are also incapable of using adequately its representation. This particular requirement seems to be specific to the landscape architecture profession. Do we ask a painter to know how to paint before entrusting him with a canvas? *[ombre cèdre] There is no logical relationship between the knowledge of the vegetation and the capacity to create a garden with the vegetation.

Reasons of this demand.

Lets examine the reasons behind the necessary apprenticeship of plant representation.
*[publicité] The exploration of graphics representational learning methods (1), of horticultural paradigms, *[Melianthus major] and our failure to communicate our know how to the general public, help us to understand how this question comes about. *[dessin pensées] Similarly, it provides us with indications about the necessity of teaching plant representation.
*[chardon] Should we know how to represent the vegetation? Logic says no! However, the weakness in representing the vegetation seems to be the underlying question behind problems in various plantations in the second half of the twentieth century.

Similar drawings lead to genetically identical plants.
*[Malus] Poor representations of trees or shrubs in architectural plans or perspective drawings directly translate into a restricted availability of species in nurseries. *[Acer Betula] This absence of diversity also lead nursery owners to develop on a large scale a limited number of selected plant species. Those selected plant species now identify the design of various decades (2). Most of the Acer saccharinum in our parks were planted between the nineteen-twenty's and nineteen-forty's.

Plants can not survive a lack of representation.
*[arbre piquet] The lack of attention to the details of an individual plant species and in particular to its root system has lead to highly unsustainable plantations (3). In architectural plans and in perspective drawings, plants have no roots. *[plateau racines] The participation in a planting activity does not guaranty a good understanding and representation of a mature root system. The absence of favourable conditions such as soil quality, insurmountable obstacles in terms of sidewalks have induced a life expectancy of ten years for trees located in the downtown area of cities. *[arbre cassé] This is less than 10% of the normal life expectancy. In suburb, the availability of aerial space is the most important limiting factor. *[cernes] This conflict results for the property owner into an antinomic choice between space for the tree or space for the house. Individual tree over forty years of age are seldom in suburban areas. [In rings of this Acer saccharinum you can see that the first ten years are pleasant. Ouch! Electric line, the big branches are cut with a chain saw. Five quiet years then more and more frequent attacks not only on branches but also on trunk. Finally, in thirty-two years, he does not offer any more interest and is cut.]

The economic representation produces disposable plants.
*[Malus Montréal] The acceptance of the dominant economic paradigm by the whole of society, supported by horticulturists and landscape architects, has lead to the impoverishment of plantations.
*[Salvia] Growing time in nursery, soil preparation, planting, maintenance, number of plants, all must to be reduce. *[Picea] The immediate cost becomes the essential element of representation. Plants themselves are not important. *[Ulmus nain] The economic representation does not integrate necessary elements determining a plant's growth and life cycle. Conversely, the replacement of plantations is seen as a beneficial economic consequence.

Hope and limitation of current representations.

The representation of nature is more efficient than the representation of plant when illustrating their growth.
*[Pelouse traitée] The ecological awareness of the 70's (4) was not successful in preventing pollution through the use of pesticides, even though a cause to effect relationship was simple to demonstrate. *[Laurentides] However, the resulting paradigm shift is slowly becoming apparent. *[Mont Royal] The concept of sustainable development which now motivates important municipal authorities in Quebec is being translated into clear policies (5). These policies will soon bear their fruit, when the new plantations will replace the existing ones. *[trou trottoir] The possibility of root system development and the use of a greater variety of species are seen as the principal issues in the survival of urban plantations. *[boutures] This improvement in the faith of plants is due to an ameliorated representation of nature, not a better representation of plants.*[alignement Montréal]

The limited number of criteria used in plant representation enhance the chances of disaster.
*[colza] Horticultural and forestry trends are aiming towards a reduction in genetic diversity of populations.
*[graphique] The current trend of plant "improvement " is the consequence of a representation constructed with a limited number of criteria that can be computed. *[Veronica canescens] The plant is selected according to its productivity in this restrictive framework. *[Picea vert et bleu] For a limited number of criteria corresponds a few plant species. The selection of specific traits embodied in the individual plant species is privileged over the integrity of the overall population. The most productive plants species overwhelm the market. *[Picea bleu] With a narrow genetic make up, plant populations are subjected to an increase risk of eradication should an important climatic fluctuation or parasitic disease occur suddenly.
*[Solanum tuberosum Averall blue] The current practices of conservation networks appear insufficient in light of the necessity rapidly to compensate for the outcome of such an eradication.

