Beginners Guide To Invasive Plant Management

Aim: To create a guide sharing the experiences of Love Springwater Park volunteers developing a community led approach to invasive plant management in a public greenspace (Springwater Park). The guide will be aimed at other volunteer groups who are looking to tackle invasive plants in a public space.

Date: March 2021

Client: Love Springwater Park / Personal Project

Status: Completed

Principles: Whitefield

Framework: Dragon Dreaming

Tools: Holistic decision making tool, Ethics analysis, Elements survey, What would have been useful to us? Mind Map, Yields Analysis, Client Survey, What could be included? Mind Map, Guilds Analysis, Yeoman’s Scale of Permanence, Structure Outline, Action Plan, Distribution Plan, Reader Feedback, PNI Evaluation, Permaculture Principles Reflection.

How does the design reflect the Permaculture Ethics?

People CareLearning from each other within a volunteer group.

Celebrate experiences by sharing them.

Ideas to encourage community engagement.

Earth CareShare a community led approach to invasive plant management.

Explore unusual uses of invasive plants.

Ideas of how community can be involved in management of a greenspace.

Preserving wildspaces through management of invasive species.

Explore different approaches to invasive plant management.
Fair ShareSharing experiences from a community project.

The power of shared experiences – how can we empower by learning from each other?

Exploring ways that local people can be involved in the management and upkeep of shared greenspaces

How does the design meet my personal learning objectives?

Permaculture design as underlying foundation to the work that I do.Exploring ways to use Permaculture Design in community decision making – a key aspect of my work and something that I would like to explore further.
Build links to the Permaculture community.Feeding my learning back into my Guild, and the Design Forum. Also looking at ways to engage in Permaculture events such as the Diploma Gathering.
Develop learning within the structure of the diploma.Exploring the way that a design can be used to share learning with others – something that I feel is very important to me within my Permaculture focussed work.

Resources / Support

  • Diploma Guild
  • Design Forum
  • Love Springwater Park Volunteers
  • Countryside Officer – Bury Council
  • Retrosuburbia – David Holmgren
  • The Earthcare Manual – Patrick Whitefield
  • Permaculture Diploma Facebook Group
  • Various online guides to invasive plant management
  • RHS website
  • Love Springwater Park website
  • Dragon Dreaming webstie and guide


Love Springwater Park is a community group I am involved with, which was founded in September 2017. This is the third design that I have done for the group as part of my diploma. You can read more about the history of the group and about the other designs here and here.

We are a group made up of people from Whitefield in Greater Manchester who are dedicated to maintaining and improving Springwater Park for the benefit of local communities and the environment. The park is around 120 acres of green space located at the convergence of the River Irwell and River Roch in Bury. It was formerly an industrial site housing three factories, but now belongs to Bury Council and comprises of riverside meadow / floodplain surrounded by lodges and woodland. Part of the site was also historically a municipal tip.

One of the big challenges for the group has been tackling invasive plants on the site. There are large areas covered in Giant Hogweed, Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed on site which have a huge impact upon native species and biodiversity as a whole. You can read more about the different challenges of these plants on our site on the Love Springwater Park website.

Over the last four years we have approached invasive plants in a range of different ways in the park. This design aims to share our learning with other groups who may be starting to tackle invasive weeds in a greenspace. It focuses upon creating a guide to share what our group has learned with others. It uses Dragon Dreaming as a framework. This is a decision making and project design tool which can be accessed freely online. It aims to support individuals and groups to work in a way which is playful, inspiring and innovative to make their dreams come true. As noted in the evaluation for this design the use of the framework in this context doesn’t go beyond the use of its basic structure and does not come close to exploring its full capacity as a participatory and visionary framework.

The map below gives a sense of the degree of coverage that these plants had over the site when the group began to tackle them in 2017. The park is the GREY area which is also outlined in black and is about 120 acres in size. Giant Hogweed is marked in RED, Japanese Knotweed is marked in GREEN and Himalayan Balsam in maked in YELLOW.


