Cassian Schmidt may well be called the leader of the ‘New German Style’. The perennial gardener and landscape architect has been professor of planting design at Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences since 2010 and has been managing the highly regarded Hermannshof perennial and display garden in Weinheim for 23 years. In December, I met Cassian Schmidt in his office in the Hermannshof gardener’s house for an interview.
Reading time: 30 minutes
Special thanks to James Golden for his support!
GB: Dear Mr. Schmidt, I am pleased that you have time for me. Using nature as a model is a well-known motif in the history of garden art. How was this understood in the landscape garden in the past, and how do we understand it at present?
CS: In the landscape garden of the 18th century, the garden was less about the model of real nature and more about an idealized, scenically staged pictorial scene. The garden or landscape was highly influenced by landscape painting, whose motifs predominantly depicted cultivated landscapes based on an Arcadian ideal. From my point of view, these scenes are very reminiscent of open bucolic meadow landscapes with loose groups of trees. Plant sociological and ecological aspects, which had a major influence on design from the second half of the 19th century, did not play a major role at that time. From the present perspective, I understand the natural model as a scientifically based use of plants according to ecological and plant-sociological guidelines. Today’s plantings should be dynamically random, but at the same time competently controlled in terms of maintenance; aesthetically sensual, but at the same time rationally and scientifically composed.
GB: Where does this type of gardening based on applied plant sociology come from?
CS: Reflections on a nature-oriented use of plants based on scientific knowledge can be found, for example, in the work of the English gardener and writer William Robinson. In his book ‘The Wild Garden’, published in 1870, Robinson describes how plants can be used ‘according to nature’ depending on the location, and how the character of a habitat can be represented aesthetically based on natural models. In addition to native perennials, Robinson deliberately integrated hardy exotics into his concepts, especially perennials with decorative foliage, which he believed could be used to create an even more attractive, picturesque effect.
GB: Sounds a bit like a natural garden!
CS: One should not confuse Robinson’s ‘wild gardening’ with the views of today’s nature garden, which, unlike Robinson’s, does not aim at artistic exaggeration, but calls for dynamic, native planting concepts oriented to plant sociology and nature conservation, with as little human influence as possible. The natural garden in Robinson’s sense must rather be seen as a reformist counter-movement to the absolutely artificial, ossified Victorian garden style. Robinson especially rejected the then popular but extremely elaborate flower beds with annuals and called for a naturalistic, uncontrived garden style.
GB: What was the initial situation here in Germany?
CS: At the beginning of the 20th century, in Germany, Willy Lange, among others, was pursuing the idea of transferring ‘vegetation-pictures’ to the garden in an artistic way by assembling plants mainly according to physiognomic aspects, that is, according to their growth character. Lange himself was influenced by William Robinson’s theories, developed them further and made them popular in Germany. On the one hand, he attached importance to a visual credibility of his plantings; so that the corresponding characters of the plants should fit the respective habitat depicted—for example, ‘silvery shimmering plants of the steppe’. On the other hand, Lange took the sociological aspects of plants and site-appropriate use into account. Here, parallels to Hansen’s later theory of habitats can be seen.
GB: How did it go on then?
CS: Under the influence of Foerster’s student Prof. Richard Hansen, the horticultural adaptation of natural plant communities and, at the same time, applied plant sociology, began to play even more important roles for perennial use in Germany from the 1980s on. Hansen’s work was probably greatly influenced by the fact that, after his studies, he became a scientific assistant at the Central Office for Vegetation Mapping in Stolzenau\Weser. There he worked for Reinhold Tüxen, who, along with the German botanist Erich Oberdorfer, is considered the founder and major promoter of modern plant sociology in vegetation science in Germany. At the same time, the geo-botanist and landscape ecologist Heinz Ellenberg was also employed under Tüxen at the Central Office for Vegetation Mapping. And so the principles of different distribution patterns and groupings of plants worked out by Hansen, the so-called ‘sociability grades’, were already found in Ellenberg’s work, where they find an equivalent term derived from geo-botany (phytogeography), as ‘grades of species dominance’. Furthermore, it was obvious that Hansen also used and adapted Ellenberg’s ecological indicators of plants for his classification according to habitats.
