Dr. Noel Kingsbury
‘Noel Kingsbury is the great chronicler of contemporary planting design ..(and) has been involved in over twenty books ..on the topic of design inspired by nature and ecology. Few garden writers are as prolific or as influential..’
– Thomas Rainer
Noel is best known as a writer and lecturer, promoting an ecological or naturalistic approach to planting design. He works as a planting design consultant for landscape companies, local government and private garden owners.
Key to Noel’s approach to planting is research and its dissemination through journalism, books and workshops. At the heart of this is his work on the long-term performance of plants in gardens and designed landscapes; a PhD at the University of Sheffield was the start of an investigation into plants used by designers.
Noel is passionate about developing teaching methods – and has run his ‘Rabbit’s Eye View’ workshop in some 12 countries, and with others, developed workshops and teaching materials, with courses on MyGardenSchool, a leading digital education provider. Mentoring and teaching are major interests; with rewarding results in Eastern Europe and Argentina/Uruguay.
He has written some 25 books on plants and gardens, four with acclaimed Dutch designer / plantsman Piet Oudolf. Books of particular interest include: The New Perennial Garden (1996) which helped introduce the English-speaking world to contemporary German and Dutch planting design; Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls (2004), with Prof. Nigel Dunnett, and four books with Piet Oudolf, including Planting: A New Perspective (2013) and Designing with Plants (1999). Noel has had a major role in promoting Oudolf’s work and interpreting his design approach to the public.
He contributes regularly to Gardens Illustrated, and has written for The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Garden, Hortus, The New York Times and has a bimonthly op-ed in Pro-Landscaper, the leading British landscape industry professional journal.
He is also keen that those with an interest in gardens and landscape engage with the worlds of art, society, politics, philosophy, economics, and the wider natural environment. With Tim Richardson he edited Vista, the Culture and Politics of the Garden (2005) and together they chaired monthly seminars at London’s Garden Museum for four years.
At home, Noel gardens in the Welsh borders, where he looks after a four-acre plot, mostly semi-natural meadow with lush perennial borders and a productive vegetable area.
Presentation One – Wild Style (Naturalistic) Planting
A naturalistic approach to planting design has been much publicised since the 1990s. But what do we really mean by ‘naturalistic’? The leading commentator and promoter of nature-inspired planting provides an overview of current practice in Europe and North America: Piet Oudolf’s work (e.g. New York High Line), Oehme van Sweden, ‘prairie style’ (sown and planted perennial mixes), etc.
Kingsbury then asks, but “how natural is it?”, and then looks at how different conceptions of ‘nature’ and various cultural attitudes make an impact on what is commissioned for both private gardens and public spaces in the context of constantly changing beliefs about the nature of ‘nature’, rewilding, the role of alien species etc.
Sometimes provocative, always entertaining, Noel Kingsbury’s broad perspective and independent attitude highlights the paradoxes but with the concepts of biodiversity and ‘enhanced nature’, suggests a way forward.
Presentation Two – The Politics of the Garden
A journey through garden and landscape history meeting the kings, tyrants, idealistic landowners, corrupt bureaucrats and rebels who have made gardens, sometimes trying to express their political philosophy as they do so. Amongst others we discover Louis the Sun King making a garden that represents Fortress France, the landscape designers who humiliated Hitler, and the retired general who used his garden to denounce a corrupt government.
Presentation Three – Women, Men and Gardening
An entertaining look at whether men and women garden differently? If so, how and why? A bit of gentle (and entertaining) sociology illustrated with a wide variety of historical visual material and an exploration of how this all varies as we venture from country to country.
More seriously, are we in danger of the male becoming an endangered species in the gardening world?
Noel Kingsbury Research Plot Video