Biological diversity destroy the design.
*[jardin stade détails] In a given territory, a general rule states that a single species will occupy no more than 5 to 10% of the total area (6). This fact contributes to a greater stability of species composition and ecosystem integrity over time. *[Montmorency] However, it also leads to a loss of form in plantations through the multiplication of contrasts. A weakened drawing and its corollary the strength of its representation leads to the disappearance of the garden. *[Asparagus] This loss in the drawing phase through the inclusion of diversity is not a fatality. *[Pré fleuri] It's only a probability which can be verified in ecological plantations. *[Cozens6] There are no causal relationships between the diversity of elements in the representation and the overall image being formed. The statistical representation of nature by ecologists leads to this situation. *[Bic] There is a need for a representation that simultaneously preserve diversity and the form found in nature.


*[chouette] Studies of representations leeds to give a better answer to the complexity of the question.

The plant taken as an individual in its habitat, provides us with the minimal threshold for the emergence of a garden.
*[tronc décortiqué] The absence of mastery in plantation viability leads to the material impossibility of producing representation through vegetation world. *[tronc coupé] The representation exercise which allows us to understand the plant life is considered essential. *[vent] Therefore, to build a correct image of the plant's nutrition system, growth system, its reactions with regards to its habitat, is of primary importance in order to achieve the minimal threshold for understanding the garden. *[Malus taillé] The necessary representations are descriptive of plant characteristics ( i.e. dimension, position, growth of root system) and the relationships it maintains with its environment (i.e. height at pruning).
[The maintenance of this Malus was annual, with a pruning shears, to produce apples. It is now cut with the chain saw when it is too big and does not produce any more apples. Flowers ans fruits disappeared.] *[carrière] The representation of a plant's life refers to its biological, ecological, agronomic, horticultural or forestery description. *[sol] The choice of description at the detriment of the others leads to a weakened ability to conceive gardens. *[Acer rubrum] These representations are contradictory and there is no need to unify them necessarily. Indeed, their objectives are fundamentally different. *[jardin mouillé] Instead, depending on the part of the garden looked at, one can chose the most appropriate operating representation. *[Populus buisson] Nevertheless, growth and development of the plant with regards to its characteristics and environment becomes the underlying basis for all these representations. *[aquarelle troncs] Unfortunately, the fundamental knowledge associated with plant growth and development factors do not constitute a representation yet. *[tapis ordinateur] It would be in the interest of all to develop and communicate such a representation in order to solve to issue of plant viability. *[massif annuelles] The existence of vegetation in the garden can not necessarily lead to the presence of meaningful and sensitive impacts by plantations.

*[Ginkgo] Plant representations to generate a meaning for the garden.
The consequences of the meaning are related to the possible reading of logical attributes associated to plants. *[arbre symbolique] The understanding of symbolic representation systems is an indispensable asset to the conceptualisation of gardens. *[grotte pompier] [In Quebec the small stone caverns with a virgin are frequent in front of country houses] Here again, this fundamental knowledge does not constitute a representation. On the other hand, the numerous representations of plant are essentials basis for reading the possible meanings of garden. *[canards] This point will not be treated here since it needs an extended introduction to the topic of symbolic drawing apprenticeship by children and its use by adults for drawing gardens with plants. *[Betula arbre] We This being said, we must however keep in mind that this symbolic reading of plants is dominant to the idea of the garden. *[écorce Betula] [canoe, paper, we think of it every time, and tell it as one pleases, but would be very incapable to use it really] In this case, oral and written references are thus considered essential representations. Those representations take root in the variety of cultural heritage. *[Thuya arbre] [The trimming of plants in shape of symbol of broad-leaved tree is very frequent in the region of Montreal.] Our current urban way of life prevents us from vigorously perpetuating these cultural heritage since there is no imperative need to do so that would be associated to our survival. *[Juniperus cascade] Our culture has become a recollection of travel and disorientation stories from other cultures. *[rocaille] The representation of landscape is not applied as it as was done so in the garden heydays when mountains were depicted as rubble. *[échelles] There is no single scale but multiple landscape scales to be represented. *[dessin informatique] A new representation must be developed that will integrate both the planetary community and the local identity bounded by the land. *[Betula alleghaniensis] [The birch of Alleghenies is also the emblem tree of Quebec.] The understanding of territorial attributes of plants and their association as well as their capacity to adapt to other countries are essentials elements which answer, in part, to our clients request of a representation of plants. *[Betula arbre] There is, in this request, an integration of the representation of plants by the representations associated to plants.

