Professor Cassian Schmidt
‘He is truly the German perennial master right now and leads the European Movement for his work on perennial plantings.’
As Director of Hermannshof Gardens in Germany, Professor Schmidt remains at the forefront of planting design, developing signature methods and using natural plant communities as models for sustainable, low maintenance plant combinations, at home in private gardens and public landscapes.
Hermannshof is a renowned experimental botanical and trial garden of 6 acres of parkland. Evolving over 30 years The New Perennialist says it, has set the benchmark for naturalistic planting design in Germany blazing new frontiers with .. ecological prowess and imaginative artistry ..by leading landscape architects, horticulturalists and designers. Seamlessly combining perennials and grasses in myriad ways, ..to replicate natural plant habitats [and] to use the garden ..for horticultural creative expression. Like the New Perennial Movement, Hermannshof lives at the crossroads of nature and imagination – fusing both to create a living artform rooted in ecological integrity.
Cassian’s research at Hermannshof trial gardens includes plant ecology, performance and coexistence of plants in designed plant communities. He believes, despite climatic differences with Australia, that his approach to using natural plant communities as a template for urban planting design is universal, especially when resulting in economic, plus ecological, maintenance techniques.
Cassian has also developed various maintenance strategies depending upon planting types. They are based on the survival strategies for plants—for example, plants with stress tolerance.
Presentation One – Formulaic Mixed Perennial Plantings: new ways to green our cities.
Hermannshof and other research institutions in Germany have developed standardized planting modules for various habitats for public green spaces or public gardens. The modules have been tested and assessed for at least 5 years before they go on market.
More than 35 different assessed mixes are now commercially marketed in Germany developed for diverse, often problematic situations in urban spaces or private gardens. Every ‘plant recipe’ is well balanced to ensure a long-lived dynamic plant community matched to the site with reduced maintenance. Formulaic planting offers the opportunity for clients to buy and install plantings with minimal expertise. This also provides a new niche for growers. However, they may need skilled maintenance and there needs to be a mix of Structural Perennials, Companion Perennials, Filler Plants, Ground-Cover Perennials, and Scattered Plants.
We will concentrate on the more stress tolerant planting types we use for urban areas in cities and corporate landscapes. Of course we don’t have a tough Mediterranean climate here in Germany, but summer drought applies at least in the warm continental South-Western part of Germany, compared with the more oceanic and moister climate of the British isles. We therefore don’t use the classic soft-stemmed border perennials in our plantings.
Presentation Two – Inspired by Nature: the German Style and the Dutch Wave.
Two major European movements in planting design, The New German Style and The Dutch Wave, have attracted much attention for their innovative nature-inspired planting design that highlights perennials and grasses. Although these styles have developed quite independently at first, both have very much influenced the European and North American planting design.
The High Line in New York City and the Lurie Garden in Chicago are major public landscapes that brought the style and ideology of the New Perennial Movement to life in the United States. These are naturalistic landscapes that use broad, painterly drifts of hardworking plants so well suited to their sites that they provide year round interest but require less maintenance than traditional mixed borders.
Contemporary plantings of The New German Style are ecologically based and aim to match habitat with plants. Hermannshof, a public garden in the hills north of Heidelberg, Germany, has broken new ground and set international trends with its innovative blend of ecology, artistry, and imagination. The garden’s dynamic mix of unique perennials and naturalistic grasses arranged by habitat and origin create an all-season kaleidoscope that is inspired by nature, without replicating it. Stylised North American prairie and Eastern European steppe vegetation as well as Mediterranean shrub steppe have been modified and enhanced for aesthetic and practical demands.
Cassian Schmidt received his diploma in landscape architecture at Munich Technical University in Weihenstephan, Germany in 1996. In 1998 he was appointed Director of Hermannshof Garden. He is a professor of planting design at the department of landscape architecture at Geisenheim University since 2010 and is chairman of the Working Committee for Planting Design of the German Perennial Plant Association since 2003.
After a two-year apprenticeship in landscaping he worked for four years as a horticulturist for the famous Countess von Zeppelin perennial plant nursery in southern Germany. In 1987 he took a one-year internship at Kurt Bluemel Inc. perennial nursery in Maryland, USA. Prior to his university studies he graduated from a Master’s course at Ahlem Horticultural College, Hannover.
With a landscape architecture degree, a Master’s in horticulture, and more than 25 years experience as a professional plantsman, Cassian Schmidt is a designer, professor, author and acclaimed lecturer.
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Also see Tony Spencer’s blog ‘The New Perennialist’