I have had enough experience of my own and have seen many new things at natural sites.
GB: In which tradition do you see yourself?
CS: On the one hand, I see myself as a botanical globetrotter who is significantly influenced by a plant-geographical design approach. On the other hand, I see myself in the tradition of Hansen—rational, rather technical, and plant-sociologically based. Although I knew Richard Hansen personally in Weihenstephan, I was not his student, as was my predecessor at Hermannshof, Prof. Urs Walser. (Prof. Walser passed away on April 9 of this year.) Hansen’s groundbreaking book ‘Die Stauden und ihre Lebensbereiche in Gärten und Grünanlagen’ (‘Perennials and their habitats in gardens and green spaces’) from 1981 is probably well known to most perennial enthusiasts. On the basis of his concept of habitats and his detailed lists of uses, he provides a plant sociology approach that can be applied in horticultural terms while at the same time meeting aesthetic requirements. Exactly this is my basis, even if I hardly use the lists today to design plantings. I include aspects of dynamics, coexistence, and random changes much more strongly in my considerations than Hansen did, and in the meantime I have had enough experience of my own and have seen many new things at natural sites.
GB: Would you say that this turn to plant sociology is a German phenomenon?
CS: It certainly is. In fact, applied phytosociology as a basis for planting design was not known in this subtlety in other countries. But now this situation has changed. The principle of correct site-specific plant selection and interaction between plants (dynamics and temporal change) is being paid much more attention elsewhere. Even well-known British plant users and garden designers such as Tom-Stuart-Smith, Sarah Price and Dan Pearson have long since adopted these principles.
GB: Where does this inspiration for you as a designer come from to orient yourself to the sociology of plants and natural models?
CS: For me personally it is probably due to the fact that, during our studies at the Technical University Munich-Weihenstephan, we had excellent lectures and excursions dedicated to vegetation science, plant sociology and ecology with luminaries such as Prof. Dr. Jörg Pfadenhauer and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Haber. This way of reading the landscapes is of great importance for my work and this is what I learned and understood with Haber. On the other hand, in my generation the subject of plant use was unfortunately neglected for many years in the course of landscape architecture studies, although it should actually be our most important tool of the trade. Several of my colleagues, like myself, are not students of anyone. We therefore had no direct role models whose style we could simply have adopted. That’s astonishing, but perhaps also good, because we’re probably freer in our approach. I’m aware that I influence my current students to a certain extent in terms of design and subject matter, or at least I steer them in a certain direction. Certain topics are more important to you than others. I always notice this when students come up with the theme of ‘prairie’ or ‘steppe’ in their projects. I guess you always get what you represent or what you are known for … In retrospect, anyway, it seems almost logical to me to use natural distribution patterns and ecological principles, thereby reducing design and maintenance requirements while creating naturalistic images. Moreover, this approach offers a great opportunity to increase biodiversity and the quality of experience in urban spaces.
GB: The English, with Nigel Dunett and James Hitchmough, share a similar design approach. Despite a different history, how did this turn to the ‘New German Style’ or ‘New Perennial Movement’ come about in England?
CS: With the traditional horticultural knowledge available, one could actually get away with almost anything in the UK. The balanced maritime British climate also helped. Today, however, these resources of manpower and knowledge are no longer available in this form. In addition, public green spaces in Great Britain have been neglected for decades. Therefore, in the mid-1990s, new approaches began to be sought. And so Stephen Lacy wrote an article in 2002 that coined the term ‘New German Style’. He wrote the article in response to a trip he had made to Germany 10 years earlier with some colleagues, during which he found, among other things, in Hermannshof in Weinheim and in Westpark in Munich, a completely different use of plants to that which was common in England at the time.
