Modular Planting Design
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Modular Planting Design

Friday, 17 May 2019
Video Length:  1:01:36
Presented By:  Amanda Berry

If you’re trying to design with plant communities, have you tried using the plant mix tools in our Concept Plant Manager? Tune in to see how these tools simplify this planting design process dramatically – including the details. Proper communication is a key requirement for success with this technique. Modular planting design, an approach that relies on natural ecological community patterns and the designer’s refined knowledge of successful species communities, reduces design, installation, and management costs while producing a rich and complex final design.

Note: This webinar features a method to calulating %fill for a mix. This method, using only quantity, assumes the plant sizes are the same. If your mix species are different sizes, you need to determine %fill based on species area divided by total area. You could figure our the area of a plant and multiple by the quantity, or you can use plant outlines to quickly select the region and get the total species quantity. If species area is 100sf, and the mix rectangle is 200sf, then the %fill of that species would be 50%. Make sure that your spacing in the mix actually matches the spacing in your sample. If your symbols overlap, you need to adjust the mix spacing accordingly. Finally, remember that this method of laying out the mix depends on triangular spacing. Land F/X normally uses natural spacing. You may need to adjust %fill to account for this, or change the spacing setting to triangular for the drawing.

Webinar Contents:

Note: The following catalog of content covered in this webinar is time stamped to allow you to follow along or skip to sections of the video that are relevant to your questions. You can also search for content on this page using the FIND command in your browser (CTRL + F in Windows, Command + F in Mac OS.)

  • Intro/TOC
  • Modular Planting – Principles
  • How Can It Help?
  • Tips on Developing a Module
  • Using the Tools to Draft
    • From Palette to Module to Mix
    • Communicate Your Mix on a Plan
    • Connect to a Detail
  • Save in a Template and Import

0:00 – 5:16: Intro/TOC

Other resources (4:12):

  • Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West
  • The Planting Design Handbook by Nick Robinson (3rd edition)

5:17 – 14:19: Modular Planting – Principles

We’re making plant mixes that focus on a community of species, their form, aesthetics, and the human connection.


Principles (5:58):

  • Species must relate somehow, like in a soup.
  • Home in on the problems with a site and don’t change them – use them.
  • Fill all the niches, and avoid too much cross-competing.
  • Make it understandable to humans. Pattern, stylize, emphasize.
  • Plan for management, not maintenance.
    • No additives (mulch/nutrients) needed to keep it surviving. Instead, management slows, stops, or guides the evolution of the mix.
  • Mixes must be able to live in similar conditions.
  • Must not overlap niches (so they won’t outcompete each other).


Archetypes and species lists (9:45):

  • Decide on an archetype.
    • Grassland, shrubland, forest, (others?)
  • Assemble a species list based on the layers/niches of that archetype.
    • Upper (structural), middle (clustering), lower (matrix)




  • Structural layer
  • Seasonal theme
  • Groundcover layer
  • Time



  • Canopy layer
  • Woody layer
  • Herbaceous layer



  • Closed tree canopy (cathedral-like)
  • (optional) Patchy shrub layer
  • Herbaceous groundcover layer


Modules/mixes work together – spaces typically have edges. (12:05)

14:20 – 16:44: How Can It Help?

Save time designing.

  • Make minor tweaks to an exiting formula for a new site.
  • Focus more on the design itself.
    • More time to research improvements.
    • More time focused on overall design form.
  • Easier for new employees to help draft a design.


Save your client money.

  • Use smaller plant sizes, and more of them.
  • Less maintenance – plants thrive naturally, no room for weeds, and management is yearly rather than weekly.


Build your reputation.

  • Increased success with focus on performance-based feedback.
  • Research new mixes.
  • More species can weather a single performance failure.

16:45 – 17:28: Tips on Developing a Module

  • Focus on naturally occurring plant communities.
  • Walk around and take photos.
    • Hike! Let nature guide you.
    • You might see something that can help in a future design, if not the present one.
    • Document conditions – sun, water, soil, season, color, location (to go back).
  • Research case studies – Landscape Architecture Foundation – Landscape Performance Series.
  • Research available seed mixes and build on that.
  • Create material boards and pin photos together.
  • Remember – you can still use accents outside the modules.

17:29 – 49:19: Using the Tools to Draft

From Palette to Module to Mix (17:29)

Bringing all plant species into the Plant Manager (24:37)


Placing the base layer and placing an array of plants into a planting area (25:40)


Placing other plants around the perimeter and using Match Properties to duplicate them throughout the module (26:10)


Creating the plant mix (28:20)


Generating a Plant Schedule based on a Work Area and dividing to determine the percentages of plants making up the mix (32:00)



Communicate Your Mix on a Plan (33:00)

Placing a mix and calling it out (33:00)


Placing an edge mix (34:30)


Placing the mix throughout the site within the edges (36:19)


Placing a Plant Schedule showing the plants in the mixes (42:00)


Placing a construction schedule including Concept Plants (43:55)



Connect to a Detail (44:47)

Creating a detail showing the module (45:05)


Adding a 3D model of the module to the detail (46:50)


Adding and placing the detail (48:00)

49:20 – end: Save in a Template and Import

Creating a template (49:20)


Importing plants from the template (50:03)


Filling an area with trees using the XCOPY tool (52:44)


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