In a high-density urban environment, there is often a complete disconnect between the growing medium or substrate for vegetation, and the underlying geology, soils and drainage. This is most obvious for roof gardens and green roofs, but is a surprisingly common situation at ground level. Climate-change scenarios for most temperate northern hemisphere climates indicate an increased frequency of extended dry periods, and traditional landscape approaches in these shallow-substrate contexts are particularly susceptible to water-stress. With use of potable water for landscape irrigation becoming increasingly unsustainable, there are widespread opportunities and potential for drought-adapted, dynamic plant community applications in urban centres. Nigel looks at the use of designed steppe communities (steppe meadow, shrub-steppe) as a model for new urban vegetation, and describes several applications of these plantings in high-profile urban contexts. Crucially, the extensive use of such plantings is transformative in how urban landscapes appear and are used, and the Nigel offers insights into social responses to these new types of urban planting.