The original planting designs at Hermannshof were by Prof. Urs Walser (1981-1983) and the planting designs at Westpark were by Rosemarie Weiße, Dr. Hans Simon and Prof. Urs Walser (1982-1983)—these three were the most important early protagonists of this aesthetic and this naturalistic style. Rosemarie Weiße’s brother just recently offered me the original plans of her Westpark plantings.
Later, James Hitchmough and Nigel Dunnet, in particular, both professors of planting design at Sheffield University, developed, in parallel and initially largely independent of the developments in Germany, a perhaps even more dynamic, nature-oriented approach, partly also based on seeding, which today is referred to as the ‘Sheffield School’. I was very surprised about 15 years ago, when I was invited to Sheffield for a lecture on naturalistic plant use, to find that the basic thinking behind it was much the same as my own.
GB: What are the main differences between modern perennial gardening and traditional gardening?
CS: It always seems to me that in traditional textbooks there is this idea of producing, of ‘getting as much out as possible’, which is why the areas to be cultivated always had to be well fertilized and watered. Today, we do exactly the opposite: we try to reduce the level of fertility, which means avoiding fertilization and irrigation. We then speak of ‘stress-tolerant planting system, this means we make it as difficult as possible for the plants. But in this way, we can use specialist species adapted to extreme locations and thus exclude troublesome weeds at the same time. Nowadays, for stressed plantings, we largely use mineral substrates that have only 10 or 15% organic content; all this saves labour on the one hand and reduces costs on the other. In summary, now we use a completely contrary method compared with the traditional ideal of Gertrude Jekyll’s border.
My conviction is that the more naturally I work, that is, the closer I am to nature, the higher the maintenance competence must be.
GB: What does the modern use of perennials do visually that traditional planting patterns cannot?
CS: It creates much more natural-looking, restrained and authentic planting patterns. Depending on the season, my plantings sometimes appear quite austere and achromatic, reduced to line, form and texture. In addition, the deliberately allowed dynamics in the planting play an essential role. This implies that the envisioned image (idea) is by no means intended to be static, but that change is part of the system. On the contrary, with traditional rather static planting patterns, use of similar large groups of plants (blocks)—each consisting of one species, placed together in a puzzle-like manner—quickly results in a relatively unnatural, artificial planting image. For me, these planting patterns include block plantings, drift plantings, or mosaic plantings. The theme of different sociability levels, horizontal or temporal layers with exciting intermingling or gentle gradients, as well as the allowance of dynamic changes, can hardly be taken into account and is not even desired in these kind of traditional plantings. This is a challenge even for a professional like Piet Oudolf. That’s why in his more recent designs he seeks a compromise in what I call a ‘hybrid style’ of abstract graphic modernism and informal naturalism. While these hybrid plantings look visually quite naturalistic and allow for some dynamism, they still clearly show the designer’s controlled-artistic intent. Oudolf proves that this can succeed very well even on the basis of quite traditional arrangement patterns such as the block plantings, by creating tension and rhythm through sophisticated species mixes in the block itself and additional overlays with purposefully accentuated ‘scatter plants’, ‘individual plants’ and outstanding ‘emergent plants’. The prerequisite, however, is that one knows from many years of experience how dynamically or un-dynamically the respective plants behave.
GB: What are the differences in care-maintenance?
CS: Traditional care is probably easier to understand. But if you want to get involved in nature and help control the processes that take place, things are much more complex. My conviction is that the more naturally I work, that is, the closer I am to nature, the higher the maintenance competence must be. For this, I have to know and assess the processes that took place in a plant community in the past in order to be able to foresee and steer the future. So you first observe and then steer in a certain direction, knowing that there are certain strategies behind it. Sometimes I loosen the reins, sometimes I have to tighten them again when I notice that the balance is tipping. Then I know that I have to do something and actively counteract it with care measures.
