I've recently gone out on my own as a landscape gardener after many years working for others and as such wouldn't have any such projects under my belt but public spaces and parks are an area of great interest to me, so you'll have to excuse me if i go on a bit of a rant - without photos.
Personally i have in general a very low opinion of much work that's been carried out in the landscaping field of late, especially the "boom years". The majority of public works and landscaping carried out in new developments, housing estates, apartment complexes, shopping centres, roadside planting and new parks in my opinion all display a very low level of imagination, talent, plant knowledge and taste. I find them quite depressing, sometimes I despair at the dreary monotony blanketing this country. Again and again the same tired planting schemes are trotted out.
I'm not sure where to start, maybe a description of a generic public space of late (at its ugliest in winter) - A large green space, randomly planted solely with a variety of small scutty decidious trees, most planted into overly elaborate shrub beds, it's always the same old safe species, multi-stem silverbirch, dogwoods and viburnums to name a few. Horrendously boring and uninspiring. There seems to be a pathalogical obsession with small (usually native) decidious trees in this country, even in developments on old estates and hotel grounds we see this, amidst the grandeur of monkey puzzles, monterey pines and cypresses, giant firs and exotics planted in the victorian era we see this unambitious tactless incursions of trios of multistem silver birches, rowans and other current favourites, no attempt made to continue the style of planting that gives these places their atmosphere.
There may be a number of reasons for this. One being the availability from landscaping nurseries, you'll be hard pressed to find anything coniferous that grows higher than 2 metres and if you can it's gonna cost you. And so with our current obsession with instant landscapes ready to sell to the public you're not going to find profit hungry developers and landscapers planting anything other than 2/3 meter bareroot decidious trees. They won’t have the patience or the inclination to plant a 50cm pine tree, it’s invisible as yet, it’s not going to sell the development. Another reason could be the current obsession with native species, something that baffles me. We live on an island with a very limited number of native species and enjoy one of the most benign climates in the world, bar the last 2 winters. We should celebrate this opportunity to grow a huge diversity of species as was done in the past in the various gardens, parks and estates around the country. Now we get parks such as fr Collins park in clongriffin planted solely with native species, masses of decrepit boring alders and scrubby shrubbery. Native planting schems to my knowledge began in south America by pioneering landscape architects such as burle marx to celebrate their own fantastic range of native plants in preference to the rigid use of established European species. We have a very very limited amount of native species. I’m aware this is now an environmental issue, native species being planted to help insects and wildlife biodiversity, but this doesn’t mean we can’t treat ourselves and plant a few exotics aswell. In fact the opposite is happening, mighty conifers are being felled and saplings pulled up with fanatical zeal to ensure solely native ecosystems in parks, old estates and forests. Absolutely ridiculous.
If you vist an Italian town or city you will see in their parks specimen trees properly looked after, shaped and trained planted in open greens without the clutter of high maintenance shrub beds. Cedrus atlanticas (northern Africa) cedrus deodaras and bhutan pines (Himalayas) serbian spruces, magnolia grandifloras (china), trachycarpus (japan) date palms (north Africa) eucalyptues (austrailia) etc etc… they celebrate the full diversity of what flourishes in their environment.
We have a dreary climate, and I think an uplifting environment is one of the first places we can make a difference, visit a beautiful garden planted with thought and imagination in winter and it’s still inspiring, visit a leafless windswept green in a celtic tiger estate and you’re heart sinks.
Now I’m really ranting sorry. I’ll have to think of a few examples of good parks. Also unless it’s highly windswept or very badly drained I don’t think there has to be to much consideration of soil analysis, I’ve seen a lot of trees survive in the most horrendous of soils. Regarding aftercare, less shrubs, more specimen trees would be my answer, mind you that doesn’t sit well with landscapers and maintenance contracts!