Nigel Dunnett is a Professor of Planting Design and Vegetation Technology at the University of Sheffield. His talk at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin (November 28, 2013), showcased his approach to creating dynamic landscapes. Dunnett’s cultivation of pictorial meadows is internationally recognised as an invaluable contribution to biodiversity planting. Dunnett’s study of natural meadow habitats, has informed his design of gardens, which mimic the layering affect of indigenous meadows. Dunnett has developed naturalistic forms of garden design, which act as forms of public art. He strives to evoke emotional responses to his gardens, and considers colourful meadow gardens to be a vital input towards people’s sense of well being. Communities also benefit from his naturescape planting methods. Dunnett believes that the colour, abundance and ephemeral characteristics of meadows, improves the quality of people’s living environments. Nature restores people’s faith in their surroundings. Meadows are ever-changing landscapes, which offer a sense of repetition and rhythm to people’s daily lives.



Dunnett’s pictorial meadows create growing impressionistic paintings with a rich colour palette and texture. He has developed seed mixes (combinations of native and non-native plant species) which work to obtain high biodiversity and successional displays. He generates plant communities which grow together to create a meadow aesthetic. Dunnett believes that his meadow gardens contribute towards more healthy cities, and livable communities. In collaboration with his colleague James Hitchmough “he is not trying to recreate something that you might see in the countryside, but instead is designing something that’s very visually dramatic, floriferous and long-flowering yet cost-effective and low-maintenance, using directly-sown, naturalistic plant communities ecologically suited to the particular conditions of the site” (quotation included in Fionnuala Fallon’s article for the Irish Times, November 9, 2013, entitled “Pleasure Gardens”).

Dunnett’s goal is to change the landscaping techniques of cities, towns and local authorities towards a more nature based approach to growing flowers as drifts of dense colour. His meadows are engaging, visionary, and inspire a sense of imaginative reverie. They are also relatively easy to cultivate, as they are all grown from scattered seed on raked bare ground. Flower meadows incorporated within schools, road verges, and public lands can supply natural doses of colour to bare and neglected spaces, and equally they can work towards lifting people’s spirits. Both of these goals together can change the nature of daily living.


Nigel Dunnett

Pictorial Meadows: