On-line plant selection databases
Authors: Cliffin, Penny
ABSTRACT: On the connecting edge between the landscape architectural profession and tertiary
landscape architectural education is applied research into plant selection data.
Landscape architects have a prominent role in designing and specifying plantscapes across a wide
range of project scales, from gardens to urban streetscapes and parks to large-scale conservation
revegetation. Both scientific and design plant data is essential to facilitate appropriate and creative
planting design. At present there is a gap in the availability of comprehensive and up-to-date plant
selection data for landscape students and the landscape profession. Each year students research and
compile plant selection information from a wide range of sources as part of their course requirements.
Each year the research leaves with the students, and is not captured or expanded in its use.
This paper reports on a survey of online plant databases, seeking to answer the question “What does
an ideal plant database look like for landscape purposes?”, and secondarily “Can the plant data
collected by students be used to grow such a database”? Databases are an effective way of storing
plant selection data in an easily retrievable format. The development of on-line resources allow for
instant and convenient sharing of information. However databases tend to cater well for the scientific
aspects of plant data, but less well for visual / design data. Design characteristics are also important to
represent, along with the dynamic nature of plants as they grow. The survey seeks creative ways in
which plant knowledge and data may be presented by students while they are studying, and then
shared as a larger collaborative resource with the profession. A summary of best practice in this field
will be presented, with the aim of development of such a resource for Unitec students and practitioners
in the future.