*[aquarelle érable] Sensitive representations of plants to warrant a sensitive effect of the garden.
The sensitive effect of the garden is due to an adjustment of the sensations offered by plants. *[texture feuillage] Sensations are basic elements of sensitive effect. *[Tulipa Dicentra] The mastery of the latter involves the knowledge of plants and the relationship they entertain with human perception. *[Campanula] [The main contrast of luminosity detected by the most important part of the retina of the eye allows quickly to highlight flowers on the bottom of fence and foliage. Secondary contrasts, close luminosities and different tints, perceived in a second time, allow to prolong the interest to look at flowers then in bottom of the scene. The fragmentation of the contrasts of luminosity in the foliage allows to decrease the relative value of the main contrast.] Even though some explanation can be found in physics and human physiology, much needs to be done to acknowledge the complexity of plants. *[lapin] The simplification of plants into symbolic forms removes the reality of the sensitive experience and reduces it into the domain of meanings. This simplification is thus not useable. *[Geranium Lychnis] The construction of gardens is the only exact way to reproduce their sensitive experience. *[20 coeurs] This kind of construction is not always possible, especially when trying to conceive a new world. *[dessin ordinateur] Under these circumstances, it becomes less expensive to try with representations. *[bonbons] This method provides access to a sensitive equivalence. *[Furon original] "Realistic" representations are considered the closest real garden sensations. *[Furon proposition] In this case, equivalence is replaced by similarity. *[poisson tropical] In fact, in the request of the sensitive representation of plants by the client, it is not the equivalence or the similarity with the future garden which is sought but the simple verification of the landscape architect's capacity to adequately use the sensitivity itself. *[Cosmos givré] It must be an abusive generalisation. Indeed, it is not clear whether a greater sensitivity in the representation of plants leads to a greater sensitivity in the representation of garden with plants. *[potager champêtre] Often, the elements used and the objectives sought are fundamentally different. The obstacles met during the implementation are also different. *[Salvia] The sensitivity to plants is easier to perceive than space between individual plants. *[Seguin] It is therefore not surprising that our clients try to judge our capacity over plants rather than the garden.


And if we create gardens ?

*[feu] In theory we could content with making gardens. Indeed, the request of plant representation is perfectly illogical. However, it is not unreasonable. It implicitly enables the client to judge the landscape architect's capacity to take into account the viability, the meaning and more so the sensitivity of the garden. *[arbre mosaïculture] The mastery of the representations of plants is so essential to be able to make gardens. *[simulation ruelle] A world without plants is not acceptable. The plants representation in the garden is also a necessity. However, it is a bad answer at the request of our clients. *[jardin des nouveautés] [Since ninety-seven, every year, this garden changes and evolves to reflect the lastest trends in landscaping materials, plants and design. This initiative result of a partnership between the City of Montréal, Permacon inc. and the Scool of Landscape Architecture of the Université de Montréal, with the support of various suppliers. This search by the practice is particularly interesting. We have to create simultaneously one representation for the novelty of plants and an other one for the garden by using the same plants.] *[Bagnolet] Opposite to the real imaginary of internet's virtual reality and of video games, the garden is the place for the imagination of a true reality of our living world. *[20 coeurs] Conclusively, the choice and the mastery of plants representations have first of all to allow us to improve the reality. 


Notes Bibliographiques

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