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THE OLYMPIC GARDENS

Not part of the original  masterplan concept, we (Nigel Dunnett and myself)  and LDA Design argued for the inclusion of these and this was taken up by the ODA. I developed the concept for the Gardens, which tell the story of the passion of the British for collecting exotic plants from around the world and growing them in gardens, but also how without realizing so at the time, this lead to the creation of novel urban ecosystems that despite being predominantly alien, support an incredibly rich diversity of native invertebrates.  The gardens run for almost a kilometre, starting with the plants of Europe and the near east introduced in the C16th, and ending up at China in the C19th, with North American and the Southern Hemisphere in between. The gardens  consist of large areas of naturalistic herbaceous vegetation of the biogeographic region in question, plus similar plants organized in more cultural patterns, forming the basis of a conversation between nature and culture.  Sarah Price, and Des Smith of Willerbys Landscapes played a huge part in the successful design and management of the Gardens.

Sarah Price, Nigel Dunnett and James HitchmoughSarah Price, Nigel Dunnett and James Hitchmough


Planting the South African dominated grasslands of the Southern Hemisphere Garden, in July 2011, showing the repeating patterns of tussock grass (Themeda triandra) geophytes and herbs. Planting density was approximately 9 per m².

In winter the bare bones of the Southern Hemisphere Garden can be see, the mixed naturalistic planting integrated with the strips of Sarah Price's planting.

By Early July 2012 the planting is beginning to come together as a spectacle, a hyped up version of the Drakensberg grassland community.


By games week the effect is extraordinary, yet all these plants are winter hardy perennials managed in the long term as an ecologically based plant community by crude techniques such as cutting down in spring followed by flash burning to kill winter germinating annuals and biennials.


The effect on visitors (who are not here for the flowers!) is mesmerising.



The North American prarie garden contains shady north facing edges as well as sunny slopes. Here the Appalachian Heuchera villosa, and other species form exciting planting textures in June.

Norh facing planted woodland edge; North American Prairie,  November 2012
By September, woodland edge Aster, Rudbeckia and Heuchera create dramatic sheets of colour extending in to November.


The sunny areas of the prarie garden support a wide range of dramatic species arranged randomly on a 9 plants/m² repeating pattern.



A key design idea in my work is a preference for herbaceous plants with leafless flowering stems: the naked stem. Echinacea pallida (pale pink) and E. paradoxa (yellow) are good examples of this approach, which allows planting to be created in which taller plants do not automatically shade out lower growing species. This facilitates the designing of highly complex, long flowering vegetation.

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