I began the process for this design by using a simple Holistic Decision Making template to define the Aims and Objectives for the design and to create a Vision Statement. I undertook this activity on my own to get a personal sense of what the scope of the final document may be. Holistic Decision Making was developed by Dan Palmer and is outlined in its most basic form in Retrosuburbia. The key elements that I used in this design are detailed below:

  • Statement of Purpose this is the statement written in red at the centre of the first diagram and it is intended to define the essence of what I would like the group that is being created to do, and why it is being created. In short it encapsulates the intent of the project.
  • Quality of Life Statements – these are the statements in red circles which lie around the Statement of Purpose. These are the core things that need to be true if the people involved are to feel their quality of life improved as a result of the group.
  • Indicators these are the words in capital letters which are next to each of the Quality of Life Statements.They reflect the way that the statements will manifest themselves in reality – in practical terms how can you be clear that they are actually happening?
  • Enabling Actions – these are the statements in the purple circles around the edge of the page. They represent the actions that need to happen in order for the Statement of Purpose to be possible and true.

I used the Permaculture Ethics as the starting point to better understand the purpose of the design and what I hoped that it would achieve. This was also a good way to ensure that the focus of the design was well balanced from an ethical perspective.

Next I used the structure of an Elements Survey to better understand the context of the design, the prupose, and the resources that were available to enable it.

Finally I created a Mind Map to explore what information would have been useful to our volunteer group when we first started to tackle invasive plants within Springwater Park.


I began this aspect of the design by creating a Yields Analysis exploring the different yields that I hoped to be achieved as a result of the design. I also spent time thinking about the challenges / boundaries that I may experience and the solutions that I could put in place to overcome these challenges.

I created a simple Client Interview / Survey which I sent to other members of the group to capture their ideas on the following:

  • What have been our successes tackling invasive weeds in Springwater Park?
  • What hasn’t worked so well?
  • If you had to give one top tip to another group based on our experiences what would it be?

You can read the answers to these questions in the galleries below.

I did a small and informal survey on the Permaculture Diploma Facebook group to ask if anybody had experience of removing any of the plants that we are tackling – the responses were interesting and generous but did not suggest any approached that were new to our group. Images of the survey are available in the album below.

I created a Mind Map to think more about what could be included in the guide that I was creating, then thought a bit more about how these elements may be gathered by using a Guilds Analysis.

Finally from a practical perspective I used Yeoman’s Scale of Permanence to think more about how complicated it would be to execute the different elements that I intended to include in the guide. And I rounded off this stage of the process by undertaking a simple Principles Analysis using Patrick Whitefield’s principles to ensure that the different elements implied in the principles would be reflected within the design journey that I was undertaking, and hopefully within the final design.


I created a Structure Outline for the booklet that I was creating. This can be explored in the gallery below.

I created an Action Plan to outline what tasks needed to be done in order to create the guide – it was my aim that this should take place over a maximum of four weeks.

I also created a simple Distribution Plan to think about who I would like to share the guide with in the first instance. These are also the people that I would ask for feedback on the guide.

Love Springwater Park volunteersEmail
Incredible Edible PrestwichFacebook message
Incredible Edible Heaton ParkFacebook message
Diploma Facebook GroupFacebook post
Diploma GuildEmail
Bury Voluntary RangersEmail
Bury Council Countryside Officer / Other friends groupsEmail

Finally I created the guide which can be downloaded using the link below – this document includes amends that were made as a result of feedback which was received on the first draft.

You can also view pictures of sample pages of the guide in the gallery below.


I began this element of the design be seeking feedback on the design from the people and groups listed in the distribution list above. I did this by asking directly for feedback if they would like to provide it on the following:

  • What did they like about the guide?
  • What didn’t they like?
  • Is there anything that they would like to add?

The feedback that I received is outlined below and was fed back into the final draft of the document.