GB: You just said: the closer I am to nature, the higher the care-maintenance competence must be. Now I spontaneously think of the many nature gardens that are primarily managed by enthusiastic hobby gardeners …
CS: This really does require a lot of know-how and a lot is currently being demanded of local authorities and also private individuals. Everything should be as native and natural as possible, but many have no idea what that actually means. Contrary to what one might think, a dynamic planting of predominantly native wild perennials cannot be maintained in the same way as a traditional border. For this, the garden must be thought of in a radically different way, even in its basic approach. The same applies to the techniques used. Unfortunately, plants are all too often seen as isolated ‘elements’ that can be put together at will according to lists or—even worse—randomly and spontaneously ‘composed’ in the shopping trolley directly in the DIY store. But what is actually much more important is how these plants later interact with each other, that is, how they interact in time and space in the long run. If I use native (autochthonous) plant compositions, then this should at the same time imply a largely self-sustaining system. Because if I want to attract insects and wild bees, the planting must function as an overall ecological system; certainly, with targeted human support, because it is still a garden and not a wilderness. There is still a lot of room for improvement and we will also deal with these things in the future here at Hermannshof and in the working group on plant use.**
GB: What is the importance of travelling and visiting nature sites for you?
CS: I have always travelled a lot and not being able to do that in the current pandemic situation is actually a bit painful for me. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to many great lectures and thus have gotten to know vegetation types and gardens from all continents except Africa. This also includes areas that have little in common with the Central European climate, but that’s what makes it exciting. I am fascinated not only by the natural landscapes but also by the culture and architecture, for example in Iran, and of course by the people, and the problems they have to solve in horticulture, especially in extreme climates. It is inspiring to see what is possible under restricted conditions.
I would never have had many insights and ‘ah-ha’ experiences about plants without my travels.
GB: And in terms of your botanical studies?
CS: For my work, the study of wild plants and plant communities at the sites of origin is indeed essential. This also includes thinking about the conditions that presumably led to the respective patterns and combinations. Of course, I am also interested in whether the plants have aesthetic value and are potentially suitable for introduction into garden culture. Thus, over the past 20 years, in the course of my work at Hermannshof and through numerous articles, I have been able to bring many new design themes and plants with potential into focus (which no one had previously paid attention to or even used) and introduce them into garden culture. I would never have had many insights and ‘ah-ha’ experiences about plants without my travels.
GB: There is the photo of Hansen at a natural site near Trieste, holding a piece of paper and pen in his hand. What exactly does one note there on the spot?
CS: Directly on site I note or memorise the essentials: quantities, dominances, leading species, stratifications, proportions and information about the location (exposition, altitude); what grows together? Where are the boundaries perhaps? Why is this combination found in one place and a completely different one two metres further on? Are there perhaps changes in humidity or light conditions? In 2016, for example, James Hitchmough and I were travelling in Kyrgyzstan. On his Instagram account, he has been analysing the individual natural scenes and making assumptions about which factors are decisive for the vegetation. Things like nitrogen content, nutrient levels, disturbances, stress, thin vegetation horizons and of course climatic conditions play a role. But we also ask ourselves what we can take away from this in terms of design and perhaps apply in projects. A situation with a thin soil horizon could perhaps provide an approach for planting on roof gardens. … and sometimes you find plants in places where you wouldn’t have expected them. You suddenly get ideas that you would never have thought of.
GB: Do you have an example of such a surprise that you once experienced?
CS: One example comes to mind from a prairie north of Chicago, the Chiwaukee prairie. There are old inland dunes there with a gently moving ‘ridge and swale’ topography. Between the wetter depressions and the drier hilltops there is a difference in elevation of only one or two metres at most. In the watery swales (depressions), which are even wet at times in spring, Sporobolus heterolepis grows in combination with Dodecatheon. In our country, Dodecatheon is often placed, according to the textbook, at the light woody edge together with shade perennials, but in these depressions it grows in full sun together with grasses and Liatris spicata. The grasses and splendid species sprout late, and so in May everything is initially full of dodecatheon. In summer they go dormant as soon as the grasses have reached their full height. On the only slightly higher, sandy hills, on the other hand, drought-tolerant Liatris scariosa, for example, blooms in midsummer with Euphorbia corollata in a loose matrix of purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis) and even intermingled with low prickly pear cacti (Opuntia humifusa). Such beautiful combinations, which one cannot learn from gardening books but only observe in nature, I have of course tried to realise here in Hermannshof.
