Palmieri Studio

How to choose the Gardener

Everything starts from the garden project

It is evident to everyone how it could be risky to start to carry out a work without having a project that clearly defines the point of arrival and the intermediate stages of the realization process.

In addition to defining the final appearance of the work, the project will have to establish the timing and costs of all the operations necessary for its realization.

Even in the case of a garden, having a project is a ‘conditio sine qua non’ to be able to establish how it will look when it is mature a few years after the realization, and to obtain a clear estimate regarding the costs of realization and management.

Here’s what a garden project needs to include at least:

  1. the drawing of the state of affairs, which includes an accurate survey and an analysis of the existing situation;
  2. the drawings of the project proposal with views and renderings that illustrate the appearance of the various environments;
  3. videos of the garden, which allow us to ‘enter the garden’, illustrating in the best possible way the type of environment and the atmosphere we propose to create;
  4. the planting plan, or the list of trees and shrubs that we want to include in the project with the blooms, seasonality and main characteristics, including the position they will have within the garden;
  5. the lighting proposal and the suggested materials for outdoor flooring and outdoor furniture;
  6. the schemes of irrigation and lighting systems in the garden;
  7. cost estimates for the realization;
  8. the plan for a sustainable management of the garden that is respectful of the environment and attentive to our health.

So the design of green areas is a complex job; if carefully executed, it will allow to achieve considerable savings both at the time of creating the garden and during its future management.

As mentioned above, the design of parks and gardens can only be carried out by a team composed of different figures such as the garden designer, the survey topographer, the graphic designer, the video-maker, the plant engineer, the botanist, etc.

In particular, the green designer must have knowledge of architectural design to define the design and structure of the garden, but also an excellent knowledge of plants and their characteristics, through notions of botany and agronomy.

In addition, the garden designer must be present on site to coordinate the work of all the craftsmen involved in the execution, so it is necessary to have skills in the field of construction management.

The role of the gardener in the creation of gardens

Once the garden project has been finalized with the cost estimates, the professionals necessary for its realization must be selected.

Construction companies intervene first and deal with the modeling of the terrain and the structures built in the garden. Soil modeling is the main tool in our hands to give the garden the desired shape. During the creation of a garden, defining the slope of the land is like for the sculptor going to shape the material of which his work is made.

During the modeling of the soil, excavations are carried out in which plumbers and electricians prepare the necessary network for irrigation and lighting of the garden.

Once the preliminary work for the plantation is completed, trusted nurseries will provide the plants that have been included in the project.

At this point the gardener intervenes. He mainly deals with the planting of vegetation elements, based on the planting plan provided as an integral part of the green project.

In addition to this, gardeners carry out surface tillage of the soil, such as milling and leveling, seeding of the turf and covering the ground with mulch sheeting, if this is required by the project.

Often gardening enterprises complement the irrigation system with the laying of dripping pipes for watering the plants.

The role of the gardener is concentrated in the final stages of the work during the realization of the garden.

Obviously the garden always includes the presence of plants, but it is not necessarily true that the plantation is the predominant part in its creation. For instance, this is not the case for more complex gardens which require massive modeling of the ground or the construction of terraces, or where there are a swimming pool and large paved areas.

The work of the gardener is all the more relevant the more natural and rich of plants the garden is.

In all other cases the main job is carried out by the craftsmen who operate before the gardener.

It is very important to get advice from your garden designer on a list of the best gardeners in the area.

Equally fundamental is that there is the right harmony between the gardener and the garden designer.

A good gardener always collaborates with a garden designer, as these are two complementary roles and both are necessary for the realization of a good garden.

The skills of the gardener

One of the questions that arises then is: how to choose the right gardener?

In Italy there is no defined course of study for the profession of gardener. Only recently criteria and courses have been established to qualify a gardening company as capable to operate.

There are very good schools, such as the Agricultural School of the Park of Monza, which organize courses aimed at training professionals working in the field of ornamental greenery.

Unfortunately, however, few gardeners have an academic training that has prepared them to carry out this profession.

In many cases it is thought that it’s enough to equip yourself with a pair of shears to be able to qualify as a gardener.

It’s not like that.

Although the gardener is a practical job, experience alone is not enough to be able to carry it out correctly.