CommentsThanks for sharing this – really interesting. I am hoping to put together a calendar of work parties for the rest of the year. Weekly balsam bashing will be included over summer. I also like the idea, if regulations allow, of some kind of big balsam bash.” – the idea of big balsam bashes has been added to the guide.

“That’s a really nicely produced guide and will be very useful for new parks groups.”

This is good, but I’m not sure who it is aimed at.  Is it (1) about SP for those involved, or (2) for anyone interested in SP?  Or (3)is it about dealing with invasive species for anyone who has that problem? Much of the content would be the same, but more on our current and planned way of dealing with them for 1 and 2.  In all cases it is a very good showcase for our activities and existence.” – I clarified that the audience was group 3 and on that basis the focus of content felt right, and in sufficient detail.
Suggested Additionsall of these additions have been made to the final document“I would add the latin names for the main plants and any relevant ones – it means that there is no confusion over localised names”

“Himalayan Balsam has a LONG flowering season – this is why bees and wasps favour it as they can still find pollen and nectar in October in some cases, depending on the environmental conditions”

The sap of Giant Hogweed burns the skin and where the skin has been in contact with it becomes photo sensitive for a number of years, depending on how severe the contact is, this causes the skin to continue to blister when exposed to strong sunlight.”
“For the red marks on Giant Hogweed– I would describe this feature as red or purplish blotches

“Common Hogweed  Heracleum sphondylium which is also known as Cow Parsnip
Partnerslocal rivers trust or The Environment Agency

I evaluated the design from my perspective using Positive Negative Interesting as the starting point.

Positive– The design has succeeded in creating a guide to invasive plant management which is useful and accessible as outlined in the aim. I hope that it will be well used in the future.

– Previously sharing for me has been about the design itself eg sharing a design about invasive plant management. It was a lovely approach to create a design which shares learning from our experience – a different approach which I really enjoyed.

– It was nice to create a design which celebrates what a volunteer group has achieved. On the whole we don’t do that enough but for a volunteer group it is a massively powerful and empowering thing!

– The final guide is user friendly and accessible and it will be free to access.

– Sharing personal experience gives a particularly powerful voice which I feel is great in terms of form, but also function when other people read and use what has been shared.
Negative– I found the physical aspect of designing the guide difficult as I am not confident in using design software. Fortunately my partner is a designer so he kindly set up templates for me – it is not something that I could have achieved on my own! This is worth considering in future designs where graphic design may be required.

– The final guide is not particularly printer friendly – it would use heaps of ink! As most people will browse on a device I am happy to live with that, but if lots of people wanted a hard copy a more printer friendly version would be useful.

– As a guide which will be largely accessed online on reflection an interactive index would be a useful addition.
Interesting– It was interesting to observe how much sharing can become a poweful process of reflection. It was in writing this guide that I fully appreciated how much our group has achieved, and also how generously they share their time, energy and expertise.

– In this design I used the principles more as a tool to shape process that to shape the item that was being designed. I really enjoyed doing this and feel that it brought a sense of robustness and integrity to the process that I undertook.


I revisited the principles that I had used Whitefield principles that I used in the design to reflect upon the design. I did this in terms of the theory, tools and processes that I had used but also in terms of my personal reflections in relation to the design.

Holistic decision making tool, Ethics analysis, Elements survey, What would have been useful to us? Mind Map, Yields Analysis, Client Survey, What could be included? Mind Map, Guilds Analysis, Yeoman’s Scale of Permanence, Structure Outline, Action Plan, Distribution Plan, Reader Feedback, PNI Evaluation, Permaculture Principles Reflection.

Theory, tools, processes, next steps…Personal reflections…
Wild SoilI used a modified elements survey to help plan the form and content. I loved using this tool in this way and feel that it allowed me to shape the guide in a balanced and dynamic way.

Dragon Dreaming possibly wasn’t the best framework to use here. It served a purpose in terms of providing a basic structure but I don’t feel that I came anywhere close to exploring its full capacity as a participatory framework – it has alot more to offer!