GB: As you describe it, this is usually only a snapshot that one sees on site during a trip. What conclusions can be drawn about the plant community of a planting area during the journey?
CS: In fact, what we see outside is really only a short-term visual impression, a snapshot. But if we see dry stems or seed heads on site in summer, for example, we can already imagine what the picture looked like in spring, and of course we can make some assumptions based on our knowledge. We may still find individual small rosettes of a spring-flowering plant or fruiting stalks of a bulbous plant or, at the same time see numerous shoots of an aster, then we know that this will dominate the picture later in the year. It is of course very important to recognise which plants characterise such plant communities as a defining aspect in different seasons; because the next step is how I can implement the image I have seen in the garden. I always start by assessing the situation ecologically (with the help of indicator plants), and then try to adapt or exaggerate the essence of the overall impression with the respective significant elements and structures. However, the subordinate details or the minor accents are also important. They make up the certain special something of a planting.
GB: What exactly do you mean by essence? Is it about atmosphere?
CS: Yes, exactly, it’s about much more than the mere sum of the elements used in the design; it’s about feelings that are to be triggered unconsciously or deliberately in the viewer. Personally, for example, I was particularly moved by the mystical, misty, lush monsoon mountain forests in southwest China. When I stand in such a natural, ancient forest full of large-leaved perennials and I have experienced all these smells and atmospheres, it is something that I would like to convey to the viewers of my plantings, at least in an approximate way.
GB: What way of looking at a planting area is opened up to me by dividing it into individual layers?
CS: Both in nature and in a garden situation, working with individual layers results in a stepped-height profile that vertically subdivides the planting. However, this also results in temporally staggered, successive development and flowering phases. The height profile in a perennial planting consists of the structural plants, which are usually taller, eye-catching perennials and grasses with a distinctive habit. The middle tier can be occupied by aspect plants (seasonal theme plants), which are visually dominant plants throughout the year that can shape the image depending on the season. The term ‘aspect former’ is actually a botanical term which has been transferred to planting design. Heiner Luz plans his plantings exclusively according to this principle. The English language designation ‘seasonal theme plants’ expresses its meaning even better, for me, because this category has, above all, a strong formative effect, so to speak, and creates a common theme or leitmotif over the seasons. The ‘aspects formers’ are supported by companion plants, which then also occupy a middle or knee-high tier. The ground cover plants form the lower layer up to a height of about 30 cm. At the same time, they form an important functional layer which, as ‘living mulch’, minimizes desiccation and suppresses weeds.
GB: Are there quantitative data for this; how I can apply these layers in the garden area?
CS: In fact, we have developed a basic recipe for the so-called ‘mixed planting concepts’: We need a few (about 5%) outstanding structural plants or taller emergent plants, plus maybe 20-25% aspect formers, then another 20-25% companions, 30-50% groundcovers, and finally 5 -10% dynamics (or dynamic self-seeders). These dynamic plants are short-lived plants that are not stationary, but do an important job as gap fillers in the planting year. They develop quickly and bloom abundantly. On top of the 100% of perennials are added the bulbous plants, which are loosely sprinkled into the remaining gaps in the fall. These percentages then naturally result in distribution patterns and frequencies. The higher percentage I use of a plant, the more effective it will be afterwards due to the larger area share. This creates an exciting, varied overall picture.
I think the planting has to express more in the end than just having the ecological-technical factors taken into account.
GB: What can be transferred from the natural site to the garden space?
