Urban Greening Solutions Can Help Your City to Positively Thrive

At Virens, we combine a love of visually evocative landscapes that provide stunning seasonal displays with a science-based approach to both support and encourage ecology.

This case study explores some ecological planting solutions for a vibrant but grey cityscape. The City wants to implement their existing Greenways plan, which calls for increased green space in the City center.

rain garden
grey to green project
Many European cities have implemented these same planting principles very successfully. source: Nigel Dunnet, Grey over Green Sheffield

The area includes a paved roadway with street parking and sidewalks. There are shallow planting nodes on the corners at each intersection, some minimal tree pits and several median strips between the traffic lanes.


The city council has requested suggestions for improvements that can best use the existing infrastructure with minimal changes. Virens will provide a report including recommendations that fit all of the stakeholders needs with an emphasis towards the best ecological practice.

Passive grass areas- nodes/medians

These are typically shallow planting areas adjacent to streets, outlined by curbing and surrounded by concrete.


planting project
Stormwater runoff can be diverted and utilized through thoughtful hardscape design. source: Nigel Dunnet, Grey over Green Sheffield
street garden
urban street planting. source: unknown

Site Notes & Hardscape

-Replace soil with engineered, mineral-based substrate


-Dig deeper where possible


-Change topography/add elements to address, direct and utilize storm water


-Dense planting with some mature material. This builds a resilient community, blocks weeds and gives some immediate visual interest.

Planting Design

We suggest a mix of structural material, long-lived perennials and seasonal additions for pleasing yet naturalistic plantings that require minimal, thoughtful maintenance. An additional seed mix to fill open spaces and increase biodiversity.


plant pallet

Plant Material

-Wildlife friendly


-Resilient plant communities


-Scientifically proven for current and future conditions

-Planting in fall if possible using soaking method for best results

Plant pallet

Parking lots and Street parking Areas

Fully paved areas with little to no green space included in original planning. This includes existing parking spaces along both sides of the street and a large public parking lot.

street planters
street planters
There are a variety of planters available to suit the desired aesthetic.

Site Notes & Hardscape

large-scale moveable planters, filled with engineered mineral-based soils and placed on non-permeable surfaces.


-can be used to direct traffic

-break up city greyscape

-facilitate and connect green corridors

-provide added seating and encourage community involvement

-increased biologically diverse pollinator habitat

-built in ‘deadwood’ features with decorative holes for solitary bee overwintering

-take in and use storm water (can be connected to drain pipes)

-match the city aesthetic and add seasonal colour and interest

-provide advertising and make a statement

And, the best part is that they can be easily moved or adjusted as needed while preserving plant and soil health. Think of them as tiny pocket parks on wheels!


rain planter
Suds planter. source: Meristem Design UK
bee habitat
Planters can be adapted to include rain catchers and 'dead wood' pieces with decorative holes for bee habitat. source: Stuart Ian Frost, stuartianfrost.com
Corten steel planters. source: Meristem Design UK

Planting Design

-Right plants for current and future conditions, chosen with the help of the latest scientific and industry research


-Mix of architectural plants like small shrubs, trees and structural perennials to create a base planting


-Easily adapted with seasonal interest (tropicals, annuals and bulbs)


container planting

Plant Material

-Small trees that offer year round habitat and value


-Perennial material that meets essential pollinator needs


-Seasonal plants and seeds that can be changed as need (bulbs and annuals)


Our strengths as Ecological Planting Designers lie in our ability to provide the flexibility and skills to link several disciplines (Landscape Architects, Architects and Site Owners, Users, Environmental Consultants, and Horticulturalists, Ecologists and Therapeutic Horticultural professionals) together to help create exceptional green spaces. So, get in touch today, we would love to be an integral part of your team.


Sara-Jane & Alicia


In addition to planting and construction plans we also offer other services to build your customers tool boxes including:


Bulb designs can be added as a layer within the main perennial planting for heightened seasonal displays and added visual value. Bulbs also provide food sources for pollinators during seasons when nothing else is blooming.


Maintenance plans and practices can be provided. Including seasonal task calendars, short and long term goals, how tos and reminders, all in a simple poster format that can be easily shared/kept on phones and computers or printed out as posters for work areas.


Plant Catalogs of images and descriptions of specific plant material (including the initial phases of seedling growth) is another option. This can help to quickly identify plant material and the maintenance practices associated with them. It’s a fantastic tool, not only for current staff, but also great for training new and seasonal workers.


Site checks, to monitor seed dispersal and germination, plus plant growth and establishment. It’s a great opportunity to adjust the balance of materials (planted and seeded); a key step to help ensure the long term success of the planting.


We also provide written materials for public education, including site descriptions to communicate the purpose, value and key points of the planting. With a focus on stakeholder benefits; encouraging observation, patience and visual exploration as a rewarding and immersive experience.

© Virens Studio 2023 (all photos are used for demonstration purposes and do not necessarily belong to us.)

case study feature photo

Community Centre This is a busy community site that requires thought and consideration in relation to the planting design in order to minimize resource use while maximizing benefits. Our services include, site and SWOT analysis in addition to consultation that considers all stakeholders. In addition, we use plant sociability metrics and the latest in research…

Ecological Planting Design: Stunning entrance to a Community Centre