The experience transmitted by expert gardeners to the youngers is just a mechanical teaching if it is not supported by adequate theoretical preparation.

Often long-term gardeners make mistakes that they are not aware of, and that they pass on to the less experienced ones.

A typical and trivial example is that of planting and tutoring young trees.

The newly planted trees will have to be housed in a hole no deeper than the sod and equipped with good drainage at the bottom. This is necessary in order not to ‘sink’ the plant in the planting hole and to avoid water stagnation.

The width of the hole must ibe at least twice the diameter of the clod, a necessary condition for the roots to develop adequately since they will tend to widen more than to deepen.

The root system, then, must be preserved by avoiding cutting the roots ‘to make the plant take root better’. In reality, doing so only favors the entry of pathogens into the plant’s organism.

Finally, the achoring should be carried out at about 1/3 of the height of the tree and no higher, to allow the trunk to strengthen by reacting under the effect of the wind.

It should be avoided in any way that the trunk comes into contact with the braces, a very frequent cause of damage to the trunk with deformations and excoriations that are very dangerous for the health of the tree. Better still is the tutoring of the clod directly in the planting hole, which in addition to being effective avoiding the damage described, is also aesthetically more convenient.

It is enough to evaluate how frequently the correct practices described above are put in place, and consequently to evaluate how many good gardeners operate on the market.

Unfortunately there are not many.

The scarcity of prepared gardeners is due in large part to the fact that in the past those who had previously worked in agriculture became gardeners.

Practices borrowed from agriculture have therefore migrated to the field of ornamental gardening, with which they have little to do.

For this reason it happens to witness incorrect pruning of ornamental plants with typical methods of fruit growing, with harmful effects as regards the aesthetic result achieved.

The competent gardener must possess the basics of agronomy and botany.

It is necessary to know the physiology of plants, their methods of defense, the times of year in which they are more or less vulnerable to avoid damaging them by performing wrong operations at the wrong time.

Above all, gardeners must be trained on the correct pruning techniques, a necessary condition for preserving the desired appearance of the garden, while at the same time ensuring the well-being of plants.

The prepared gardener must therefore focus on correct agronomic practices and good management of plant elements.

This is possible only if he combines a good theoretical preparation with the experience gained in the field.

To avoid making mistakes, it is a good idea to inquire about the training path followed by the gardener that we are choosing, and consequently select only adequately trained personnel.

The role of the gardener in the management of the garden

The role of the gardener is essential not only during the realization, but especially during the management of the garden.

Plants and trees are living beings that grow and evolve over time. Our role is essentially to accompany their development in a way that takes place harmoniously.

It is important to take care of the garden especially in the first seasons after its creation, when small plants still need to take root in their new environment and colonize the space assigned to them.

It is commonplace to think that the garden needs continuous work and that therefore it is always expensive to maintain.

As a matter of fact, if the plants are chosen correctly, especially for the size they will reach when ripe, annual pruning interventions will not be necessary.

Pruning is bad for plants, it stresses them and shortens their life cycle. Plants do not need to be pruned for their own well-being, except in the case of malformations and defects to be corrected.

The shape and natural posture of trees and shrubs must be respected, making only targeted and measured adjustments.

Above all, pruning is to be carried out with great sensitivity in the garden since it risks irreparably to jeopardize its appearance if it is done drastically as in the case of heavy pruning, when we cut the stem, the primary branches or big branches with the total elimination of the foliage.

A properly trained gardener will operate carefully, avoiding mistreating trees and shrubs, faithful to the saying that ‘a good pruning will not be seen’.

In managing the garden we must focus on creating a fertile soil and a resilient ecosystem for our plants.

Fertility is achieved by avoiding destructive tillage of the soil and limiting the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Instead, it is necessary to bring organic substance to the soil and guarantee the presence of bacteria, fungi and beneficial microorganisms that make it alive and productive.

Thus, a good gardener will know the needs of green elements, he will know how to plant them and manage them with targeted pruning.

He will be able to evaluate the characteristics of an optimal soil and will create with his own interventions the best conditions for plant life.

The gardener in possession of an adequate academic preparation, technically skilled and with good practical experience, is a crucial element in the success of every garden and a very important collaborator for the landscape architect.

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