CS: One example would be to look at the history of use of a site and its vegetation. In the semi-natural meadow steppes of Kyrgyzstan, for example, the often particularly impressive, flower-rich images of sage and yarrow emerge after the site has been disturbed (ruderalized) a few years earlier by ploughing or grazing. One sometimes even feels reminded of designed garden pictures, so splendid do the natural scenes appear. Since garden sites are also always more or less disturbed (ruderal) by cultivation, such models based on sporadic disturbances can be transferred relatively easily. Old, mature plant communities, on the other hand, which have existed undisturbed for centuries or have evolved through very specific conditions, are usually much more difficult to implement at the garden site. Basically, we look at what could be suitable for the garden and at the same time be visually interesting, what species and substitute species we might have in cultivation, in order to adapt these images creatively. I always start with the framework, that is, the woody plants, which form the backdrop and clarify the theme and the spatial situation. Everything else then results from it. The structural plants, together with the aspect formers, form the design layer, which is the essential aesthetic of a planting. This is what the viewer can immediately see and grasp. Below that comes the functional layer, which makes the planting dense and reduces maintenance.
GB: Can’t I just transfer the layers from nature?
CS: Unfortunately, it is often not enough to want to transfer the found conditions from nature 1:1; we have found that often enough. In the garden, the competitive conditions are often completely different, and this ‘chops up’ many of these ideas for me. For example, Veronicastrum (Culver’s Root) may only be waist high in a competitive situation in its natural habitat, but in the garden situation it grows into a 2m tall bush. I can often only mimic these natural competitive conditions to a very limited extent in the garden. A viable path in this direction is to plant on (lean substrates) to get as close as possible to these natural images.
GB: When the two come together, that is, the technical-ecological aspect and the atmosphere meet, is that what you would call authentic planting?
CS: I think the planting has to express more in the end than just having the ecological-technical factors taken into account. The strong textural contrast between very coarse and very fine foliage, which Karl Foerster succinctly called the ‘harp and timpani effect’, is what we now refer to more technically as texture levels. All these measurable properties of plants can be well analysed and their applications learned. But the big picture, what I would call the overall emotional-visual impression of the planting, sums up something that can only be planned and predicted to a limited extent and is probably perceived individually by each person. Ideally, I am as moved by a planting as I am when immersed in pristine, sublime nature. I want people, when they walk through one of my plantings, to take away more than just the individual elements or the impression of having seen a beautiful picture. Rather, I want them to be emotionally immersed in the scene or planting, and not just figuratively, but in a very real way.
GB: How do you go about creating this proximity between visitor and planting?
CS: I like to use narrow paths where visitors actually come into contact with the plants. In this way, they are forced to spend more time in the planting, to notice details instead of simply walking past a lot of things. Richard Hansen also spoke of ‘the aura of a plant’. With this he probably meant the special character, the individual charisma of each plant in connection with its context. I therefore always ask myself, what could a certain combination of plants trigger in the viewer without having any prior knowledge or having travelled much? That’s important for me to get it right …
GB: What is your own intention when planning the beds at Hermannshof?
CS: I am mainly interested in the interaction of the plants, the aesthetics in the change of seasons, but not necessarily to complete a collection of species, even if Hermamnshof also has to some extent the purposes of a classical botanical garden. For example, every year we send an extensive seed list to about 250 botanical gardens worldwide, which also includes my numerous collections from wild sites. Here in the garden, I am concerned, in terms of design, with abstracting vegetation models, exaggerating them or simplifying them by omitting species. However, one does not always succeed in this; one must thoroughly discipline oneself. Thus, at the edge of the prairie garden, I deliberately chose the principle of repetition and enhancement by planting a grove of six large Cornus nuttallii ‘Ascona’, the effect of which is phenomenal in April. I could, of course, have taken six different varieties to build a collection, but then I would have given away the impressive ‘wow’ effect. The decisiveness and clarity of the grand gesture would have been diminished. At the perennial level, Hansen introduced the principle of theme-giving lead perennials and subordinate companion perennials. The aim here is also to create a clear, unambiguous image at any time of year.
