The idea of a modular forest garden

Modular design can make designed meadow planting easier but can it do the same for a forest garden?

Screenshot of coloured square grid
Modular garden design by Benjamin Vogt

I’m fascinated by Benjamin Vogt’s idea of using modular design for a native garden meadow. The idea is alluringly simple: create a grid 15x15 foot, design a dense mix of clumping & spreading native flowering plants, fill in the gaps with short grasses seed. And then, repeat the design. It’s easier to install and it provides visual repetition for the onlooker.

Autumn native flower bed in suburbia

Example of Benjamin Vogt’s design and planting, photo from Monarch Gardens website

Modular garden design isn’t a new idea and indeed, the National Forest Gardening Scheme has created a prototype Forest Garden in a Box, with a range of pre-selected forest garden plants depending on your check-box circumstance (Home, School, City Park etc).

I’m not convinced a Forest Garden in a Box will work because everybody’s space is so different. I do like the idea though. Ideas are like seeds, they are lightweight and easily transportable, whilst implementations are like trees, heavyweight and localised.

After studying Benjamin’s plant choices, I’ll be adapting it for European species, because I really want to use it on a forest garden design I’m finishing for a client in Poland. There’s a space designated as Wildflower Garden, which needs to be kept low for safety views down to the pond. An adapted modular design, with plug plants brought in from a local wildflower nursery, would be much nicer than a general sowing, plus much easier to install. The beauty is, by creating it in a CAD package I can repeat the module easily and include it as part of the design for the client.

Section of CAD plan

Modular design might be just the ticket for a native wildflower meadow in a forest garden

The other avenue I’d like to explore is a “Modular Forest Garden”. Rather like the Forest Garden in a Box, but just a list of plants, with links to suppliers, bundled with instructions. I’m not sure how useful this would be, essentially creating a template of plants for different sized plots. But I’ll give it a go, it might be far easier to sell the idea of an all-inclusive bundle of a forest garden rather than just the idea.

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