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‘Green space was optional in the past, but now it is necessary’

“In the past, green space was optional, but now it is necessary,” said Mr. Jo Yongjun at the AIPH Green City Conference, held in Suncheon, Republic of Korea as part of the 75th AIPH Annual Congress. Organised by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), the Conference showcased the vital contribution of urban greening initiatives.

Jo Yongjun, a landscape architect based in the Republic of Korea, opened the Conference with a presentation on the greening of Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul. The plaza once served as the centre of the capital with government buildings, but developed into a highway comprising 16 metres of road. “In recent years people have stopped visiting the plaza,” Jo explained. In order to increase the popularity of the area, a change was needed.

“Our ancestors, when they built in this area, avoided damaging the forest. We have pursued a similar style by not planting trees in rows, as is seen in the west, but instead planting them in a more natural pattern. Now, the plaza is a place for people to rest. We have come up with a diverse flow of plants and in the summer there is a cooling effect, so people now enjoy coming to the area.”

Plans are in place to create more green corridors in the city of Seoul, but urban greening in the Republic of Korea has been a long and difficult process. Ms. Diane Lee, AIPH Media Relations Manager in the Asia region, explained: “As most Korean people live in apartments, the concept of a garden is not that big.”

Public understanding of a ‘garden’ is beginning to change thanks to the Suncheonman International Garden Expo. The original Expo was held in 2013 and aimed to both preserve the Suncheon bay and create an ecological buffer zone. It’s popularity has greatly impacted public views.

“One of the most notable changes is the establishment of relevant legal frameworks,” Diane said. “In 2015, the term ‘national garden’ was defined in law. Later that year, the 2013 Expo site was recognised as the first national garden in Korea. Over 40 municipalities are actively pursuing national garden recognition, particularly since the pandemic.”

Following on the success of its predecessor, the 2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo aims to promote garden culture and foster garden-related industry growth, as well as providing urban restoration.

“Hosting Expos drives urban development and sets future directions. Therefore, in expo planning understanding the ecological and social context of the location is more crucial than ever, especially in the early stages, to foster a greener city development.”

2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo
2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo
Green City Initiatives in other areas of the world

Following these two examples of urban greening in action, industry professionals from other areas of the world presented the Green City Initiatives at work in their countries.

In 2002, the Dutch Green City Foundation was founded and the top grower associations in the Netherlands are partners. Mr. Albert Haasnoot, Sustainability Manager for Royal FloraHolland, explained what the foundation is doing to promote green cities. “In the past years, we have worked on 25 research programmes. When these are completed, we map the outcomes to short factsheets that can be shared with the public.”

One example focussed on the benefits of plants in and on buildings, including better thermal regulation and increased mood of employees. “This is not greenwashing, this is not a story, this is based on scientific fact,” Albert added. “The foundation’s goal is to disseminate this information.”

Halfway around the world, Australia has established the Green Cities Frontiers Fund. The aim of this programme is to invest in strategic research which drives a measurable increase in urban green space.

Mr. Glenn Fenton, Chair of Greenlife Industry Australia, explained: “It’s really about driving demand for increased urban green space so that Australia will earn a global reputation as a country committed to urban greening.”

In addition to building their research base, the Green Cities Frontiers Fund is actively influencing change within Australia to increase and improve green spaces. To achieve this, they have partnered with policy makers and climate mitigation initiatives, developed tools to support planning and regulation, created ‘best practice guides, and more.

A similar initiative is at work in Canada. The Green Cities Foundation, established by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) is a private foundation with a mission to connect plants and people for a greener, healthier urban climate. Mr. Bill Hardy, President of CNLA, presented two key programmes that the Green Cities Foundation is currently carrying out.

One is the #GreenMyCity project, which supports the restoration and building of public urban green spaces across Canada. It is a collaboration between donors, volunteers, and the Foundation to design and build urban green spaces for public use, including playgrounds, community gardens, parks and more. Bill added: “What we’re doing is emphasising the connection between the new green spaces and the people of the community.”

This Garden at This Hour, Maryland, USA

To conclude the Conference, AIPH Technical Advisor Dr. Audrey Timm presented five case studies that demonstrate the role of the ornamental horticulture industry in city greening. Examples from Canada, France, Scotland, and USA show how growers are contributing expertise and are getting involved in research for urban greening initiatives. The full case studies can be found in the AIPH Green City Case Study Collection.

AIPH invites those in the green city space to join the AIPH Global Green City Forum and share the essential urban greening work they are involved in. The Forum is a free-to-use online space for people to connect, exchange knowledge, and get involved with initiatives around the world.

AIPH extends its thanks to Biblo and 2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo for their support of the 75th AIPH Annual Congress held in Suncheon, Republic of Korea from 17-21 September 2023.

Hannah Pinnells
Digital Marketing & Communications Executive