I am well aware that I have made an impact on the use of plants.
GB: At the beginning of our conversation, we talked about the tradition in which you see yourself. Looking at the present and a bit towards the future, what would you say, what have you carried forward in this tradition?
CS: It’s always difficult to judge something like that when you’re in the middle of it yourself. But I am well aware that I have made an impact on the use of plants. Jonas Reif once described the phase from the mid-1990s to the 2010s in a Gartenpraxis article as the ‘golden years’ of plant use, and when I am invited to give lectures around the world, the topic is always the ‘New German Style’, or more precisely, its further development from around 1995 until today. During this period, an incredible amount has happened and developed in the use of plants, especially in Germany. My contribution is certainly only a part of this. I think I could at least contribute to the fact that wild plants, whether native or not, are more appreciated and used. In particular, I have brought the very climate-suited steppe and prairie plants into focus in Germany and parts of Europe, which has led to a real ‘prairie trend’ to this day. As a side effect, not only have the perennial assortments in the local nurseries changed significantly, but the ‘New Perennial Movement’, combined with a new naturalistic style, has surprisingly also spilled over into the USA. Furthermore, my name will probably always be linked to the topic of perennial care. Till Hofmann (head gardener at Hermannshof for over 17 years) and I were a perfect match in our views and goals. We have probably for the first time systematically taken up the point of view of the care effort and, above all, the care concepts oriented to the ecological strategy types according to Grime and adapted them for plant use. On the basis of these maintenance figures, which have been collected over many years, it was possible to calculate in advance the maintenance requirements of well-known projects by Piet Oudolf, such as the realization of the planting concepts on the Highline in New York or in the Lurie Gardens in Chicago.
GB: Finally, what do you wish for the future?
CS: My wish for the future is that the quality of care should be more closely aligned with planning, design and ecological goals, so that the two form a mutually dependent unit. That’s why we should think about the specialization of the gardener, because care today is much more than topiary and weeding.
GB: Dear Mr. Schmidt, thank you very much for your time.
** The Working Group on Plant Use, which operates under the umbrella of the Association of German Perennial Growers (BdS), has set itself the goal of promoting the use of perennials in public and private green spaces. In times of tight public budgets, the main task is to develop attractive, varied mixed plantings (perennial plantings) that can be permanently maintained with reduced maintenance. You can find more information at: https://www.staudenmischungen.de/ or https://www.bund-deutscher-staudengaertner.de/
Cassian Schmidt, born 1963, received his diploma in landscape architecture at Munich Technical University at Weihenstephan (Germany) in 1996. In 1998 he became the director of Hermannshof Garden, a privately owned and internationally well-known display and trial garden for habitat based naturalistic perennial plantings in Weinheim in South-Western Germany.
Schmidt has been a professor for planting design at the department of landscape architecture at Geisenheim University, Germany, since 2010 and he is the chairman of the “Working Committee for perennial plant use” (Arbeitskreis Pflanzenverwendung) of the German Perennial Plant Association (BdS) since 2004.
Cassian Schmidt has over 30 years of experience as a professional horticulturist. After a two year apprenticeship in landscaping and practical work as a landscaper for different companies he worked for the famous perennial nursery of Countess von Zeppelin for 4 years. In 1987 he made a one year internship at Kurt Bluemel Inc. perennial nursery in Maryland, USA. Previously to his studies at the university he graduated from a one year master course in perennial plant horticulture at Ahlem Horticultural College in Hannover, Germany.
Schmidt’s research at Hermannshof Garden is focused on natural plant communities (mainly North American prairie and Eastern European steppe) as models for new sustainable plant combinations for the urban environment. He has been developing habitat based low maintenance perennial planting mixes and effective maintenance concepts based on ecological strategies.
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