The perennials and their areas of life

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The book "The perennials and their spheres of life in gardens and green spaces" by Richard Hansen and Friedrich Stahl is considered one of the standard works for private, but also professional perennial users and has already been published in 2016 in the sixth edition. For the concept of dividing the garden into different areas of life and designing site-appropriate and therefore easy-to-care plantings is today more relevant than ever.
Richard Hansen, a trained plant sociologist and former director of the well-known Weihenstephan sighting garden near Munich, divided the garden into seven different zones, the so-called areas of life: the area "wood", "wood edge", "open space", "water edge", " Water "," stone plants "and" bed ". These were then subdivided once again into their individual location conditions, such as light and soil moisture. The idea behind it seems simple at first glance: if we plant the perennials to a place in the garden where they feel particularly comfortable, they thrive better, live longer and require less care.

This is how the concept of areas of life works

From his experience as a plant sociologist, Richard Hansen knew that there is a counterpart to each of these areas of life in nature where similar site conditions exist. For example, the same plants grow on a pond edge in the garden as on a shore area in nature. So Hansen examined which plants that are exactly and created long plant lists. Since perennial plantations in nature have been preserved for years and need not be cared for, he assumed that it would also be possible to create durable and easy-to-care plantings with exactly the same plants in the garden, but only if planted in the right location. But not only that: the plants would always harmonize visually, because we know and internalized certain plant combinations from nature, what belongs together and what does not. For example, one would intuitively pick a water plant out of a meadow bouquet because it simply does not fit in it.
Of course, Hansen was aware that it would be boring from the gardening point of view, to have the same plants in the garden as in nature, especially since then all the beautiful new varieties could not be used. Therefore, he went one step further and exchanged individual plants for newer, sometimes more robust or healthy breeds. Because no matter whether a plant blooms blue or violet, it concerns the same plant type, so it fits visually always to the other perennials of the Lebensbereiches, since their "essence" - as Hansen called it - is the same.

The concept of areas of life today

Perennial flowerbed with sunbeam and yarrow

In the bedtime habitat sunbeam (Helenium) and yarrow (Achillea) exude natural charm on a sunny spot

Already in 1981, Richard Hansen, together with his colleague Friedrich Stahl, published his concept of spheres of life, which found favor not only in Germany but also abroad and had a great influence on the use of perennials as we know them today. So today Hansen is considered the initiator of perennial plantings in the "New German Style". Plantations can be visited at Killesberg in Stuttgart and in Westpark in Munich, which two of his students - Urs Walser and Rosemarie Weiße - created in the 1980s. The fact that they still exist after such a long time shows that Hansen's concept works.
Hansen, who unfortunately died a few years ago, has assigned numerous plants to their area of ​​life in his more than 500 pages thick book. In order to be able to use newer varieties in plantings that are designed according to the concept of areas of life, today some perennials, for example the perennial nursery Gaissmayer, continue their work. For example, when planning a plantation, we can now conveniently look for perennials that have the same site requirements and can therefore be used to create robust and durable perennials. In addition, the concept of Josef Sieber was further differentiated.

How to create a planting according to areas of life

If you want to create a perennial planting according to the concept of areas of life, you first have to find out which site conditions prevail at the planned place of planting. Is the planting area more in the sun or in the shade? Is the soil rather dry or moist? Once you find that out, you can start selecting plants. For example, if you want to plant some shrubs, you have to look for species of the habitat "woody edge", at a bank planting of the pond for species of the life area "water margin" and so on.

What are the abbreviations for?

The areas of life are abbreviated by perennial nurseries as follows:
G = woody

GR = woody edge

Fr = open space

B = bed

SH = open space with steppe heather character

H = open space with heath character

St = stone plant

FS = rocky steppe

M = mats

SF = stone joints

MK = wall crowns

A = Alpinum

WR = water edge

W = water plants

KÜBEL = not hardy perennials
The numbers and abbreviations behind the respective areas of life stand for the lighting conditions and soil moisture:
Light requirements:

so = sunny

abs = supersonic

hs = partially shaded

sch = shady
Soil moisture:

1 = dry soil

2 = fresh soil

3 = moist soil

4 = wet soil (swamp)

5 = shallow water

6 = floating leaf plants

7 = submerged plants

8 = floating plants
For example, if a plant's life span is "GR 2-3 / hs", it means that it is suitable for a partially shaded nursery at the edge of the woodland with fresh to moist soil.
In the meantime, the areas of life of most nurseries are indicated - which makes the search for the right plant much easier. In our plant database or in the online shop of the perennial nursery Gaissmayer you can search for perennials for specific areas of life. If you have decided on certain plants, then you only have to arrange them according to their sociability, because some plants are particularly effective in individual position to advantage, others in turn thrive best when you plant them in a larger group. Planted according to the concept of living areas, this plantation of perennials will give you long-lasting pleasure.

Video Board: Top Shade Perennials for Landscaping.

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