The further that I progress in my diploma the more I learn to appreciate the joy that the unexpected discoveries can bring to a design process and to a design. For example in this design the sense of sharing as reflection and celebration is not something that I would have anticipated but it now feels like an integral part of the design.

I am increasingly interested in the radical edge of Permaculture Design, and what that means in terms of accessibility and hierarchy. I feel this design is an important step on that journey as it allowed me time to focus specifically on easily accessible, shared learning. It’s a small step but something which feels important in my own learning journey.
Input / OutputI found the client survey with other members of the volunteer group really useful to give context to what we had done as a group and what may be useful to share with others. It brought up ideas and aspects that I would not have come to on my own, and was also a really simple way of bringing the ideas and voice of other members of the volunteer group into the design without making too many demands on their time and energy.

Increasingly I feel more confident to look at my designs from a personal perspective and ask what I want to get out of it. This design was all about sharing and communication and that has been the focus of my learning and reflection. This recognition feels important in my own learning journey.

Diversity and Niche
I used a modified version of Yeoman’s Scale of Permanence to investigate the complexity of sharing different sections and information in the guide. I really appreciated the clarity and focus this gave me allowing me to better understand where my focus may need to lie as I moved towards the writing and graphic design aspects of the project.

I found the Guilds analysis to be a really useful tool here to give clarity to the preceeding mind map which considered what elements could be included in the final guide. I like the way that it allowed me to explore how different elements of the publication may sit together, and to think about what purpose they could serve.

As I continue to develop my Permaculture learning I feel an increased sense of my Diploma as a poweful space to find my own voice from a design perspective. I love Permaculture Design for the multi-faceted thing that it is and I want to better understand what it means to me, particularly in terms of accessibility, equality and social change.
Multiple DimensionsI love the way that, as with this process, one design can morph into many things. Here I wanted to create a guide but through the process of thinking that I undertook within the design it also became a celebration of shared achievement and a process of reflection about what our volunteer group has achieved.

I used the ethics at an early stage in the design to start to get a sense of the scope and focus that the guide I was creating may have. Alongside this I used an elements survey which explored content in a more freeflow and organic way. Using these two tools together was a great combination and felt a nice way to ensure that the scope of the final guide was appropriate in its breadth.
Relative LocationThis design moved my practice more to a place of communicating, sharing and reaching out – a space that I really love! It feels like the perfect place to explore this space in terms of my diploma journey as I think I have a degree of fluency and confidence in my design work now that I didn’t have earlier in my diploma.
Key Planning ToolsOnce again I have taken tools that are typically used in land based designs and used them in a different context as part of this design process. Increasingly I feel aware of how you can and should use tools and frameworks as the foundation to create what you dream of creating but not be tied to a rigid form. They are fluid starting points that have the potential to flex and grow as they help you progress towards your desired destination.
Small ScaleIn some respects this design feels smaller in scale compared to others in my portfolio but it allowed me to focus upon a different aspect of my learning and that is a good thing. It is clear to me that these smaller designs are a fantastic space to focus upon personal development which is a key part of the my diploma. They have the potential to be a space to push learning and to explore and develop new skills.
Energy Flows I used the permaculture principles at the end of the planning section in the design – I have been experimenting with moving them around to different places in different designs and seeing how this changes the benefit that they bring. Here I like the way that they felt like a suitable coda to the more thoughtful and ideas based section of the design helping me to bring things together and to check that there were no apparent gaps as I moved forward with the design.I love the way that my portfolio has come to shift and change to reflect my needs and aspirations. I also feel more comfortable now to lean in and enjoy this sense of change. This design is another step in that journey.
WholesI feel this design sits well at this point in my portfolio as a whole. The perspective is different and it feels like the right place and right time for it.
In sharing our experiences with other volunteer groups the guide places our group in the context of other parks tackling similar problems in the UK.