An entertaining role-playing game for gardeners to quickly and effectively identify the „perfect“ location for plants.
Goal of the exercise
Selecting plants and their future location if you are designing or planning a garden.
Educating the participants about plants, their characteristics and the best location for planting them.
Number of participants:
5 to 50 persons
Adults, young people, children teamed up with adults. Groups can be heterogeneous.
Age of participants:
Aged 5 or above
Duration of the method
60 to 120 min depending on the number of participants, their previous expertise and the size of the site.
Materials / Location
Printed observation cards for note-taking
Printed plant cards
Mobile phones (for research)
If appropriate, small signs bearing the name of the plant, which you can stick in the ground
A green space (garden, part of a park, field or forest).
Note: Be aware that there are laws and regulations governing planting in public spaces (property damage!) if you decide to use real plants. Guerilla gardening might be tolerated if considered an embellishment.
Select the plants you want to use and collect information on them. The method works best for trees and shrubs. Create printed cards listing their scientific and common name(s), their characteristics that determine their best location (height, width, light, soil, water, companion or competing plants, etc.) and add a photograph of the plant. The link below leads you to a template: https://www.canva.com/design/DAFNfwlc2g8/g4MhooGdGQZ798__xnpq3w/edit?utm_content=DAFNfwlc2g8&utm_campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link2&utm_source=sharebutton
Prepare observation cards for note-taking (Optional) Prepare signs that can be used in place of the plants to indicate the desired location.
Step by step
Explain the rules and goals of the activity.
Divide the participants into small groups of two to five persons and hand out an observation card to each of them.
Ask participants to explore the site and note their observations. The time allocated for this task will depend on the size and complexity of the site. Guiding questions are: – Which places receive direct sunlight, which are shadowy? – Which locations are dry, and which ones are wet? – Which ones are exposed to the wind or protected against it? – What kind of basic soils are present at the site (sandy, silty, loamy)? If appropriate, explain how to do a quick soil test, e.g. by squeezing the moist soil with the hand, then opening it and observing its texture or by digging a small hole, filling it with water and observing how fast the soil is draining). – What plants are already growing there?
Ask participants to assemble and share their observations and experience.
Hand out a plant card and a plant, or sign with the plant name, to each participant who is then asked to identify with the plant and look for the „perfect“ location on the chosen site by using the information presented on the plant card. Briefly explain the principle of companion planting and resource competition if necessary. Guiding questions are: – How do I want to grow? – How big will I grow? – What neighbours do I get along with? – How competitive am I?
Gather the participants who will explain the reasons for their choice and how they arrived at it. Jointly discuss their findings by raising objections or making suggestions. Generally, it takes no more than 15 to 30 min to place some 20 trees and shrubs.
Create cards for annual plants and vegetables.
Co-designing a herb layer. Designate small areas and set out trays with plants best fit for polyculture. Small groups of participants (3 or 4 persons) are then asked to create their own herb layer design.
If your aim is co-designing a garden, include locations for other garden elements (tool shed, garden beds, etc.).
It‘s a great method to quickly identify good locations for each plant. Participants engage with the plant and feel a sense of responsibility while interacting with each other. This can be a good starting point for tree adaptation programmes. Depending on the level of participants‘ knowledge, more information should be added to the plant cards.
"It was a lot of fun! The role-playing is always much appreciated. "
Credit and References
Content and idea: Skogsträdgårdsboken Philipp Weiss & Annevi Sjöberg Game layout: Anne Franze-Jordanov